• Daniel Ouimet

The Art of Penmaking-Step 4

The next step in making a ballpoint pen, rollerball pen, fountain pen, or mechanical pencil is to secure the brass tubes which will house the pen's workings inside the material chosen for the pen's body. A couple of important steps help ensure this process will not lead to failure at some point in the life of the pen. First, the smooth surface of the brass tubes needs to be lightly scratched to create a better surface for the adhesive. After scratching the surface with sandpaper, it is also best to clean the tubes with alcohol to remove contaminants left from machining or hands.

Once the tubes are prepped for "gluing," I plug their ends with dental wax. This prevents problems later with trying to pressure fit in parts if adhesive hardens inside the brass tubes. Some penmakers use cyanoacrylate glue to fix the brass tubes inside the pen barrel material. I prefer epoxy for its extended working time and what I believe is a more secure bond. I let the epoxy cure overnight before cleaning out the dental wax and trimming the barrels.

This last step involves "squaring the blank" or removing the excess length of the pen blank material from both ends. Remember, the pen blank was left about 1/16" longer than the brass tube at either end. I mount the pen blanks on a jig for a disc sander and use it to remove the excess pen blank material. Some penmakers use a tool called a pen mill, essentially a sharp cutter rotated in a drill. The downside of a pen mill is the chance to tear out the pen blank material. However it is accomplished, the removal of the excess pen blank material must leave the blank perfectly square with the brass tube inside.

The next step is we're finally ready to mount the pen blanks on a lathe for turning!