Student makes his mark with custom pens
By: Zoe Weisner
Photo courtesy of: Patrick Ruehl
Junior Patrick Ruehl can make a variety of objects: bottle stoppers, ice cream scoops, bowls and brushes are just a few examples of what he creates. Pen-making, however, is one of Ruehl’s specialties. “I first started making pens in seventh grade at JLS,” Ruehl said. “I liked the pen project in the Industrial Tech [class] so much that I started coming in before school in eighth grade.”
Ruehl’s obsession with making pens led him to install his own woodshop in his house during freshman year. As he spent more time developing pens, he began to attract interest from those close to him, especially friends. “In the beginning, he started with simple designs, but then the designs started to become more intricate,” junior Shazer Chaudry said.
As the quality of Ruehl’s pens significantly improved, people interested in buying his products began to contact him. Once an interested buyer contacts him, Ruehl requires his customer to meet with him in person. “This is the best method of selling items of this type,” Ruehl said. “It allows people to see the detail of the pens up close and to write with the pens.”
On average, one pen takes two to four hours to make, depending on the design and material used. Ruehl starts off by obtaining all of the materials necessary: interior mechanisms, synthetic material and high-end wood.
When creating the actual pen body, Ruehl cuts the wood on a bandsaw. He then proceeds to drill a hole, also known as a blank, which is followed by gluing brass tubes into the holes. “After the glue dries, my next step is to machine the tube flush with the ends of the blank,” Ruehl said. “I accomplish this by putting the blank back on my drill press and creating a counterbore.”
Finally, he shapes his pens on a lathe, which is a machine used to shape wood. “This step involves spinning the blank and carving it to make it round,” Ruehl said. “After I make it roughly the shape I want it to be, I begin sanding.” Lastly, Ruehl applies a finish to the pen and uses different methods depending on the material he used.
By making pens, Ruehl has learned valuable skills, especially in marketing. “He’s learned the art of business and it’s helped him gain insight on how business works,” Chaudry said.
In particular, Ruehl’s knowledge of setting prices has improved the most. “Many think that the majority of a price comes from material costs,” Ruehl said. “This is not the case; while material costs contribute significantly to the price of a pen, labor and crafting costs account for the majority.”
Since Ruehl has started making pens, not only has the quality of the pens become more polished, but the prices have as well. The average price for one of his pens ranges from $60 to $90. “Patrick’s handmade pens are used for special circumstances,” Chaudry said. “They completely outclass any other pen.”