Elegant Fountain Pen

Monday 9 July 2018

In this month's article, we'll turn a very elegant fountain pen from Craft Supplies USA, known as the Emperor pen. This hand cast fountain pen features a brilliant rhodium plated finish, accented with 22k gold in four areas: the cap, the clip and two circular accent rings.

This stunning pen kit receives exceptional care and attention to detail during every step of production. Once assembled, the components are hand polished and undergo a final inspection to ensure an exceptional fit and flawless finish. Although the project pen is a fountain pen, this Emperor pen is also available in a rollerball style, with a premium rollerball cartridge in rhodium and 22k gold. The completed Emperor pen measures 16.5mm (21/32in) in diameter x 143mm (5 5/8in) long and requires a minimum rough blank size of 22 x 22 x 125mm (7/8 x 7/8 x 5in) long. The project pen barrels feature an amber and gold celluloid, polished to 12,000 grit. Here's how to turn your own elegant Emperor fountain pen, step-by-step.

Tools required

20mm (3/4in) spindle roughing gouge, 6mm (1/4in) spindle gouge and 5mm (3/16in) spindle gouge

Step 1

Here are the major components of the Craft Supplies USA Emperor fountain pen, left to right: pen tubes, cap/clip, centre band coupling, nib coupler, fountain nib, ink refill and end cap. Pen kits also typically come with full turning and assembly instructions

Step 2

Here are the four required Emperor bushings mounted on a Craft Supplies USA adjustable double mandrel

Step 3

The first thing to do is to lay the pen tubes out on your blank and mark the locations where you need to cut the blank. Allow 6mm (1/4in) extra for the saw kerf and to help ensure a clean exit hole. Also, mark a line to show the alignment of the grain (if any) in the blank to preserve the alignment when the pen is assembled. Carefully cut the blank according to your drawn lines using a bandsaw, or a handsaw. The Emperor pen requires two different drill bits to drill the blanks: a 14.5mm (37/64in) bit for the top barrel tube and a 11.9mm (15/32in) bit for the lower barrel tube

Step 4

Secure the plastic blanks in a drill press vise or a bench vise, and drill the blanks at 250-500rpm using a 'pulsing' technique to clear the drill flutes as you drill the blanks

Step 5

Lightly scuff the outside of each pen tube with 240 grit abrasive – this will remove any tarnish and introduce a scratch pattern that will create a better adhesive bond. Apply three lines of thick Cyanoacrylate glue equidistant around the pen tube. Epoxy or polyurethane glue may also be used, if desired. It may be necessary to apply some adhesive inside the hole to get a uniform glue spread inside the drilled hole

Step 6

Insert the pen tube into the drilled hole whilst rotating the tube to evenly spread the adhesive. Spin and pump the tube a few times as you seat the tube. Press the tube just under the surface of the drilled hole in the end of the blank

Step 7

Cyanoacrylate accelerator can be used to speed the curing of the thick CA in the drilled holes, or it can be allowed to cure normally

Step 8

The Emperor pen requires two different sizes of pen mill shafts: the upper tube uses a 14.5mm (37/64in) shaft (left), the lower tube uses an 11.9mm (15/32in) shaft (third from left). Each shaft fits into a universal cutter head that features four cutting edges that mill the ends of the blanks flat and true

Step 9

Once the adhesive has cured, use the correct size pen mill mounted in an electric drill to mill the ends of the blanks 90 degrees to the drilled axis of each hole. This step is critical to ensure a proper fit on the mandrel and later during assembly. Be careful not to over mill the blanks; remove only enough to reveal the ends of the brass tubes

Step 10

Take one of the .650in diameter bushings and mount it on the mandrel, sliding it all the way to the left. Then, mount the upper pen blank and the other .650in diameter bushing on the mandrel. Next, mount one of the .597in diameter bushings against the left side of the upper blank bushing and then mount the lower pen blank and the last .597in diameter bushing on the right side of the blank. Screw on the brass nut to hand tight only to secure the assembly. Verify the grain alignment mark is correctly positioned before turning the pen. Bring up the tailstock with a 60 degree live centre mounted in the tailstock ram. Advance the ram into the dimpled end of the mandrel rod and lock the tailstock down. Do not apply too much pressure on the ram or the mandrel may flex, causing vibration/offcentre barrels to be turned. To round over the blank use a 20mm (3/4in) spindle roughing gouge, cutting towards the headstock with gentle scooping cuts at 3,000 rpm. When you near the right edge of the top blank, reverse direction and cut towards the tailstock to remove the last of the corner. Repeat for the lower blank

Step 11

Round over the blanks with the 20mm (3/4in) spindle roughing gouge – this makes fast work of removing the square corners. Once the blanks are rounded over they are now ready for turning and shaping the barrels using spindle gouges, ground with a long swept-back Irish grind

Step 12

The 6mm (1/4in) spindle gouge is used with the bevel of the side wing rubbing the surface. Hold the cutting edge at 25 degrees to the long axis of the barrel for rough turning and shaping of the barrels. Refine the shape on the upper barrel into a slight curve. Chatter is easily controlled by pressing your thumb near the end of the top Irish wing. Rough turn the lower barrel using the same technique. This technique effectively creates a skew-like cut on the barrel, leaving a very smooth surface. On some pens, I use the 5mm (3/16in) spindle gouge for final finishing cuts. The lower barrel features a flat surface, from bushing to bushing

Step 13

For the last few finishing cuts on the barrel surface, the cutting edge of the Irish wing is reorientated at 45 degrees to the long axis of the pen blank. The wing bevel is rubbed as each cut is made along the barrel. Turn the blank ends down to the level of the bushings, which are the same size as the completed pen components. This finish cutting technique will leave the surface ready for sanding at 320 grit

Step 14

Once the blanks are finish turned, 320, 400 and 600 grit dry Aluminium Oxide abrasives are used to lightly sand the barrel surface at 3,000rpm. To protect their accuracy, be careful not to let the abrasive touch the bushings when sanding

Step 15

Micromesh fabric-backed abrasives are available in nine grits, starting at 1,500 grit and ending at 12,000 grit. At 12,000 grit the human eye cannot see the scratch marks, effectively making the finished celluloid surface appear 'wet'

Step 16

Start the Micromesh wet abrasives at 1,500 grit. Water is used to lubricate and cool the abrasive whilst the blanks turn at 3,000 rpm. Use only a light touch as you traverse up and down the pen barrel. For best results, frequently dip your abrasive into the water to remove any accumulated debris

Step 17

At 12,000 grit the surface of this celluloid blank appears 'wet' with no visible scratch marks. If you turn plastics, Micromesh can easily give you a highly lustrous surface

Step 18

Renaissance wax is a microcrystalline-based wax with a crystalline structure much smaller than natural waxes. It has a very high resistance to moisture, alcohol, acids and fingerprints and is great to use as a topcoat over other pen finishes. To apply the Renaissance wax use a small strip of kitchen paper and apply a light coating of the wax over the barrels with the lathe off. Remove any excess with a clean strip of kitchen paper after 30 seconds and buff lightly at 3,000rpm to produce a brilliant lustre

Step 19

The first component to assemble for the Emperor pen is the cap/clip assembly – it is inserted into the top of the upper barrel. You can use a pen assembly press to assemble your pen, but you can also use a bench vise, or even hand clamps, if desired. Note: always insert a clean strip of soft kitchen paper onto the pressing surfaces to prevent scratching of the parts during assembly

Step 20

Next, insert the centre band coupler and trim ring in the opposite end of the upper barrel. This coupler contains an internal screw thread to allow the nib end of the pen to be screwed into the upper barrel to store the pen when not in use. This completes the assembly of the upper barrel

Step 21

Insert the nib coupler into the far end of the lower barrel – this will house the writing nib when the pen is assembled. Note: the trim ring slides over the non-threaded portion of the coupler. Use your hand to support the part as it is inserted into the barrel to prevent the component from racking, which can damage the barrels. Next, insert the end cap into the opposite end (upper part) of the lower barrel

Step 22

Press the pre-filled ink refill onto the end of the writing nib. The white plastic cover shown is used to protect the writing nib during shipment and assembly, and is discarded after assembly. This pen kit also comes with a small vacuum converter reservoir that can be used to refill the converter reservoir from ink bottles if desired, instead of using pre-filled ink cartridges

Step 23

Insert the writing nib with the attached ink cartridge into the end of the nib coupler and gently screw it into place

Step 24

The upper and lower barrels are now fully assembled. To store the pen when not in use, screw the lower barrel up into the upper barrel. This pen features course threads with three separate starting points for fast opening and closing. To maintain grain alignment in the blank, the same starting point must be used each time the pen is closed. The pen is now complete