Happy Fountain Pen Friday, and welcome to another Fountain Pen 301. This week, I’ll be discussing pen making, both pouring your own resin blanks and turning pens.
Once again, rather than relying on my own (nearly nonexistent) knowledge for this topic, I reached out to some significantly more knowledgeable pen friends for help. Thank you very much to Chet Herbert of Herbert Pen Co. (fabulous man and gorgeous pens!) who was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to share some of his expertise. And thank you, also, to Brian Chu of Red Dragon Pen Co. for pointing me in the direction of some fabulous information.
When first entering the world of casting blanks, Chet advises starting with YouTube and Facebook groups devoted to casting for both how-tos and advice from more experienced casters. “The easiest thing to do is join a group and read back a few weeks on posts, if you cannot find the answer then simply ask the questions, they will get answered and no one will give [you] grief for being new!” Also, look into local groups of casters. And keep in mind, casting resin isn’t limited to pen blanks. People making jewelry or knife handle blanks, for example, are equally able to answer newbie resin questions.
I have heard from several people that it’s worth paying the extra money to work with Alumilite. According to Chet, it’s, “the most durable and I find it to be the easiest to machine. It is harder to polish but it holds a polish very well.”
His main advice to new casters: “Having the correct environment for your resin is key.” It’s important to keep the resin casting process in a temperature and humidity controlled environment. Incorrect moisture levels in the air can lead to cloudy or brittle pours.
Similar to wood work, Chet warns, “Measure twice, pour once,” and be prepared for the material you’re working with. “Certain resins cure over days, some over hours, some over minutes. You better be set up for what you are casting.” Manage your time and environment or you run the risk of ending up with something unusable.
Like with casting, YouTube and Facebook groups are an excellent source of information. However, Chet recommends the International Association of Penturners as the best source of information. Brian also suggested taking a look at Stationery.wiki. It has some great step-by-step guides sourced from YouTube and IAP, as well as links to materials and tools.
As I read through Based on what I read on the various forums, metal lathes seem to be preferred over wood lathes due to their accuracy.
I don’t have as much advice for you on pen turning, but, as with anything, practice makes better. Be aware that there are some hurdles to get over, especially learning to make all the pieces of the pen fit together properly. If you’re determined to “perfect” the craft, practice will see you through.
Keep in mind that most of the fountain pen community is very open and welcoming, and happy to provide advice, suggestions, and assistance to newbies.
That’s it for this week’s Fountain Pen 301. Next week I’ll be providing an overview of making your own pen cases.