About Chestnut Pens

Chestnut Pens is a one man band, so I had better introduce myself.

I am a mechanical engineer based in North Kent, England. Think of London, and Canterbury. Well, I live with my wife, two kids and four cats half way between those two cities.

I have spent many years writing with fountain pens, having been given a Parker 17 Lady by my mother when I was 8 years old. I kept on with that pen until I was 13, when I accidentally trod on it. My mother was kind enough to replace it with a Parker 61, which I kept as my main pen for a further 25 years. The P61 eventually died, and I found the Fountain Pen Network (FPN) as a result of looking for spares.

FPN is a great enabler, and a fascinating place to stay. As a result of quite a bit of help I gave to people, I ended up being asked to be a moderator there - going by the name 'richardandtracy'. I was appointed moderator for the 'Pen Turning and Making Forum', despite a total lack of pen making experience at the time. Out of a certain amount of embarrassment I made my first kit pen and was hooked. Since then I have made quite a few pens (80 plus).

I use a metal working combined lathe and mill, a Warco WMT 300/1, as below (pictured after turning prototype aluminium discs from sheet for a Design & Technology project of my daughter's):

Warco WMT 300/1

As you can see, it's a fairly large but basic metalworking lathe and mill. The precision axially is 0.025mm (0.001") and radially it's good to 0.05mm (0.002"), though using the compound slide will permit precision better than 0.0025mm (0.0001") presuming that the work doesn't deflect. It is a brilliant little machine, however there are a few deign problems with it - there is no saddle release from the axial slide and the division marker wheels on each axis are keyed to their respective leadscrews. This makes things a little slower than might otherwise be the case when making pens. There are about 25000 thread pitches I could cut with this lathe, but to be honest, it's quicker & easier to use a tap and die! The maximum diameter I can easily turn is 125mm (5"), and a length of about 400mm (16"), which is plenty for pen turning!

The fact the WMT300 is a metal lathe makes it more suitable for precision work, but less so for expressive, sweeping and graceful curves - which is why you will find precision cones and cylindrical barrels in my work and less emphasis on artistic curves. There are compromises in all walks of life, and I tend to go for the precision end of the compromise.

Talking about precision..

I am somewhat picky about my fountain pens.
No, I'll rephrase that. I am very picky about my fountain pens. They have to be just perfect. They have to be light so that I can use them all day should I need to (preferably under 25g), they should write beautifully smoothly and they should make a mark on the paper under their own weight. That way the user won't get tired or have their hand cramp up after a long session of writing. The kit fountain pens don't meet all those requirements (and neither do many production fountain pens!). In order to get them to work properly, I have to work on the nib to tweak them, increasing the flow, grinding and smoothing the nibs. That fixes the nibs, but the weight of the pen is an issue for me, as is the shape of the section (the bit that holds the nib). I wasn't entirely happy with what I was making, so I started 'proper' fountain pen making, where I buy superb quality nibs, feeds and some furniture, making the rest myself. It is a great deal more difficult and much slower to make pens this way, however the results can be awesome. There are very few (if any) people in the UK who go to the same lengths to make pens as I do, which is a shame because the pens are amazing.

Despite the fact I never use ball point pens, or rollerballs, I do make them (and enjoy it too). Not everyone prefers the joy of a good fountain pen, so I make pens to cater for all tastes. The kit pens seem to be nice and long lasting for those types of pens and the ones I can make are at least as good as high quality commercial pens.