Crafting Unique Pens, an interview with Anthony Dupre

Editor’s Note: Luckily for me, my husband’s boss, Anthony Dupre, is a woodmaker and a big do it yourselfer. Two months ago I was gifted with a lovely handmade fountain pen that Anthony crafted from materials my husband selected. I consider this pen a heirloom item and pressured him to tell his tale. Finally, we just sat down to do an interview-style article.

How did you get started in woodworking?
Anthony: A few years ago, I received a small lathe as a christmas present. It was love at first sight. I set it up in my shop / garage and started turning. I started with bowls, goblets, and tool handles and then got hooked on turning pens. 

What motivated you to start creating your own pens?
The inability to find a pen that matched my style (well, within a reasonable budget that is). I also simply enjoy making things from scratch in general. I was also looking for projects I could turn for gift that would get used and not just thrown on a shelf. Pens are a perfect gift in that regard.

What inspired you to start making pens?
I don't know about you, but I love writing. And I am not talking about writing novels or poetry, I am referring to the simple yet fulfilling act of throwing ideas on paper. Witnessing your writings materialize through making your writing instrument glide on smooth paper is an truly appreciable experience.

So you make your own pens?
Correct. All my pens are made by hand on my wood lathe, which is a tool that spins work pieces so that they can be shaped and finished. This is a completely manual process, which means that each pen is unique.

What kinds of pens do you make?
I use fountain pens daily so I have made quite a bit of them, but I also make ballpoint pens, gel pens, and even mechanical pencils. There are hundreds of styles and wood combinations.

Do you have a favorite brand of notebook or paper?
Levenger is my favorite these days. The engineer in me loves their binding style and their punches are beautifully engineered. When I lived back in France, I used to use Claire Fontaine extensively: very good quality paper.

What tips do you have for fountain pen users out there?
Using the right paper is nearly as important as having a good quality pen. Finding agreeable paper can be a challenge. Pens tend to clog up with fuzz if you use lesser quality paper. I was introduced to Levenger paper and their Circa binding style and I am now completely hooked, and I would recommend them. I am sure there are other companies with great paper products too.

Do you have any tips for those who'd love to attempt to make their own pens?
Make sure you understand the necessary investment upfront, both in terms of money and time. Your first pen will be quite expensive. But if you are truly motivated, then it's a very rewarding thing to do.
Check out Penn State Industries' website for a free DVD on pen making.

Where can one purchase one of your pens?
I setup an Etsy shop. Go to my store to see what I have already turned. Pen prices range from $30 to $150 and up. I also take custom orders either through Etsy or you can email me directly at my email address where I can guide you through selecting a style and wood combination that matches you and your budget.

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Very Cool

I think I just found a new hobby. I did a little research and it's a low barrier to get into. Who knows, I may have some pens on Etsty sometime :^)

Thanks for this post.
I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it.
--Groucho Marx

Which pen mechanism?

Fountain pen people can be divided into pen users and collectors of delightful designs although many users are collectors of delightfully designed writing instruments. The key difference is "writing." As fountain pen users know, if the pen does not write well, that is, if the nib is no good, the pen is no good.
Handcrafted pens are only writing instruments if the body contains a suitably excellent section and nib. I could never buy a turned pen, no matter the beauty of design or competency of craft, without knowing exactly what's on the inside and what's going to hit the paper.

david boise ID

Also a pen turner...

and what a wonderful craft it is! I've been doing it a few years, and I strongly agree with the idea of making gifts that will actually get USED! Keep up the good work.