Using Laminated Blanks to Make Touch Stylus Pens

Commercially prepared laminated blanks allowed turners to utilize a completely wood product while producing unexpected effects generally found in only acrylic blanks at a more attractive price and with less aggravation.  Laminated blanks come in a wide variety of sizes and colors and should not be confused with segmented blanks which tend to occupy a much higher cost category.

Electronic Touch Stylus Pens

For the project at hand, making stylus pens that are electronically active so that they can be used as pointers for electronic touch devices, such as the iPad, iPhone, or other tablet or phone types that use touch interfaces.  These styli are particularly helpful for very small screens such as on a phone, or for those of us with less than petite fingers.  The silicon tip is conductive due to its contact with the brass interior tube and this type has proven to be quite sensitive, unlike some competitors, and therefore popular with users.  I obtain mine from Craft Supply USA in Utah and I recommend this vendor and their products.

Laminated Blanks

Prior to turning, the blanks look colorful but plain. 

They are sold under fanciful color names such as Olympic, Bahama Cherry, Caribbean, Field, etc, all names that seem to belong to an Avon catalog rather than to wood products, but regardless of the silliness of the name, the product performs admirably.  When using some segmented or laminated blanks, tear out is a very real concern since there can easily be voids and snags created where the segments don’t fit completely tight and firm, but since these blanks are laminated under pressure, that hasn’t been an issue for me.  At this point, it is important to note that I used two different types of laminated blanks for this project: five of Dymondwood and five of Spectraply.  The Spectraply is the larger of the blanks both in overall dimensions and in the size of the individual laminate layers.


Dymondwood consists of natural hardwood veneers that have been impregnated with specially formulated resins and permanent coloring agents. These impregnated veneers are then bonded and compressed to increase overall density under very high temperatures and enormous pressure. The result is a totally homogenous wood product with a wide range of properties and characteristics not available in conventional wood as we know it. Dymondwood’s beauty, richness, texture and grain cannot be matched by any other natural material. It is stable and not affected by extremes in temperature, humidity, or moisture. No exterior finishes are necessary. It can be machined with standard woodworking equipment, and sanded and buffed to a beautiful satin or gloss finish.

Dymondwood was the first of the laminates that I tried and I have had good success with it.  Its overall density it excellent, I have had no tear outs or voids to contend with, and it does polish nicely, although I still utilize a finish product when using this material.  I used to purchase my Dymondwood from Craft Supply USA, but they have moved all their existing stock to closeout and are now sold out.  Woodcraft only carries one color choice in Dymondwood, but Packard Woodworks continues to stock and sell 20 color choices in this material.  I do not know if the closeout and discontinuance from Craft Supply reflects overall supply or simply one vendors decision on stocking and sales trends.  I suspect that Dymondwood is on the way out given its recent scarcity, so if you want to try it out, I suggest you get some from Packard while you still can.  Granted, there are other vendors that can be found on-line in a search, but I have had excellent experiences with Packard Woodworks in terms of shipping speed, availability, price, and general service.  I highly recommend them, especially for turners in the East as they are located in North Carolina and even budget shipping usually has products to me in 1-2 days.


I don’t know as much about SpectraPly as I do about Dymondwood but what I do know is that is the result of a process of laminating premium yellow birch veneer, that are dyed into various shades that result in some of the most vibrant and beautiful colored wood material available.  SpectraPly is commonly found throughout the firearms industry as gunstock material, but is also found in the craft and specialty woodturning industries as well as sporting and outdoor markets for making game calls, bow handles, pistol grips, sling shots and much more. And another good feature of SpectraPly is that is it made in the USA.

I was new to SpectraPly but found that it worked as well as Dymondwood and I appreciated that it was available in the larger size blanks, being ¾ square by 5 inches as opposed to Dymondwood’s 5/8 square by 5 inches.  This extra dimension would accommodate larger style pens or other projects.  In fact, SpectraPly can be purchased in sheets up to 10 inches wide and up to 3 inches thick.  While I purchased my blanks from Craft Supply USA, larger blanks useful for pepper and salt mills are available from Woodcraft, although this vendor does not seem to stock pen size blanks.  Again, I am sure that other vendors have this material available, but whenever possible I utilize Craft Supply USA because of their superior selection, outstanding service, and general speed of processing.  Their location in Utah means that materials do take an extra day or two to reach me in Georgia, but recently they have started to use Priority Mail which is about 2 days faster on average than FedEx, but many finish and adhesive products cannot be shipped via the postal service, but for those items that can be shipped, the speed and cost can’t be beat.

Easy Wood Turning Tools

This entire project was completed using only Easy Wood Tools, namely the Mini Easy Rougher and the Mini Easy Finisher.  Ever since I took delivery of the Easy Wood Tools products, they have been my go to choice whenever possible, but I think this is the first time I have completed a project using no other turning tools.  They simply can’t be beat, they function exactly as described and have reduced my frustration and time in turning more than any other single invention or device that I have ever tried.  If you don’t have at least one of this company’s items, do yourself a huge favor and order from your favorite vendor or from the company directly, today.

Dedicated Pen Blank Drilling Chuck

I also used another relatively and thus far unreviewed item in this project, and that was the Dedicated Pen Blank Drilling Chuck from Penn State Industries.

In general, I try to avoid Penn State Industries despite their wide selection and fair pricing.  Sadly, my experience of their customer service has been dismal and they are sluggards when it comes to packing and shipping compared to their competition.  Craft Supply USA will pack and ship same day up to 3pm Eastern time while Penn State may require several days before even pulling an order.  Generally I order supplies when I need them and Penn State’s delays, although acknowledged on order, are beyond what I generally am willing to accept.  But, they were the only vendor for this time and aggravation saving device, which functions as described, holding pen blanks steady and centered for the entire drilling process.  Used with a drill chuck in the tail stock of the lathe, this allows for drilling depths far greater than possible with my drill press and its 2 ¼ inch travel restriction.  But as good as this chuck is, NEVER run the jaws out completely as you will NEVER get them back in centered and the chuck will become useless.  I had it happen, so always be sure your blanks do not exceed 1 inch square, the absolute capacity of this otherwise delightful device.

EZ Bond Finish Kit

Most often I utilize EEE Ultra Shine followed with Shellawax paste as a pen finish, but this time I tried a new finish product from Craft Supply USA and Insta-Bond that is based on cyanoacrylate, or “super glue.”  I was pleased with the sturdy high gloss results, but the stylus does feel plasticized, no doubt because ultimately it has been, as opposed to what I consider to be the warmer feel of wood with a paste wax finish.  However, the cyanoacrylate finish does provide a very sturdy and hardy finish for items that expect to be tossed into purses, briefcases, and/or desk drawers.  The entire system, including specialty abrasives is available in one box, and each component can be resupplied, as needed, individually at a later time if you like and use the system.

And That’s The End

Overall the project was a great success and I was able to utilize several new materials and ideas in its completion.  I hope that the future owners of the stylus pens enjoy their look, feel, and function for many years to come.

Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with, employed by, invested in, or otherwise formally associated with Craft Supply USA.  I am simply a very satisfied customer and will gladly give any other vendor with whom I do business equal, or greater, praise if their products and service warrant.