Pen Blanks with a Story

Hi Penturners,

I just received my April 2013 pen supply catalog from and saw the selection of unique pen blanks offered from various reclaimed woods. The title “Woods with a story…” reminded me of a few years back when I had a similar concept in mind and had came up with what I thought was a great brand name for the pen series. The name was Storywood Pens; unfortunately the website belongs to a classic rock band and I found another woodworking business with similar concept. So in the end I abandoned the name but kept the passion for making pens from unique materials.

There are many different materials available that fit into the category of reclaimed wood or wood with some intrinsic value beyond it’s beauty. Below are some examples:

Bethlehem Olivewood – this wood is obtained from the pruning of olive wood trees in Israel. Pens from this wood are very popular with customers due to the strong religious connection and overall beauty. It’s available from several suppliers: Bethlehem Olive Wood or any of the main suppliers listed on my Pen Turning Suppliers page.

State Tree pen blank – In Iowa the state tree is the oak. I like to use curly white oak as it has a nice grain pattern and is easy to work with. Check with local lumber suppliers or fellow pen turners for this material.

Ancient Kauri – This wood is reclaimed from the swamps of New Zealand. The most common color is a golden brown with beautiful iridescence, however other colors are present. It’s available from Woodturningz, WoodcraftThe Woodturners Studio (New Zealand), Pacific Hardwoods, William Wood-Write Ltd., AncientWoods.

Bog Oak – Salvaged oak from the depths of the peat bogs. This wood has be preserved for thousands of years and is ready for a new life. It’s available from Woodturningz, Rockler, and William Wood-Write Ltd.

Whiskey Barrel blanks -Pen blanks cut from the barrel staves of some of the finest whiskey available. Select from brands Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey and others. Pen blanks cut from these brands of whiskey are available from Woodturningz. Additional sources of various whiskey barrel blanks are Exotic Blanks, and Rockler.

Shredded Money blanks -Old US paper currency is destroyed by means of shredding when it is deemed by the US Government as no longer usable. The shredded strips are cast in resin as a ready to turn pen blank. These are available from Woodturningz, Wood-N-Whimsies, Arizona Silhouette, and Exotic Blanks.

Ebay, Amazon and classified ads in various pen turning forums are also great sources for these unique materials.

The above are just a few examples of unique materials available to today’s pen turner. Additional “story woods” will be added as I happen across more examples.

Happy Turning,

Tim McGill



About the author /

Pen turner, pen designer, custom pen artist, writer, publisher, father, husband, avid book reader, office man, outdoorsman, handyman, runner....these are just a few of the things that define me.

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  1. David Kesler

    Interesting info on unique blanks. Actually, the sentimental value of different woods was why I got into turning in the first place. I wanted to produce something that had meaning to a recipient, e.g., pens from a piece of a childhood climbing tree or a grandparents’ home front door, etc.

    • Tim McGill

      Hi David, For me it is sometimes unexpected the rush of emotion I get from bringing to life something plain and inanimate. I have a stash of wood to turn from various place I’ve been with my boys and picked up some chuck of wood or twig that I found interesting. I also keep the trunk of our Christmas tree each year and make vases or small bowls from the knotty sections. It just goes to show that you don’t have to find the most exotic piece of wood to make something beautiful.

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