Welcome and Introduction

Welcome to my pen turning blog. Debbie and I have lived aboard our Narrowboat Lois Jane (here is a link to our cruising blog) since the early, and rather chilly, spring of 2012. We have cruised much of the connected inland waterways of the UK but still have loads to go!

We have always known that our 'gap year' wouldn't be perpetually self financing so we have successfully applied to the Canal and River Trust for a license to become Roving Canal Traders. This is the blog of our (fairly) mobile workshop and outlet trading from the canal side as we cruise the rest, and revisit some of our favourite, parts of the UK's connected canals and rivers.

Whilst the intention is to mainly make and sell pens from the canal side, if you have trundled into this blog and find something that you would like to buy just get in touch with us via email or Facebook (postage will only ever be at cost price (typically £2.50) - even if we've got to hike across fields to find a post office!).

Every pen for sale will have its own number code on a little label when sold to you, so you (or the lucky person you have made the purchase for) can pop the code into the blogger search box and find out a little bit more about the item you have bought. You can also search using keywords like the type of wood - try searching 'Zebrano' or 'fountain' to see all of those types of pen.

The search bar doesn't appear on mobile phone pages but you can select the 'view web version' at the bottom of the mobile page.

Enjoy browsing the blog and we look forward to meeting you somewhere along the towpath. Click on either the 'Home' page to see all the pens I've made including lots of extra information and pictures; or the 'Available Pens' to see what's in stock.


OK just a few more pieces of information about the pens before the blog posts.

  • All the pen veneers are hand turned by me either on our boat or on the towpath next to it.
  • My timber merchant provides me with commercially seasoned pen blanks that are then acclimatised aboard before turning to ensure that the timber will be stable and the pen last well if looked after.
  • The mechanisms for the pens are quality products globally sourced but predominantly from USA and Australia but with one UK supplier who gets me the real top end stuff.

The pen production process

  1. The pen blanks are cut down from planking stock by my Northamptonshire timber merchant. Or by me for the historic boat pieces.
  2. Each pen style requires the pen blank to be further cut down closer to the size of the brass internal pen tubes.
  3. The ends of the blanks need to be accurately marked to find the centres and drilled precisely for the required pen mechanism.
  4. With the acrylic pen blanks the brass tubes need to be cleaned with fine abrasive paper and then colour matched to the blank with acrylic paint.
  5. The prepared brass tubes are then glued into the still squared blanks with polyurethane expanding adhesive for wood and colour tinted epoxy for the acrylic pens, they are then  cured over night.
  6. It is vital that the end of the pen blank and brass tube are perpendicular for the pen mechanism to fit and operate correctly this is done with a pen barrel milling attachment for the lathe.
  7. The pen blanks can now be mounted on the lathe and turned to shape, continuously measuring for accuracy.
  8. Once turned to the finished size the timber pens are sanded from 320 grit to 12000 micro-mesh, a scratch pattern that cannot be detected by the human eye and is one ten thousandths of an inch. If the grain is particularly open, a thin coat of sanding sealer is applied and cured. 
  9. Several (up to thirty) alternating coats of boiled linseed oil and cyanoacrylate are applied to wooden blanks before the sanding process starts again usually from micro-mesh 3600 to 12000.
  10. The acrylic pens just get sanded with all the micro-mesh grades but this time wet rather than dry and they require only a light polish once the 2 micron sanding has been completed.
  11. The turned and finished pen barrels are then taken off the lathe and the rest of the pen mechanisms are fitted taking note of the shapes and patterns in the acrylic and the wood grains so tops and bottoms match. 
  12. And that's it all finished and ready for photographing, blogging, Facebooking... and of course selling!
Now click on either the 'Home' page to see all the pens I've made including lots of extra information and pictures; or the 'Available Pens' to see what's in stock.

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Thanks for commenting, you can always contact me via email at thepenmakersboat@gmail.com or find The Pen Makers Boat on Facebook. I'll get back to you as soon as I can.