Pen blanks come in a variety of styles and materials, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Before choosing a pen blank for your next project, there are a few things to consider.
Pen Blank Sizes
Pen blanks can come in a variety of sizes, though most seem to fall within a range of 5" to 6" in length and somewhere between 1/2" and 1" square (width and height). These general dimensions allow a pen turner to drill many different sizes of tube holes in the blanks. In other words, you can turn a big, fat cigar pen or a thin Slimline pen from the same blank.
With the huge influx of pen turners opting to cut or cast their own blanks (using resins), you may find pen blanks of all sorts of sizes available in different online market places. Some use block molds to cast pen blanks and then cut them with a table saw or band saw to the desired dimension. Others will use single pen molds to cast one at a time. You may even find nonrectangular, cylindrical pen blanks on the market that were cast using something like PVC pipe.
Any way you cut it, as long as the pen blank is wide enough and long enough to fit the pen tube you're planning to use, the blank should work just fine. So the takeaway here is to always know the length and diameter of your tubes before deciding on a pen blank.
Pen Mandrels and bushings
Hand Turned Pens can vary in length and diameter. Some have a single tube in the center while others can have 2 and are separated with some sort of decorative band in between the halves once assembled. The lengths of the tubes vary from pen kit to ken kit, as do the diameter of the inner tube(s).
Most pen mandrels you can purchase for turning pens have a 7mm shaft. This universally used size allows for a turner to use a single mandrel to turn multiple sizes of pens. In order to use the single 7mm shaft mandrel, there are bushings of different sizes that you use depending on the pen tubes in question. The bushings all share a 7mm inner diameter so they slide right onto your mandrel. But they will likely have a higher ridge that is specific to the outer diameter of the pen kit you are turning. You simply turn the pen to meet the outer rim of the bushings in order to achieve a nice, flush fit.
Hardwood Pen Blanks
Wood pen blanks offer a beautiful and natural look and feel for a hand turned pen. Coming in a variety of colors from light woods like Holly to dark woods like Walnut, there are seemingly endless choices. The wood grain variations can be stunning and with hundreds of types available, you'll likely be able to find a hardwood pen blank that suits your desires. Shop for wood pen blanks here.
Stabilized Wood Pen Blanks
Some woods which may have been damaged by disease or bugs may not be good candidates fur turning unless the pen blank has been stabilized first. Stabilization is a process of using a vacuum chamber to suck special resin into the wood fibers and then heating the soaked blank to harden the resin. This process can take a light, damaged, or "pucky" piece of unusable wood into a solid, hard, and beautiful pen blank that can now be turned like a hardwood blank.
Burl pen blanks
Often considered some of the most beautiful pen blanks, burls are woods that have unique and sometimes crazy grain patterns. Burls can happen due to disease, stress, or other factors that might make an otherwise straight and somewhat boring grain pattern in a wood and turn it into something that twists, spins, bends, and even knots. Burl pen blanks can sometimes be stabilized, while other types of burns have no need for such a process. See some of the cool burl pen blanks available here.
Resin Pen Blanks
Using a variety of types and styles of casting resins, pen blank makers will often mix dyes, pigment powders, or other colorants with resin to create beautiful, colorful resin pen blanks that you can't get in a natural wood pen blank. There are absolutely amazing pen blanks on the Internet from some well respected blank makers, but there are also plenty of craft makers who create pen blanks that will knock your socks off. Don't overlook resin pen blanks as an option for your next project! Shop our amazing selection of resin pen blanks.
Hybrid Pen Blanks
Hybrid pen blanks are an amazing addition to the pen blank world. Using a combination of resin and hardwood, burl, or other unique add-ins such as acorn caps, sweetgum pods, pinecones, seashells, glitters, or countless other options, hybrid pen blanks offer a unique and beautiful experience for turners. See some amazing Hybrid Pen Blanks.
Acrylic Pen Blanks
Acrylic pen blanks are normally factory created. They can offer a unique design and color scheme that is hard for a craft pen blank maker to create using resins and dyes. Often somewhat harder than woods to turn due to the nature of the material, acrylic pen blanks also can turn out to be some of the most beautiful pen blanks available. Here on this site, I have a variety of amazing pen blanks in the Designer Pen Blank section so go check it out.