Highland Woodturner, No. 63, June 2016 Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodturning classes and seminars Woodturning articles and solutions Subscribe to the Highland Woodturner
Project Idea: Turning a Pencil
By Curtis Turner
Round Rock, TX

Turning a pencil is a great summer time project for children. I have found that my kids are always excited to help make something they can actually use. This is also a fun way to introduce them to the lathe, safety and tools.

The supplies for this pencil project are a small spindle blank, pencil lead and glue. The tools required are a spindle roughing gouge (or skew) and a parting tool . The center is best drilled out while on the lathe with the use of a drill chuck (or this one ). However, the hole could be drilled out with a bit mounted in a wood handle or held with a vise grip style plyers.

I would suggest letting the kids pick their own blank from a preselected assortment "curated" by you! The lead can be purchased in a variety of colors from most office supply stores and online. The lead size is really up to you. Just make sure you have a drill bit that closely matches the lead.

Keep in mind, the lead could be sanded down to better match your drill bit size. I would encourage you to test fit the lead in a sample block prior to drilling the actual project.

I used an odd shaped piece of bocote.

I first mounted a spindle blank between centers. I used a skew to bring it to round and define the tenon.

A spindle roughing gouge is also a good choice to bring the blank to round. Ultimately, the blank will need to be held in a chuck so the center can be drilled to receive the lead.

Once the blank was mounted in a chuck, I re-trued the blank.

Next, I mounted a drill chuck and drilled out the center.

Then I turned the blank to the final size.

I wanted to retain part of the sap wood, but unfortunately the sap wood did not run deep enough into the blank. This would be the time add any embellishments like burned lines or vee cuts. I then slightly tapered the end of the pencil (on the tail stock side).

A finish could be added as this point. I used a wax blend on the oak pencil. The bocote pencil received a sprayed on lacquer finish.

Finally, I parted off the pencil. I then applied a lacquer finish. I let this dry for a day. The last operation was to drizzle a small amount of Titebond Wood Glue into the hole. Then I inserted and rotated the lead to spread the glue. I have standard length drill bits, therefore, I needed to trim the length of lead to match the depth of the hole. I left this to dry overnight.

The following day, I sharpened the pencil using a disk sander mounted to a lathe.

The diameter of the wood body will determine if this pencil can be sharpened in a manual sharper. If this is important to you, then reduce the diameter to fit your sharpener.

The real beauty of this turning is that the entire project is well within the attention span of most kids. A few speed tips would be to use CA Glue instead of wood glue and apply a wax finish. Both tips will allow this project to be completed in an afternoon!

Curtis was a former President of Central Texas Woodturners , is a member of the American Association of Woodturners , and is a member of Fine Woodworkers of Austin . Curtis teaches and demonstrates nationally for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He also teaches for TechShop. He owns a studio where he works and teaches. Curtis lives in Central Texas with his wife and four young children. Take a look at his website at www.curtisturnerstudio.com

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