Pen Bodies

The centerpiece of a hand-crafted pen is the pen body. This is what gives a pen its character. Although many pen bodies are made of wood, practically any material that is of sufficient hardness can be utilized. You are only limited by your imagination and by the requirement that the material can be turned using standard woodturning tools. I have used material from a bowling ball that had sentimental value. After several months of drying, a corn cob we ate for dinner also became a pen. It is also possible to embed natural materials such as coffee beans within acrylic for an interesting effect. The materials exhibited below represent only a small fraction of the woods, acrylics, and natural materials I have available to craft a pen.

When talking about pen bodies, I will often use the term, "pen blanks". This is what we call the raw piece of material that has been cut down to size in preparation for turning. I have over 300 pen blanks in my inventory. Below are some samples of various woods and other materials that can be made into pens. Please see the pen gallery to see what some of these look like when finished.

From left to right: Bubinga, Burmese Blackwood, Olive Wood (from the Holy Land), Brazilian Kingwood, Bolivian Rosewood, Purpleheart, Cocobolo, African Blackwood, Madrone burl, and Black Mesquite

The natural variations in color and pattern of the wood are complemented by the metal plating of the trim, turning your pen into a true art object. Practically any type of wood can be made into a pen. Wood that is normally too soft to use can be hardened and stabilized with resins prior to turning. Sometimes trees have irregular growths that protrude out from the trunk. These are called burls and are prized for woodworking due to the extremely patterned grain present within the burl. It is also possible to dye wood various colors to bring out the grain and provide increased visual effect.

From left to right: Box Elder burl (blue dyed and stabilized), Buckeye (dyed Sapphire), Buckeye (dyed Emerald), Buckey (dyed Royal Purple), Buckeye burl, Western Maple burl, Walnut burl, Box Elder burl, Oregon Myrtle burl

In addition to solid wood, you can also glue different species of wood together to make various patterns when you turn the blank. These are called "segmented" blanks since they are made from small segments of wood that are glued together. It is also possible to take different colors of wood veneer (thin layers of wood) that have been impregnated with resin and laminate them into a hard, multi-colored layered wood. This is a commercial product called Dymondwood. If you cut the pen blanks from the Dymondwood at an angle to the layers, very interesting effects can be made. Dymondwood is available in many different color combinations, sometimes with creative names.

Acrylics are also commonly used to make pen bodies and come in a multitude of colors and swirled patterns. They can be turned using the same tools as used with wood. A more recent pen blank material that has become popular is Tru-stone. This is a man-made stone composite that is composed of 85% finely ground stone mixed with pigments and resins. This mixture is then cured using heat and pressure. The final product looks and feels like fine marble or stone, but is soft enough to turn. Tru-stone blanks cost a little more, but produce a classy-looking pen. Some Tru-stone material is quite hard and is difficult to turn. These take a lot more time on the lathe and the pens are priced accordingly. Black is one challenging Tru-stone color.

From left to right: Dymondwood (Field & Stream - before cutting at angle), Dymondwood (Dakota), Dymondwood (Bubblegum), Segmented blank 1, Segmented blank 2, Acrylic (Opal), Acrylic (Copper Haze), Arizona Turquoise Tru-stone, Red with Gold Matrix Tru-stone, Medium Blue Lapis Tru-stone, White Turquoise Tru-stone, Black with Gold Matrix Tru-stone