Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Making of Tracey's Pen


Tracey's Pen

Purple acrylic and Titanium Plated Rollerball Pen

This was a bit of a special pen commissioned by Martin the Master Manufacturer of Stained Glass ~ (Martins website) for his partner Tracey.

We decided that only the best was going to be good enough and I set about talking to my suppliers about a top notch pen mechanism in premium plating. Martin had already chosen a first and second choice of pen blank just in case the worst should happen and I had a problem with the turning. I was pretty confidant as I hadn't had one fail so far this year - I was going to regret my last thought.

Saturday 6th December,  job one was to rough up the surface of the inner brass tubes and paint them a suitable colour for the blank. The red one (second choice) was a no brainer it was cherry red so had had to be similar for the brass tube. It's not vital that the tubes are painted but a proportion of the acrylic is a clearer colour that you can see through (I've recently made another pen that I purposefully kept the tube as brass to make the clearer green a more sea green to contrast with the blue). Inspecting the first choice purple now it was drilled out showed a higher proportion of clearer to more solid purple, and I wasn't sure how it would turn out. I chose a darker maroon colour. Next was drilling.

Monday 8th December. Both pens have the barrels glued up and have had a day to cure. The purple one doesn't feel right, far too much clear purple and the red one is only just a bit better. My supplier is 12,000 miles away in Australia, I can't send Martin a message asking for a third choice. Thinking cap time. We were going to pop in for a pint in the Greyhound in Hawkesbury Monday evening and I had loosely arranged to meet up with a fellow boater and FaceBook friend for a coffee on Friday. Plan B. We pulled pins and set off into the gales and drizzle. There is another supplier I have used before in Basingstoke... and they have a branch a couple of miles from the canal near Nuneaton.

Stopping for water en route

We made it to a suitable mooring by early evening and legged it in the non boaty sense to Axminster Tools. I had checked on the way that they had some options available to me. We looked at every single purple pen blank they stocked, most were too narrow for the pen style Martin wanted but they did have some excellent quality larger ones but they were a much darker purple but I should be able to lighten the finished pen up by painting the barrel white rather than purple. This really makes a difference as by the time I'm finished turning the acrylic veneer will only be about 1.5mm thick. We bought the best purple one along with another red one and went back to Lois Jane via Frankie and Bennys where we really needed a drink and something to eat. 

Made it to Axminster before closing time

Morning view from the rear deck near Nuneaton
Tuesday the 9th December. Back to square one, marking, drilling, painting, drying, gluing and curing - each drying stage needing 24 hours. Whilst waiting for the barrels to dry we moved a bit closer to civilization in Atherstone ready for tomorrows turning of the two original choices and the two new ones that Martin still didn't know about.

Friday 12th December. A much milder day that was forecast to stay dry but I'd still have to wrap up warm, I was going to be on the towpath for at least four or five hours. The original purple ones turned quite nicely indeed and the clearer acrylic looked almost stained glass like which I quite liked (and don't forget Martin is an Artist in Stained Glass!). I was actually looking forward to seeing what it would polish up like when on the final pass of the newly sharpened chisel - CRACK - a lump of it flew off and sank into the canal always to rest in Atherstone. Bugger.

Red sky in the morning - time to turn!

Purple One - before disintegration 

Purple Two

A quick stop whilst Mark and Callie from Calisto refuel
A quick brew and a warm of the hands inside and onto the next one. Purple two, which I was sure would be the new first choice. It turned beautifully and the white painted brass tube turned the blank into a very soft sugary purple/lilac. I was pleased with the result. On to turning Red One, which will still make a nice pen but the colours and patterns in Red Two looked like they may throw up something special when it was turned and polished.

I wasn't wrong. Red two turned into a fantastic bright cherry red pen I matched it to a Rhodium plated mechanism, 12 times the price of gold and the brightest, most reflective metal known to man (according to wikki). I sent Martin some pictures of the pens preassembled so he (or Tracey) could make the final decision and choose a pen to buy. 

Should be on the for sale blog soon #179

Tracey's pen was posted on Monday, received on Wednesday from the Facebook comments I think both Tracey and Martin were very happy with my work. Happy Christmas both from James and Debbie on The Pen Maker's Boat.


  1. Hi James

    I'm off to Saudi Arabia after Christmas Day and had a thought that your pens might make excellent gifts for my Saudi colleagues. Do you have any in stock and what is the cost.


    Tom & Jan

  2. Hi Tom, yes we have a stock prices start from £12. If you look at the pen blog there are two tabs at the top 'home' and 'available pens', if you look at the available pens they are listed individually with their price. James is just updating over the next day or so with some more available ones.

  3. Hi Debbie

    I think you might be able to sell me three. Where are you? We are back at Rugby. I could catch a bus to Coventry if that is any help.

    1. We're in Alvecote at the moment, probably moving onto Fazeley tomorrow. Not sure how easy that would be to get to. We can always send them Post Restante to you.

  4. OK. Post Restante to Rugby should work. I need them before Christmas. Three pens
    #103 ~ Mahogany and Chrome Ballpoint Twist Pen
    #132 ~ Australian Silky Oak and 24ct Gold Plated Rollerball Pen
    #144 ~ Tiger Oak and Chrome Ballpoint Twist Pen
    Can you please email me your bank details and the total cost
    Our email is