Selecting the Blank – Step 2 in My Pen Making

Selecting the Blank

The second step of the pen making process is to select the pen blanks. Since I make pens in both timber and acrylic (resin) there are many options. The aim is to select blanks that match pen types in a way that customers like them. I also make polymer clay pens, but the process is quite different.

Firstly, selecting timber blanks. My workshop has some timber blanks already made. They are pieces of wood about 18 mm x 18 mm by anything from 130 mm to 300 mm long. If I am making a pen for stock, I may choose a variety of timber that I have not used before for that pen type. My prepared timber stock includes over 100 Australian and international species of timber. I started making pens with local timbers such as camphor laurel, silky oak, Queensland maple, red cedar, rose mahogany and brush-box that I had on hand The Grain Mill. I had collected these timbers when I was in full-time work but had little time to turn any items. Over the last years, I have increase stock to many more local and international timbers. As I use the stock, I mill small logs with a bandsaw. Depending on the timber, the first cut is either through the middle of the small log or diagonally through it. The rest of the log is then either quarter-sawn or half-sawn depending on which cutting method produces the most interesting grain pattens. Pieces of wood about 18 mm x 18 mm square are the result. I label the pieces that I do not use immediately and store them.

Secondly, selecting acrylic blanks is much easier. The acrylic blanks I use are (15 mm x 15 mm x 130 mm). However, the time to buy is when they are on sale or discounted with volume discounts. So I have a stock of blanks that vary in number. I have found that customers have a range of preferred colors, so I stock many resin blanks. For instance, customers like “Candy crush” acrylic with streamline pens. Mostly however, I mix and match and see where it leads.

The second step of the process may take a while, if I need to prepare blanks from small logs.

Nevertheless, I aim to find blanks that will finish well and suit the pen type. Some pen makers recover “old” wood by impregnating the wood with resin. A project for the future!

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