I received a marketing e-mail from one of the many suppliers of pen blanks and other equipment targeted to wood turners making custom turned pens and similar items. The retailer was announcing a new and exclusive product they named “Glow Stonez,” pen blanks that would glow in the dark once charged from a luminescent light or sunlight. I admit I was intrigued, even though I thought the concept was rather unpractical since having a pen that would glow in the dark would be irrelevant if there wasn’t enough light to see what was written! But life isn’t always about practicality and I took the bait, ultimately purchasing one of each of the 5 different types of “Glow Stonez” that were offered.
Upon receipt, I found blanks that did an admirable job of imitating real stone, and that characteristic continues to show through after turning. Clearly, from the nature of the turning experience and the smell, these blanks are, as expected, cast from acrylic, a substance that can be made to look like just about anything and which is also commonly used for exotic pen blanks. I used a style of pen that would allow for two pens from each blank, which maximized my yield for investment.
Preparing the Blanks for the Lathe
The blanks cut and drilled just as I would expect with acrylic and the gluing up process for the internal brass tubing was also uneventful. I chose to turn these acrylic items concurrently with about a dozen natural wood pens which really showed up the differences in working with the two divergent materials. Comparatively speaking, most wood turns like butter compared to the hardness and therefore, slowness, of turning acrylic. However, there are effects and results that can be obtained with acrylic that wood will never duplicate; likewise, a wood pen blank has different potentially advantageous characteristics that acrylic can’t duplicate, particularly feel and warmth. In the end, I use both materials for different effects and to suit different tastes, although in general I think it safe to say that acrylic is the more difficult material to work with.
Turning the Blanks
The turning process was ultimately, while slow, easy and that was solely due to the almost magical effects of the Easy Wood Tools system of carbide bit tools, particularly the Easy Rougher, which despite its name, was the tool of choice for turning and finishing the pen blanks to a smoothness that required nothing more than micro-fine sanding and polishing, and honestly, I am not sure that even that was necessary given the almost magical finish cut delivered by the Easy Wood Tools. If you haven’t used this system you are cheating yourself out of a fantastic experience of ease in wood turning. These tools don’t require achieving and maintaining bevels and angles and there is essentially no risk of catches or tear out. The tool is simply held level across the tool rest and with minimal practice cuts as fine and finished as what you see here are completely possible, even with sometimes tetchy acrylic. I am crazy about these tools, in all their variations.
My Final Thoughts
Ultimately, I am not sure what to do with this set of 10 really rather cool pens! I can’t conceivably use all of them and I am not sure which of my family and acquaintances would find them of interest and value. And yes, they do glow in the dark as advertised although it has defeated my photographic knowledge as to how to photograph them while they are glowing! One can visit the retailer’s website to see them in glowing action. I would recommend the blanks to any turner who feels comfortable and competent working with acrylic. At $3.50 per blank, it might not be the best choice for true beginners since the cost versus risk is pretty high for a pen blank when compared to the very low prices, including free, of other wood pen blanks that can easily be created from off cuts from other wood working applications. But for me, even though I haven’t found a specific application as of yet, the experiment was a positive one in working with both a new material and a new supplier, Wood Turningz. I can easily recommend both based on my brief experience and look forward to doing business with this “new to me” company in the near future.