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Turning Acrylic Pens on a lathe

In this tutorial Paul takes on the challenge of turning an acrylic pen blank on the lathe. He learned a few things and shares it with us.

And if you are interested in more lathe stuff I have opened up a whole new section of the website here: Lathe Projects


Okay, so after feeling that I had gained a little insight into working with different woods and making a varied choice of pen and wood combinations from using Classic Elite fountain pen to Slimline rollerball and woodworker pencil kits I felt that it was time to find out about the 'non' wooden pen blank side of turning - in other words using an acrylic blank. 

There were numerous choices to be found and I came upon a nice Black and White Acrylic piece to try.  There are no two sides alike and therefore shall be unique to the pen turner.











My pen kit of choice was going to be the Classic fountain pen.


I had expected that there would be a bit of a challenge in working with this material. As with any new venture into unknown territory this was no exception.  I supply a set of photographs showing my method of working and assembling of everything. The pen parts are fully dismantled to make it easier to fit into my vice and to make sure those extreme ends are not crushed. Two ´┐ŻO' rings are supplied to fit each end of the screwed portions on main body. These take nib and end piece.  For the cap there is a threaded barrel which is pressed onto an exposed portion of tube. During trimming a parting chisel is used to cut away the material to allow the fitting of the piece.  The threaded portion for the clip is pressed into the tube. Then the screw is used to fasten the clip to the cap. 

Some questions arose while working. 

Marking my blank was no problem, however I worried about the cutting of it into the relevant size. 
Feeling apprehensive I decided to use my chop saw to make the cut. My blade cuts Aluminium, wood and plastic, so no problems there as I use it on my wooden blanks but if you have a bandsaw with a fine blade even better.


Results of my chop saw cut - pretty smooth.

My first concern - would it shatter? Answer - no it didn't in fact it  went very smoothly.




My second - would it melt as I drill the hole for the brass tube insert?  Answer - Set up blank as I had with my wooden blanks. 10 mm Colt drill - very easy drill design flutes clears swarf away quickly. 

My third - what kind of adhesive should I use for security/effective bonding properties? Answer - CA glue just like wooden blanks (just make sure the brass tubes are thoroughly sanded to provide key for the glue.)

My fourth - will it shatter/make my end trimmer blunt? Answer - no, it flies through the material but be aware of this as constant watch for the brass to appear is crucial. 




My fifth - what is it like to work using sharp chisels? Answer - most work was carried out just using the roughing gouge very lightly and material crumbles, however if you try cutting deeper you get long strings which roll around the workpiece. Although a quick brushing will remove it from the work piece. 

My sixth - what will the finish be like after sanding? Answer - sanding was started with a 320 grit wet, at first there  will be slurry that needs to be wiped away between papers. Gradually, using finer grades the material gets less slurry forming. Each successive wiping with a cloth gets a shine on the pen piece. Finally, a light coat of plastic polish (mine was T cut) then a cloth to buff off leaves the acrylic with a really smooth finish.  All in all I was most pleased with my efforts. 


These were the most common things that went through my mind as I worked with this material. No doubt that all new pen turners will feel the same way. Basically, as you acquire the necessary skills and the familiarity with your material. Confidence grows exponentially. Happy pen turning!

Safety Warning: Being safe, is the most important thing. And keep good practices particularly when operating machinery. Wear eye protection, either full face or safety lens glasses. And don't wear ties or loose clothing that can be pulled into the machinery.

When polishing pens, or anything on the lathe with a lint free cloth be extra careful that it doesn't catch the turning piece as it can wrap around it quickly and damage the piece or anything loose near moving parts!


Acrylic Pen Blanks Are available on Amazon


Legacy Acrylic Pen Blank Assortment, Multi-packs

Legacy acrylic pen blanks, swirl style, in a variety of colors
Each blank measures 3/4" x 5" long and are suitable for most pen kits
Assortment of 20 swirl-style blanks

Acrylic Pen Blank - Liquid Metal