Pen Turning Extra Comments from the March Club Meeting

Throughout the Am. Ass’n Wood-Turners bowl turning and embellishment far override the interest in spindle turning so I was not surprised to see that about six of the group hung around for more details. I watched the group and saw that interest rapidly faded so I began to cut back and focus on the details that interested the pen turners. Only a few got to see how to take a pen apart. But people like Dee have had a lot of experience. He was acquainted with everything.

The whole upshot is this: If a person wants to make a pen/pencil that person should carefull select and prepare the wood blank before ever getting started. The whole object is to produce a piece with a lot of “character” . It need not be embellished beyond making the item fit the hand of the intended user.
I did not discuss marketing but within this four state area the going selling price ranges from $14 to $32 with the average around $22. The rule of thumb is to price the item at 3 times the cost of the kit.
The large Craft shows such as War Eagle will support only one pen/pencil booth.  Avoid consignment!! The store operator will demand 40% to 50% of the selling price. Customers will damage the item and then request a total refund.  The consignor will tie up your inventory so out of an entire exhibit you might sell one or two pens in 6 months. Avoid flea markets — people come to these places to buy junk!!  A juried show is better than a craft show but the juried show will usually select only one producer.

When wood barrel pens/pencils first appeared on the market they sold from $300 to $800 an item. This is no longer the case. Sales are best in the area where tourist traffic is high.
The first pen kits were made by an Australian engineer who sold his rights to a Tiawan company. Now most of the kits flooding the marked come from Tiawan; a very few from China. Mass produced items come out of Japan. The very best come from Germany, France and Italy. These countried do not sell their kits in the US. On a rare occasion one can find an American made pen/pencil with a fantastic mechanism which can be taken apart and rebuilt with a wood barrel. This is rare — one must hunt through the office supply houses to find tiem. Japan makes some very attractive pens that can be taken apart. The barrel is usually plastic and this can be separated from some of the stubborn parts by soaking it in finger nail polish remover for about 10 minutes.

The brass tubes coming with the kits are neither standard nor metric dimension — they are Tiawan dimension and because of this a look alike brass tube from ACE hardware will be incompatable with the parts of the kit!!!!!!!! The brass tubes from ACE hardware are of much better quality and the wall is thicker. To make such a tube fit the kit part the  ACE tube can be drilled (carefully) and then the kit part can be pressed into place carefully.
It is a waste of time and money to buy exotic wood for pen/pencil making.,  The rarity of the wood and the high price yield an unattractive item with little character. The item itself may be technically perfect but it will not catch the eye of a buyer. Keep in mind that the object of making the pen/pencil is to produce something with unique character.