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Hand turned pens from exquisite burls & specialty woods. Perfect for the person who loves the unique, one-of-a-kind item!

Thanks for checking out my Kickstarter project! I'm Stephanie, and if you told me 10 years ago that I would add pen-turner to my hobbies, I wouldn't have believed you. But I have never been more happy to be wrong. So how did it happen? Well, I decided to interview myself, so read on to find out...

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How did you get started turning pens?

I'm no stranger to a workshop actually. My dad is a woodworker and craftsman (some of you may have seen his project "Little Jewels" on Kickstarter) so I've always been in and out of the workshop stealing tools to build a treehouse or a hammer and nails to decorate my apartment. Recently, he encouraged me to try the lathe and I thought why not? To both of our surprise, I took to it pretty happily and became a regular in the shop. Dad then challenged me to meet the quality of one of his pens....oh great. Well, this could easily have been the give up moment. But never underestimate a Walsh - we don't let challenges go very easily! I researched, practiced my turning, got pretty irritated and walked away, got over my irritation and came back, and eventually I presented him with a pen that went head to head with his. Once I did this over and over again, he gave me the ultimate compliment and said,  "have you thought about a Kickstarter project?" Hmm......

So you obviously decided to try Kickstarter. What do you want to accomplish here?

Now I love office supplies more than the average person, but even I only need so many pens. But I really like making them! As friends and even perfect strangers were asking if they could buy one for themselves or a gift, I realized Dad might have been onto something when he mentioned Kickstarter. As I said, I really love turning pens. Crafting something 100% unique and beautiful out of a part of a tree most people never see is such an amazing feeling. The beauty is already there - it just needs someone to sculpt it back to life. I'm hopeful that Kickstarter will help me reach more people like me and they too will want to be a part of owning something unique and designed by them.

Designed by "them" - you mean the backer? How does that work?

My reward levels allow you to choose the style of pen shown in the pictures below. Once you fund at that level, you get to choose the pen hardware color (finish) PLUS choose the wood you want it to be. Each pen reward level lists the available woods and hardware finishes that are available. When you back the project (and I hope you will!), type the choices into the message box. If my project is successfully funded prior to the deadline, this will help me get a head start on crafting your pen.

Crafting the pen. What do you have to do? Don't you just get the wood and the pieces and put them together?

Nope! :) Almost all the woods I use have been fully processed by me. While it is possible to buy wood pen blanks ready to be drilled and turned, I actually do all those steps myself. These steps include cutting the burl on the bandsaw, drying and stabilizing the blanks, turning the blank on the lathe, sanding, finishing and assembly...plus a lot of other steps in between. Check out my video to see some of them in action!

Breast Cancer Awareness Pen shown in Highly Figured "White" Box Elder with Chrome components and Pink Genuine Swarovski Crystals.
Breast Cancer Awareness Pen shown in Highly Figured "White" Box Elder with Chrome components and Pink Genuine Swarovski Crystals.

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I keep seeing this word "burl". What is it?

I'm glad you asked! A burl is an abnormal growth on the outside trunk of a tree. Burls are quite rare as they do not grow on every tree. They form when the cells that make up new bud growth begin to deviate, dividing in many different directions and form a large bump instead of a branch or root. The grain now spirals, twists and knots (as opposed to normal growth, which results in straight and predictable grain) and now has intricate grain patterns and vivid colors that make it a world-class wood. These irregularities, however, make the burl one of the trickiest woods to turn, even when stabilized, but also one of the most beautiful.

Okay, this is the second time you mentioned "stabilizing". Is the wood unsteady?

Stabilizing the Blanks
Stabilizing the Blanks

Not exactly. Stabilizing a piece of wood involves a process that impregnates the wood or burl with resins and renders it into an ideal turning blank. I stabilize all the blanks I turn by using a vacuum and pressure chamber to remove all the air from deep inside the wood. Then these air pockets are replaced with a heat-activated resin that in turn forms a polymer "backbone". Bear in mind that it does not change the wood or turn it to plastic!! Stabilizing the blanks allows me to work with pieces that would otherwise be too fragile to turn. In fact, even with stabilization, I still run the risk of losing a blank on the lathe depending on how fragile the wood is due to burl voids, cracks and other irregularities.

In your pictures, your pens are REALLY shiny. Is this from the stabilization? Do they dull after too much use?

It's true that many shiny objects start to lose their gleam over time. But not this time! Post-stabilization, I begin my pen finishing process that starts the journey to it's final shiny nature. After the final turning (there are 2 total - one before and one after stabilization), I sand the pen using anywhere from 5-7 grits of sandpaper. Then I apply a clear epoxy finish over the perfectly smooth surface to protect the wood. Another round of sanding occurs using 9 grits from 1500 - 12,000 followed by a buffing and polishing process. These steps create a protective, high-gloss finish that allows the beauty of the wood to shine.

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This is a pretty neat process. How do I know what wood to choose?

The best advice I can give is to choose what you like the best. Each pen will be slightly different, of course, even if made out of the same wood because you never know what's on the inside until you get there! Variations in color are common due to how a burl forms. But I can guarantee each piece will be stunning.

From Left to Right: Mesquite Burl, Spalted Maple, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Cherry Burl, Ambrosia Maple Burl, Highly Figured "White" Box Elder, Flame "Red" Box Elder
From Left to Right: Mesquite Burl, Spalted Maple, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Cherry Burl, Ambrosia Maple Burl, Highly Figured "White" Box Elder, Flame "Red" Box Elder

Here is a brief description of each of the woods:

  • Flame "Red" Box Elder - This wood contains moderate to heavy amounts of red color. The bright pinks and vivid reds are usually caused by the invasion of the box elder beetle. This is a highly prized wood due to its gorgeous color and figuring.

  • Highly Figured "White" Box Elder - Box Elder wood also offers gorgeous highly figured pieces with a white coloring. The figuring occurs in the crotch pieces of the tree. When turned, this figuring gives the piece a shimmering, pearlescent glow that is difficult to capture in pictures.

  • Spalted Maple - Spalted wood is sometimes like looking into a world atlas and can even be referred to as "mapwood"! Spalting is caused by the breaking down of the wood and causes differences in hardness throughout the wood, which adds to it's unique figuring.

  • Big Leaf Maple Burl - With its myriad of colors within a burl, big leaf maple pieces truly fit the "no two pieces are alike" category. Primarily a west coast maple, it is know for its spectacularly large burls.

  • Ambrosia Maple Burl - a burl with unusual and rich colors caused by the rich mineral and organic compounds that a wet swampy area contains.

  • Mesquite Burl - Coming from Arizona, mesquite is a medium brown and gold wood with a swirling smooth to coarse gran that makes it a beautiful medium to work with. "Defects" such as bark pockets, ring shake and resin pockets are found in larger longs, Occasionally, mesquite wood will also show evidence of mineral streaks, ingrown bark, latent buds and bug blemishes. These defects often add to the character of a piece.

  • Cherry Burl - With its warm golden to pinkish color, cherry burl has a strong attractive grain and often has fascinating voids and other "defects". Each layer on the lathe showcases something new under the surface.

  • Pink Ivory - This wood comes from South Africa and is one of the world's rarest and most beautiful woods. This is one wood that I do not stabilize myself; however, I wanted to offer it in certain categories due to how well it complements the pen design. (See the Breast Cancer Awareness Pen pictures for images of Pink Ivory.)

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Now what about the differences between the pen styles?

All the pens I'm offering are a twist action ballpoint pens. They all use either a standard Parker or Cross style refill, available at most office supply stores. I've included more specific descriptions of the pen styles below the pictures. But also let the pictures be your guide!

From Left to Right: Gun Metal, Satin Silver, Copper, Chrome, 24k Gold, Satin Gold
From Left to Right: Gun Metal, Satin Silver, Copper, Chrome, 24k Gold, Satin Gold

SLIMLINE PEN

Slimline Pens shown include 24k Economy Gold in Spalted Maple (right), Copper in Cherry Burl (middle), and Satin Gold in "Red" Box Elder (bottom).
Slimline Pens shown include 24k Economy Gold in Spalted Maple (right), Copper in Cherry Burl (middle), and Satin Gold in "Red" Box Elder (bottom).

The SLIMLINE PEN is what I consider a unique, one-of-a-kind "WOW!" upgrade from the basic plastic ballpoint pen. The slimmest pen I'm offering, it will fit comfortably in any hand. It uses a Cross style refill.

Slimline Woods Available (4): Cherry Burl, Spalted Maple, Flame "Red" Box Elder, Highly Figured "White" Box Elder

Slimline Hardware Finishes Available (4): Satin Gold, 24k Economy Gold, Copper, Chrome (not pictured)

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POLARIS PEN

Polaris Pen shown in Ambrosia Maple Burl with Gold Components and "White" Box Elder with Rhodium Components
Polaris Pen shown in Ambrosia Maple Burl with Gold Components and "White" Box Elder with Rhodium Components

The POLARIS PEN is a shorter and slightly heftier pen that still manages to convey a true elegance. The Polaris uses a standard Parker style refill. Rhodium pens come with an I.D. card that identifies and describes the Rhodium plating.

Polaris Woods Available (7): Cherry Burl, Spalted Maple, Flame "Red" Box Elder, Highly Figured "White" Box Elder, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Ambrosia Maple Burl, Mesquite Burl

Polaris Hardware Finishes Available (2): 24k Gold or Rhodium

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CIVIL WAR PEN

Civil War Pen shown in Satin Silver in Maple Burl and Gun Metal in Spalted Maple. Inserts show the bullet replicas on the tip and end cap as well as the replica rifle clip.
Civil War Pen shown in Satin Silver in Maple Burl and Gun Metal in Spalted Maple. Inserts show the bullet replicas on the tip and end cap as well as the replica rifle clip.

The CIVIL WAR PEN is an inspiration from the era when correspondence was an art form and craftsmanship was honored. A perfect way to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War! This pen features a replica model 1861 Springfield Rifle Musket replica clip, a 58 Caliber Minie' Ball replica cap (actual size - used on the pen cap), and a 44 Caliber 1860 Army Revolver Bullet replica end  (actual size used on the pen tip). Each pen comes with a detailed 4-page information pamphlet on the history of the pen's replica components. The Civil War Pen uses a standard Parker refill.

Civil War Woods Available (7): Cherry Burl, Spalted Maple, Flame "Red" Box Elder, Highly Figured "White" Box Elder, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Ambrosia Maple Burl, Mesquite Burl

Civil War Hardware Finishes Available (3): Brushed Satin, Chrome (not pictured), Gun Metal

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GRADUATE PEN

Graduate Pen shown in 24k Gold in Ambrosia Maple and Gun Metal in Mesquite Burl.
Graduate Pen shown in 24k Gold in Ambrosia Maple and Gun Metal in Mesquite Burl.

The GRADUATE PEN is a streamlined, stylish and smart pen perfect for any executive. This pen uses a Cross style refill.

Graduate Woods Available (7): Cherry Burl, Spalted Maple, Flame "Red" Box Elder, Highly Figured "White" Box Elder, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Ambrosia Maple Burl, Mesquite Burl

Graduate Hardware Finishes Available (3): 24k Gold, Chrome (not pictured), Gun Metal

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DIVA PEN

Diva Pen shown "Red" Box Elder with Red Crytals, "White" Box Elder with Purple Crystals, and "Red" Box Elder with Clear Crystals. Blue and Pink Crystal end caps also shown.
Diva Pen shown "Red" Box Elder with Red Crytals, "White" Box Elder with Purple Crystals, and "Red" Box Elder with Clear Crystals. Blue and Pink Crystal end caps also shown.

The DIVA PEN is an elegant, smooth writing pen that has just enough bling to be noticed. The Diva pen features genuine Swarovski® crystals on the cap band and dangling cap charm. The hardware components are Gold T/N and Rhodium plated. This pen uses a standard Parker refill. Diva pens also come with an I.D. card that identifies and describes the Rhodium plating.

Diva Woods Available (7): Cherry Burl, Spalted Maple, Flame "Red" Box Elder, Highly Figured "White" Box Elder, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Mesquite Burl, Pink Ivory

Diva Crystal Colors Available (5): Clear, Red, Blue, Pink, Purple

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BREAST CANCER AWARENESS PEN

BCA Pen show in Rose Gold/Pink Crystals in Red Box Elder (left), 24k Gold/Clear Crystals in Pink Ivory (right), and Chrome/Pink Crystals in "White" Box Elder (insert).
BCA Pen show in Rose Gold/Pink Crystals in Red Box Elder (left), 24k Gold/Clear Crystals in Pink Ivory (right), and Chrome/Pink Crystals in "White" Box Elder (insert).

The BREAST CANCER AWARENESS PEN is a beautiful and meaningful pen that demonstrates how much we care about finding a cure for breast cancer. All the crystals on the Breast Cancer Awareness pen feature genuine Swarovski® crystals on the pen band, pen end and ribbon on the pen clip. This pen uses a standard Parker refill. 

Breast Cancer Woods Available (4): Cherry Burl, Flame "Red" Box Elder, Highly Figured "White" Box Elder, Pink Ivory

Breast Cancer Hardware/Crystal Combinations Available (3): 24k Gold with Clear Crystals, Chrome with Pink Crystals, Rose Gold with Pink Crystals

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NOUVEAU SCEPTRE PEN

Nouveau Sceptre Pen shown in Big Leaf Maple Burl.
Nouveau Sceptre Pen shown in Big Leaf Maple Burl.

THE NOUVEAU SCEPTRE PEN is named for royalty and shows off its flowing curves and two-toned finish. Designed by accomplished pen designer, David Broadwell, specifically in the "Art Nouveau" style, this pen is elegance and beauty combined. The Nouveau Sceptre hardware components are 24k Gold and Chrome. This pen uses a standard Parker refill.

Nouveau Sceptre Woods Available (7): Cherry Burl, Spalted Maple, Flame "Red" Box Elder, Highly Figured "White" Box Elder, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Ambrosia Maple Burl, Mesquite Burl

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So I've backed at my chosen reward level and included the wood/hardware choices in the message plus received my backer status email. How do you protect the pens when shipping them?

All pens will be inside a clear plastic sleeve, which is then bubble-wrapped and taped so securely it could be dropped off a building and still be perfect when opened.

Well, I've run out of questions for myself. I hope you enjoy my offerings and choose to join me in my project. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to email me directly through Kickstarter or post in the comments section. I promise I will get back to you ASAP.

Thanks, everyone!

Stephanie :)

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

All projects come with challenges and risks. As a new turner, one risk I will face is to my personal safety when turning (it's amazing how quickly pieces can chip and come flying off the lathe!). Other challenges include making sure each pen meets my incredibly high standards before shipping and also that my hardware supplies arrive as needed. I'm working ahead of time to know what items are on backorder, try to preorder what I see is popular with my funders, and continually hone my skills on the lathe with practice pieces.

I am taking every precaution to troubleshoot potential issues and feel confident that this project will be a success!

FAQ

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    My thanks in helping to make this possible! You'll also get my future updates and acknowledgement in a future update! (If you'd prefer not to have your first name and last initial in the update, please let me know in your pledge message.)

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    My gratitude in a handwritten thank you note plus your name etched into a piece of wood used to create the pens.

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    Early Bird Mystery Level - Ooooh, you've entered into the great unknown. Exciting! You will receive a random pen hand turned from one of the burls or other specialty woods. It could be a pen of any of the different level styles or woods, but I guarantee you will love it!

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    SLIMLINE PEN - The elegant upgrade to the plastic ballpoint. You choose the wood and the hardware. Woods Available (4): Flame Box Elder, White Box Elder, Cherry Burl, Spalted Maple. Hardware Available (4): Satin Gold, Gold, Chrome, Copper

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    POLARIS PEN - A classy pen choice! You choose the wood and the hardware color. Woods Available (7): Flame Box Elder, White Box Elder, Cherry Burl, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Spalted Maple, Ambrosia Maple Burl, Mesquite Burl. Hardware Available (2): Gold or Rhodium

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    CIVIL WAR PEN - a pen unique to the history of the United States, complete with replica rifle and bullet components. You choose the wood and the hardware color. Woods Available (7): Flame Box Elder, White Box Elder, Cherry Burl, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Spalted Maple, Ambrosia Maple Burl, Mesquite Burl. Hardware Available (3): Chrome, Satin Silver or Gun Metal

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    GRADUATE PEN - An absolute classic pen for anyone. You choose the wood and the hardware color. Woods Available (7): Flame Box Elder, White Box Elder, Cherry Burl, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Spalted Maple, Ambrosia Maple Burl, Mesquite Burl. Hardware Available (3): Gold, Chrome or Gun Metal

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    7 backers Limited (3 left of 10)

    DIVA PEN - A stunning pen with shine galore thanks to Swarovski crystals and the gold/rhodium finish! You choose the wood and crystal color. Woods Available (7): Pink Ivory, Flame Box Elder, White Box Elder, Cherry Burl, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Spalted Maple, Mesquite Burl. Crystal Colors Available (5): Clear, Red, Blue, Pink, Purple

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    6 backers Limited (4 left of 10)

    BREAST CANCER AWARENESS PEN - A beautifully designed pen with Swarovski crystals that shows your support while you write. You choose the wood and hardware/crystal color. Woods Available (4): Pink Ivory, Flame Box Elder, White Box Elder, Cherry Burl. Hardware/Crystal Colors Available (3): Chrome Finish with Pink Crystals, Gold Finish with Clear Crystals, Rose Gold Finish with Pink Crystals.

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    NOUVEAU SCEPTRE PEN - A truly elegant pen of designed in a 24k Gold and Chrome finish. You choose the wood. Woods Available (7): Flame Box Elder, White Box Elder, Cherry Burl, Big Leaf Maple Burl, Spalted Maple, Ambrosia Maple Burl, Mesquite Burl.

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    THE EXECUTIVE COLLECTION - this set of 3 pens includes one Slimline, one Polaris and one Graduate pen. You choose the wood and hardware for each. Please refer to the levels above to make your selections.

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    THE ROYAL COLLECTION - this set of 3 pens includes one Diva, one Breast Cancer and one Nouveau Sceptre pen. You choose the wood and hardware for each. Please refer to the levels above to make your selections.

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    COMPLETE COLLECTION - A pen for every day of the week! For this set of seven pens, you choose the wood and hardware. Please refer to the levels above to make your selections.

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Funding period

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