The mini lathe is going to be the most important tool in your new hobby of pen making. If you think about it, there are several ways that you can cut corners and save a few dollars here and there by making your own jigs and improvising, but when it comes to turning wood you can't really come up with another solution to carving the pens.
This tool is amazing and I still can't believe how much fun it is to carve items in wood, acrylic and other materials such as deer antlers. I love turning wood and really make a lot of items just for the fun of it.
Jet JML-1014I:10'' X 14'' Indexing Mini Lathe Jet
JML-1014I: 10'' X 14'' Indexing Mini Lathe
Six Speed operation
Heavy-duty cast-iron lathe bed adds stability while limiting vibration during operation
Spindle lock allo..
There are several types of to pick from and I'm going to give you my insight from having made many pens and other wooden gifts. There is everything from mini lathes to the giant floor models but if you are primarily planning on making small gift type items the mini lathe is the perfect solution for a few reasons.
The first and most important is probably size. I don't know about you but my space in my workshop is extremely limited not to mention my budget. You can get a large full size model but unless you have plans
down the road for making baseball bats, table legs, bed posts, etc., its probably just overkill. Even on my small
model I can make up to a 12 inch diameter bowl and if really needed down the road I can add a bed extension to make my mini lathe a little
longer for that special project and then put the extension away again until needed.
The next factor to consider is the speeds. There are two types to choose from, the first is a standard 5 speed model and the second is a variable speed model. Both models are perfectly fine but have advantages and drawbacks.
The difference is that with the fixed speed, the speeds are adjusted by changing the belts on the pulley inside an access panel. This means when you are ready for a different speed you have to stop what you are doing, open the access panel and change the belt to a different pulley and then put the access panel back on. That just seems like a complete pain and waste of time to me. It might be ok for someone doing bowls, bats, or table legs but as you start getting into this hobby you'll see that when making pens the speeds need to be changed often and this will become annoying pretty quick.
The model that I use is a variable speed model which means that I can adjust the speed up or down even just a little bit if I need to. I am not locked into fixed speed where I would have to jump up or down by several hundred rpm's.
Jet JML-1014VSI:10''X14'' Variable Speed Indexing Mini Lathe Jet JML-1014VSI:10'X14' Variable Speed Indexing Mini Lathe
Continously variable speed operation from 500-3900 rpm
Heavy-duty cast-iron lathe bed adds stability while limiting vib..
Another feature that I feel is very important is the turning handles mounted onto each end. It sounds like a pretty simple thing and not really necessary. With pen making you will be turning your work piece alot for sanding and various checking when the lathe is turned off. These handle make it much easier. This is not an absolute necessity but it does make the hobby a lot easier.
Make sure you also look at my other pages about dust collection and wood turning tools. These are both necessary for effective pen making as well as your health and safety.