The Pen Turner’s Bible: The Art of Creating Custom Pens by Richard Kleinhenz has been available for some time now, since Febuary 2012, so many of you probably own it already. If you do, please feel free to share your thoughts below.
Two things about me: I’ve been turning pens since 2003 and I love my Kindle eReader. So I wondered “Will I learn much from this book and will the Kindle version be as good as the printed book?” Especially the older keyboard version which does not have touch screen or color.
To be upfront with you, my pen turning skills are decent, but likely average compared to some of you with similar or less experience; so in short I’m not claiming to be an expert. However, I think being average will help me be objective in my review of this book. Enough about me, let’s talk about this book.
For the price of a couple of pen blanks you can pick up a copy of this book. I recommend you do that. Do I think you will you learn something that is at least worth the purchase price? Yes!
The cover photo is simple but yet communicates the quality of pens to be discussed. Throughout the book high quality photos of completed pens and step-by-step illustrations are provided. I was also pleased with the image quality on my Kindle; even with the monochrome color of my older Kindle the gray scaling clearly illustrated the range of color. I didn’t feel like I was losing any clarity without the full color. The HD Kindle would look even better.
Richard Kleinhenz has been turning pens since the mid 1990’s. With over twenty years of experience, Richard has witnessed many developments in this industry. Some of you may know Richard from the Yahoo Pen Turners Group, which he manages. He is also the co-founder of the Pen Makers Guild (a great place to visit for inspiration). The book is written mostly in first person point of view which allows the reader to take a journey with Richard throughout his pen turning experiences.
Don’t skip the Intro section as there is lots of good information presented and a preview of the topics to be covered. Next the basic tools, drilling process and materials are discussed. In Chapter 4 the first pen is created; Richard chose a Gatsby style kit from Penn State Industries over the more conventional choice of the Slimline or Traditional pen kit. His reasoning is sound in that the Slimline is actually more difficult to turn and assembly than the single body design of the Gatsby. While there’s no argument that the Slimline is more versatile, allow for varying designs and barrel lengths, the transition of the wood to the metal pen components can be difficult for beginners. I agree with this logic, except I would have selected the Sierra style from Berea Hardwoods since Berea is the originator of this design. BTW – If you haven’t tried the Sierra pen kit you’re missing out. The simplicity and easy of assembly is pure genius.
Additional chapters cover pens using the Baron, Stateman, Perfect Fit, Cigar, El Grande, Venus, Slimline kits and Pentel mechanical pencil. Materials range from wood to synthetic stone to antler, ivory and acrylics. In the advanced section, laser-cut kits, aluminum, variations using the Slimline kit, closed end pens, and segmented blanks are discussed. As a bonus, ornamental designs, such as the classic rope twist, facets, flutes, and spiral cuts are illustrated using the Pen Wizard from Beall Tool Company.
In each chapter Richard provides information on where to buy the materials (as well as in the Resources section) and any special tooling required. I particularly like the chapter on making a Pentel pencil and will be giving that a try in the near future.
At the end of the book is a section on FAQ, Problems, Shortcuts and Tricks. This is a must read and worth the cost of the book in itself. Lastly a gallery of pen is provided by various artist.
Favorite Quote from Richard: “Many wood turners consider pens an introductory project, a learning experience on their way to bigger and better things, but there are those that get absorbed in pens-and I am one of them.”
I learned a lot of new tricks to try. Here are just a couple that really stood out to me.
1. Pay attention to the tolerance between different manufacturers of mandrels, bushings and kits. While not always practical it’s best to use the mandrel, bushing, and pen kits from the same supplier. Mix and match can be done, but be aware of the potential variations.
2. Great tip on using epoxy glue instead of CA glue if glueing the pen components to the barrel during assembly. The problem with CA glue is that the vapors can leave a white film on your metal pen component. This is particularly a concern with capped style pens.
In short, great book packed full of useful information. I recommend this book for all levels of pen turners.
Happy turning and comments welcome.
Kindle Version Printed Version
Disclosure: Please note that the Amazon book links above are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links (at no extra cost to you). I recommend that you do your own research before purchasing any product or service.