Pen Mandrel Setup

Mounting your pen blanks on the pen mandrel to ensure making pens perfectly!

Pen Mandrel setup is a very critical and can be one of the most important steps in the pen making process. Now that you have the pen blanks cut to the proper size and the brass tube properly installed, its time to mount the blanks. Do this step right and everything goes well; but do it wrong and you'll run into problems every step of the way. Here's what one looks like:

Pen Turning Mandrel and BushingsPen Turning Mandrel and Bushings
This is the essential tool for pen turning on a lathe! Machined-accurate steel bar is held in the lathe to ensure the pen turns accurately with live center, no drill chuck required! ..

Pen Turning Mandrel and Bushings

The first step you probably already know but I am going to assume everyone is a novice for simplicity and that is determining what size morse taper your mini lathe uses. There are generally only 2 sizes used on a mini lathe. There are a Morse Taper 1 and and a Morse Taper 2 which is basically means the size of the mandrel that slips into the headstock.

Lightly tap the pen mandrel into place to seat it and secure it in place. just a little pressure is all that is needed, don't hammer it like a nail!

The Next step in the pen mandrel setup is to take the pen bushings that correspond to to the type of pen kit you are making and slide the lower end one on. This will be the end where the ink will come out of the wooden pen.

Then slide the properly prepared pen blank for the lower barrel onto the pen mandrel. Next slide on the middle pen bushing, sometime there will be two pen bushings for the center especially on higher end pens. These pens usually have a large barrel on the top end and this is why two different size bushings are used here. The next step is to slide on the top piece of wood and then the final pen bushing which is lightly secured with a twist nut, again make it snug, don't try to make it too tight.

Now a word about pen bushings and their purpose. The bushings serve as a guide as to how small or large to carve the wood. Where the bushing sits is where the pen fittings will be when the wooden pen is assembled and completed. You want this transition to be as exact as possible for a smooth and professional look and feel.

The last step in pen mandrel setup is sliding the tailstock into place and securing the wood blanks in place. This is where the pen mandrel setup step becomes critical. The tailstock needs to be secure so that the mandrel spins perfectly on a horizontal plane. The key is to get it tight enough but not too tight. If you get it too tight you can bow or bend the mandrel and then the blanks won't be centered and balanced when spinning. If this happens you will never get your pen to look and/or balance right.

Okay now everything is ready, the pen mandrel setup is complete and we are ready to get out our carving tools and let the chips start flying!

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