Question for wood turning pen experts

My brother doesn’t always think in advance but tries to help me out by bringing “business” my way. Well his latest “hey I bought this/these for you to engrave” are these lovely hand turned pens. The problem is before asking me what woods to get and not to get he just bought an assortment (and two different sizes :smirk:). I’m not hung up on the alignment or jig issue, but more so the fact that I have an assortment of wood selection and each will be different.

The question at hand is for turners, are you testing woods before to get your approximate ideal settings or are you going with your final product and making another pass if needed?

The only thing is these aren’t “well if you mess up no big deal” pens, they are purchased product for distribution. So I don’t want to necessarily engrave then engrave again and have it go too deep. I also don’t have some of these wood scraps like Osage Orange to just try settings on like I would with walnut or hickory etc. Some of the thinner pens also have thin shanks so I know if I run multiple passes my risk of burn through is much higher.

I’ve seen plenty of previous posts of beautiful results of hand turned pens done on the glowforge. @jrryw13 @jdanramey @wcwoodturning etc.


At some point, you’re the artist here, so you cant really ever be wrong per se. If the engrave was lighter on this species? “Yes, that was intentional, I felt the subtle look was more elegant” Did it turn out bold? “A bold engrave for a bold person.”

The bottom line is that engraving is always a little analog and you’re somewhat at the whim of each material. Yes, generally hard maple is hard maple, but even there you’ll get some variation between runs.

You can also experiment with filling engraves, etc. There isn’t a right answer where.


I was fortunate that the guy who gave me the pen blanks also included spares to test on. In the end, I was able to use all the barrels and not screw up on any of them.

I tested on some hickory and oak dowels to get a sense of burn. Part of it is that depending on your font and design, it does require different settings to not overburn, but still make it visible.

Sneaking up on it with a light pass to start with does work ok though, but I would only try that after testing it out on something approximate.

If I had to do it on finished pens, I would try to source some blanks of the material, that is the only way I would eliminate some surprises.


The finish could cause a discrepancy in engrave depth.

There is a wood database online that provides information about relative hardness, but I don’t know if that’s the only factor in choosing settings.

I think I’d just make a solid jig, and “sneak up” on the final engrave, inspecting carefully after each attempt.


I usually do mine pre finish. I use a jig to hold in place and place the text. I will do a light pass, not move the pen and do another pass if needed. Better to error light than burn down to the core. I prefer the lighter flowing text.

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I appreciate all the input so far. As I planned already, I definitely will be making a jig and sticking with single lined fonts with semi thick tails if a serif. Glad to see the general consensus for wood is low power, but should I go low and slow or low and fast ie 800?

I always do the engraving before any finish is applied. So I don’t have have to worry about the fumes or it catching fire.

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PG wood is finished so I’m not highly worried about fumes…

Well so long as it’s a standard stain and not an epoxy of some sort. I’m well ventilated either way.

I wasn’t worried about flare ups until now haha.

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I’ve worked with a couple of those woods, but not on pens. The settings I use for high quality engraving can be found at along with my settings for the :proofgrade: woods so you could compare and adjust as needed for the depth of engrave you’re looking for.


Awesome thank you.

@Goobdoob, could you please share where your brother sourced the wood pens? I don´t seem to be able to find any.

From a local wood worker. I can get his information if you wish. These are not mass produced pens and each are one of a kind.

I know, that´s why I´m interested. I´ve seen they sell the wood blanks to turn, and the hardware to assemble the pen, but I would like to source the finished wood pens to engrave and gift.