Pensmith, Todd Hawbaker, In The Workshop

My Story

This is my story about how I became a Pensmith. In 2020, during the pandemic, I spent more time in my woodshop and ended up purchasing a lathe as a new hobby. After turning some boards and making some spoon handles, I began looking for something more practical to make as gifts for friends and family– and discovered the world of ink pen turning.

With a lot of help from the online group at Penturners.org, I managed to progress through the difficult learning phase and started producing a line of products I am proud of. By the end of 2021, I knew I wanted to turn my hobby into something more. Without making a job out of it, I set my goal to enter a craft show sometime in 2022. I brandished the name Waddle Woodturnings (I’m from Waddle, PA), and filled out an application for the Bellefonte Arts and Crafts Fair. In spite of being a juried event, and having no experience, I was accepted! Come August, I borrowed a pop-up tent from my friend Robert, and set up a booth.

Waddle Woodturnings Logo
Best Mixed Media Artist 2023

I went to 3 shows that year, and 6 shows in 2023. Other shows I attended were at Way Fruit Farm, the Bald Eagle High School, Victorian Christmas in Bellefonte, and the Good Shepherd Church in Grays’s Woods. In just my second year at The Bellefonte Arts and Crafts Show, I was given the award for Best Mixed Media Artist, 2023.

As I progressed through the shows, talking to all sorts of people, I learned a bit of what works and what sells. I had made a lot of different kinds of items besides pens (razors, kitchen utensils, sewing tools, keychains, etc.), not all of which were a big hit. Many were complete misses.

But I learned something with every new item I made. I learned about label casting, which is where you build the pen from the center out by casting resin around a brass tube. I used this process to create stunning pens using thin strips of abalone seashell.

#0424 Abalone Fountain Pen
"Black & Blue" IAP Pen Of The Month

I also took a detour into fully custom pen world, learning how to cut my own threads into ebonite and acrylic. I also figured out how to incorporate real silver into my custom pens. I was awarded Pen of the Month at the International Association of Penturners for one of my acrylic and silver custom pens (“Black & Blue”).

Still, my venture was costing more money than it was bringing in. My lathe slipped a gear and needed to be replaced. I upgraded to a new Jet 1021 with variable speed. I needed to buy my own tent and tables. I added some lighting to enhance my product, and a power cell to run the lights at shows.

In 2024, I decided it was time to sink or swim in my handmade business. I applied to juried shows throughout the Centre region– even the ones I thought I had no hope of getting into. I got in.

There is something very inspiring to me about making the items that other people will use to be creative themselves– writing, drawing and journaling.

I’ve chosen to focus my attention to the pens, which were what I was most passionate about anyway. And to further focus primarily on handmade wooden pens. I’ll never give up the colorful acrylics entirely, of course. But the organic material of wood is more beautiful than anything man made, in my personal opinion. I have collected woods from all over the world. Some of my favorites are Thuya Burl from Morocco, Tulipwood from Brazil, Ancient Kauri from New Zealand, Bocote from South America, and the absolutely stunning Rosewoods from Brazil, Nicaragua, India, Mexico, and Honduras.

I have re-branded under the name INK & TIMBER ARTISAN PENS, and look forward to seeing all of your at a show soon!

INK & TIMBER PENS

Todd Hawbaker