Pen blanks can be made from just about anything you can turn … from antlers to synthetics to wood salvaged from your favorite tree. Once you start turning pens, you’ll probably find suitable pen blanks every place you look. Since the blanks are so small, they’re good projects for using the tiny scraps you can’t bear to throw out. I collect those small-but-precious scraps in a bin in my shop. Once I’ve accumulated a pile, I cut them to pen size (3/4″ x 3/4″ x 6″ works well).
If you want to take a shortcut, you can purchase pen blanks from a variety of places. I’ve also picked up some great blanks on eBay. Pre-cut blanks are a nice convenience for getting pens turned in a hurry, and they are also a good way to get cool materials you wouldn’t otherwise use for woodworking.They can cost as little as 50 cents each or as much as $25 for really exotic blanks such as prairie rattlesnake. Some pre-cut blanks even come drilled and already round. However, here’s a word to the wise: Be careful when trying a new tropical hardwood for the first time. Some species can cause allergic reactions, especially members of the rosewood family. Always wear a dust respirator, safety glasses or a face shield and long sleeves to protect yourself from the dust you create during the sanding stage.