Making a Pen Out of Paper




Introduction: Making a Pen Out of Paper

About: Come spend some time in the shop. I'm a hobbyist woodworker and professional computer geek in Northern California. I guess my projects will vary widely, and I have no clue what I plan to make next...

Micarta is made from layers of paper or fabric and resin. This pen is actually made out of paper. 20 layers of cardstock cut into 1" squares and then glued into a pen blank.

It was then turned on the wood lathe and assembled into a pen kit. I would guess the total to be 250 sheets of paper for this pen! I love the colors, the material and having a useful item that started it's life as paper...

Step 1: Making Micarta

The concept is simple enough. Micarta is simply multiple layers of cloth or paper and resin.

In this case, I use polyester resin for the job as it is relatively inexpensive and you will need a LOT of it. I used 10oz for my 20 sheets of cardstock.

After mixing up the resin, I laid the paper out on a laminate surface and poured on some resin. That was then rolled on with a glue roller to get complete coverage on the blank. Add another sheet of paper and repeat.

The stack will begin to get slippery as go forward with all the resin. It is also very messy!

Once you've got all 20 sheets good and soaked line up your stack and let's talk about clamping...

I don't think serious clamping is needed. I think with all that resin and weight of the stack you could just leave it be. Now, I wish I had been able to convince myself of that fact back in April when I made this. I was sure I needed LOTS of clamping pressure.

So I used wood cauls and maximum pressure. I ended up with a bad kink in the final blank. So, my advice would be to just add a piece of wax paper and maybe a board on top, then walk away and let the stack cure for 24 hours.

Step 2: Making Micarta Cubes!

Once cured the material is extremely strong! I tried bending it and whacking it with a hammer. It seems to care little for my attempts to cause it pain.

So, I cut it into 1" long strips on the table saw! That got its attention.

I then used my cross-cut sled to cut the strips into 1" squares. I would need about 30 squares or so to make my two pen blanks

Step 3: Are We There Yet? Not Even Close....

Next step is to glue the squares together into the pen blank.We will need two blanks 2 1/4" in length.

I added a strip of blue tape to the bottom of each stack of 14 squares and began to mix up some epoxy. I'm using epoxy resin this go round as I didn't need much to glue the squares together and it doesn't smell as bad as the polyester resin.

Make sure to get resin between each piece and add some to the top. Then just fold the tape over and let them cure for another 24 hours.

Once cured remove any squeeze out from the blank with a sharp chisel. It makes drilling easier when working with a square block.

Step 4: More Blank Prep

There are a ton of steps to pen turning. In fact, there is very little turning at all.

When I was pen turning for gifts or sales I would make 10 or so at a time. It's easier to do these steps in batches then as one-offs.

Next step is drilling the hole for the brass tubes. The brass tubes come with your pen kit. Most specialty woodworking stores have a variety of pen kits available. I'm using a Sierra/Gatsby style pen and that requires a 27/64" hole.

The brass tube is then glued in with 2 part epoxy. It's best to rough up the brass a bit with some sandpaper to give the glue more holding power. Also, make sure you don't get any glue inside the brass tube. This will make the next step more difficult. I wait a couple hours to make sure the epoxy has cured before the milling process.

The last step before turning is to square up the blank to the brass tube. If you skip this step you will not be able to mount the pen blank on the mandrel and you run the risk of a lopsided pen.

I use a special tool called a pen mill. It drills down into the brass tube and assures a flat perpendicular surface to the tube. When you see polished brass, you know you're ready for some pen turning,.

Step 5: Turning the Pen!

Pen turning requires many extras, and it's not just the prep process. You'll need some more specialty equipment for the turning as well.

You will need a pen mandrel and bushing. The mandrel is universal for all pen turning, but the bushing are particular to the kit you're making. So I bought bushing specifically for my Sierra/Gatsby kit.

The bushing fit into the blank and register against the polished brass tube. Then the whole assembly is put on the mandrel and secured with a nut.

We made it. Congratulations everyone, we're finally ready for some turning.

I'm turning this with a carbide cutter. Micarta is very hard, and even with a blank this small, it took nearly twenty minutes for me to turn it down to size. Your goal is to get the blank down flush with the bushings

After a while of making cool looking streamers, I added my dust collector attachment to the lathe. Rainbow streamers are awesome, but getting the pen turned properly was more important and I need to see what I was doing!

Step 6: Sanding and Polishing

Once the blank is flush, it's time to sand and polish.

I started with 400 grit sand paper as the carbide left a very nice surface. I sanded up to 800 grit then switched over to my polishing pads. Since this blank was soaked in resin, you don't need to add a finish. My micro mesh pads start at 1500 and go up to 12,000. The resin will polish out to a high sheen.

Remove the blank, then we can assemble the pen. You can see here how little material is left after turning. Don't feel bad if your blanks blowout at the lathe.

Step 7: Assembly and Completed Pen

Follow the directions that came with your kit. After I when through my kits specs I ended up with these two halves. The assembly is just a matter of press fitting the two halves into the blank.

I cannot tell you how many pens I have broken at this point. Take your time. Go slow. Busting a blank at this point sucks.

Here I'm using a pen press specifically made for this. You can totally use a clamp or even a vise. If you end up making a LOT of pens, I would recommend a pen press at some point.

Once pressed together, just add your ink refill and enjoy your new pen. Made out of paper!

Thanks for looking!

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22 Discussions

This seems lots of work to make a pen that works the same as any other, but the ending result looks good!

Thanks for this great 'ible! I make pens from Antler and other weird stock. Now I have to try paper. One question (and it would make another great 'ible), how to do sell the pens? Do you do it via etsy, flea markets, word of mouth, craft fairs, etc? I can't seem to find a place to sell them in any great quantity. Maybe you can talk about pricing as well. I normally sell an antler bolt action pen for about $40. Is that too low? Thanks.

Beautiful :). Thanks for the Instructable

Or you could just soak a sheet of paper in resin, then roll it around the pen's body. Or even better, roll it on a thin bar, then extract the bar once the resin has cured, and create your own paper tube.

(The final product looks quite nice, nothing to criticize in this regard. I just don't like things where you spend several times more material than what remains in the final product.)

2 replies

You night not like using a wood lathe then. There is usually more shavings on the floor than wood in the final product. Actually, with me, there are usually more broke, messed up, or ugly pieces in the fire box than finished products going into the house.

You can use a lathe with less waste for handles, dowels, chess pieces, wooden hinges or such. You can also produce your blanks for bowls with a lot of gluing - see this ible: (A bit off topic: the glued up bowl has IMO a much nicer grain pattern and is probably a lot less fragile than one turned from a single large piece too.) Or you can repurpose the sawdust by pressing it into pellets. You don't have to create a lot of waste to make something nice.

I love your channel on youtube and watching your projects! Great job on this and everything else you have done on your channel.


1 year ago

Reminds me of giant super calender paper machine filled rolls. They fill a steel core up with disks of paper or cotton, then press them together in a huge screw press, effectively making the paper bond into a single piece, and then use a lathe to finish them. Similar process to this pen!

The difference is, its a bit more dangerous to run the lathe down the roll, and when these rolls are spun up to speed on the machine if there is a hollow spot inside it can throw a chunk out of the roll that is like a chunk of rock! WATCH OUT! LOL

I like your project. Nice pen.

Roll Lathe Finishing:

Loading the (blue) disks onto a steel roll to be pressed. (guy on platform puts them on top of roll, then heavy disk is lowered on cables (see near top with some blue just under it) to press down the disks into the stack. Then the very top of the press (Big steel part at the very top) comes down by spinning the two black screw columns putting the paper or cloth on the core under tons of pressure squeezing the disks together.


1 year ago

Great project. My family follows you on YouTube and we watched you make this over there. I like your projects and the detailed thought you put into them.

I think it's commendable that you wrote a full Instructable rather than just embedding your existing video. Your well written instructions make a nice companion piece for anyone really interested in trying this project out.


1 year ago

definetly voted!

And yet another great instructable. Unfortunately, I don't have all the equipment to do anything as beautiful as you've done; but you've given me an idea of something I could try on a much smaller scale. Thanks so much for sharing your "head" and techniques. Keep it up....I love your work. Beautiful and ingenious to say the least.

Turned out really nice!

Nice one mate! But now i challenge you to make paper out of a pen!

2 replies

1 year ago

Interesting material you used. I have made tons of pens and pencils as well and the most precarious material I ever used was Rattlesnake Skin. Of course it was set in epoxy but if you looked at it wrong, it exploded on the lathe. And it was very expensive to buy. Deer antler was the hardest I ever cut.

Nice finished produce on your pen though. Your imagination is your only limit to the material you can use.

2 replies

I've never turn antler, but I've heard it's very hard. And smelly if I recall. Would love to see rattlesnake skin shed. I bet that looks amazing.

If you can turn the rattlesnake skin without exploding the resin, it turns out very nice and polishes extremely shiny as well. Antler does smell. And it dulls the gouges quickly as well because it is so solid being calcium for the most part. Try both of them out and see how you like them.

This is so creative, and masterfully crafted.

1 reply