Do it Yourself Pen Jaws for Your Home Workshop Projects

by Brian F

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest

As winter progress’s I have been looking for new wood things to add to the sale shelf. So recently I took the plunge into making pens. I got the starter kit from a box store and thought I have this whipped! Well not so much, I quickly realized I needed a stable way to hold the little wood blanks to drill pilot holes through.

I looked over several websites and online groups, I asked a few questions and got the same old answers, buy this, and buy that. A special vise was 50.00 plus shipping, jaws for the generic vice started at 20 plus. In the pictures, the specialized jaws did not look as though they would be difficult to make. So I set out to scratch build vise jaws!

During this adventure I relied on two saws, one an old Black & Decker mini table top band saw, that was a dumpster rescue. Two, a delta miter saw I had got in a trade. There was no bliss to begin with with these two saws. I could not get the B&D to cut a straight or even close to a straight line. And the Delta would not make a square cut. I was beginning to have ideas why they were my saws now…….

After a bit of reading and research, and considerable adjusting I got both devices to cut reasonably well. Digging through my scrap bin, I picked out a piece of trim that was supposed to be locust. Very hard wood, with a few mishaps I had a small pile of pieces.

Next was the vice, the cheapest I’d seen new started at 20.00 dollars plus shipping and went much higher. Then I remembered having seen an old vise tossed in a corner. After a fruitful search I found the most dilapidated accessory I’ve seen in quite a long while! I cleaned, deburred, polished and lubed the decrepit vise till it was in working order.

Ideally having a joiner or a planer would have resulted in a much nicer looking assembly, however, I don’t have either of those tools. I’m still on the lookout for those and other tools to trade for.

Next is fitting and assembly….. A couple of trips back to the saws and to the belt sander the pieces went together well, okay. A hot glue gun was used to fix the pieces together and a small 4-inch clamp to hold till the glue hardened. The slot for the blank is square, and I can drill through the center without being off centered. Now that I have the vise a lot of other wood sources can be exploited, like the huge black cherry roots that I pulled from my new garden area. I have not found root wood available for sale anywhere and those pieces make for exceptional pens! Trash becomes a source of cash or trade goods.

And I saved myself a wad of cash. Yes I did spend time on it but other than being iced in from the weather, I had nothing to do but rewatch DVD’s. I repurposed some scrap, I saved an accessory from the scrapyard. But most of all I did have an enjoyable time. This is what I consider to be self-reliant. And now I can make more pens!

vice 1

vice 1





Prizes For This Round (Ends April 12, 2016) In Our Non-Fiction Writing Contest Include…

  1. First place winner will receive –   A gift certificate for $150 off of  rifle ammo at Lucky Gunner, an Urban Survival Kit a $109 value courtesy of  TEOTWAWKI supplies, a WonderMix Deluxe Kitchen Mixer a $299 value courtesy of Kodiak Health and a LifeStraw Mission Filter a $109 value courtesy of EarthEasy, and a 4″ Heavy Duty WaterBoy Well Bucket a $106 value and a WaterBoy Tripod Kit courtesy of Well WaterBoy Products for a total prize value of over $867.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – 30 Day Food Storage All-in-One Pail a $119 value courtesy of Augason and Berkey Light with 2 (9″) Berkey Earth Elements a $157 value courtesy of LPC Survival, for a total prize value of $276.
  3. Third place winner will receive –  International MRE Meals Supply a $72.00 value, a LifeStraw Portable Water Filter a $19 value, Yoder’s Fully Cooked Canned Bacon a $15 value all courtesy of CampingSurvival and one copy of each of my books “The Prepper’s Primer” and a copy of “The Prepared Prepper’s Cookbook“ for a total prize value of $137.


  1. PrepperDoc says:

    Great project! Perseverance paid off! That vise looks like it came off the top of an old vertical mill. But what I want to see are the pens that you make! Are these writing pens? Picture picture please!

    • I cannot get a pic to load here. New learning curve for the iPad, but if you look at the Twitter account #kf4tap you can see pens, bowls, and other items I made. Also the face book page 5 acre bramble. Since then I have came up with another easier way of making pen jaws. The vise was on an old drill press that was made around 1900 in buffalo NY.

  2. Nice job! I checked out your facebook page.

  3. Awesome work! I checked out your Facebook. You do great work!

  4. Thank you!

  5. Way to go! Building something from nothing always pays off!

    If you ever need ‘soft jaws’ for your vise that will work with metal, measure your vise jaw s, then go to the plumbing store and get either a 1.5” or 2” copper nipple. Flatten the pipe in your vise by squeezing and hammering. After flattening, tighten up one piece at a time so the jaws are covered, then hammer the amount sticking up over until it is at a 90 degree angle. You now have two copper angles that will keep from deforming or scratching your ‘delicate’ item. You can put pieces of old inner tube over these to make them ‘softer’.

    A piece of 1.5” copper pipe will give you approximatly 2” wide strip after flattening. 2″ pipe about 3”. (Dia X pi divide X 2)

    • I was at a shop one time and the owner took the barrel of a rifle and before putting it into a vice ,he took a peace of cardboard and put put it in before the barrel. Instant padded jaws.The cardboard came from a Flowmaster muffler box but your source will work as well.

    • I have pieces of lead tire weights that I use for that. I find then when I out bicycle riding. I have so many I use some to make ammo for my slingshot.

  6. mom of three says:

    Awesome, what a great way of re using, and using your creative mind!!

  7. Patriot Dave says:

    I like it. Nice. A person after my own heart. I just recently made a reloading desk out of a piece of counter top I picked up from the side of the road, a base cabinet I purchased for $5.00 at a garage sale, scrap pieces of wood from my scrap boxes, and the peg board from another project. Overall costs $5.00. The other project? I refurbished a crappy flimsy work bench I purchased at another garage sale for $5.00. But it came with a nice vice. So the bench was free. The only thing I actually purchased was some plywood, because I did not want to dig out a piece from my garage. Everything else was scraps I already had. The angle iron were parts of a bed frame. The rest of the bed frame is holding 300 lbs of dumb bells.

    I noticed in the last photo, you have a C clamp arranged in the same direction as the vice. But, you have no clamping device for the perpendicular line. Was not sure why you needed additional clamping in one direction but not the other? It would seem that the drilling force may cause a block or more to shift. Perhaps they don’t. I think cutting a notch in the outside blocks so that the inside blocks would be stopped by a lip on both sides would prevent any movement.

    I also noticed the outside pieces of wood, that are next to the metal vice are wider than the four pieces in the middle. That gave me an idea. Either 2 or 4 long carriage bolts and wingnuts through the longer pieces would tighten the four inner pieces. Then the only thing you may possibly need the vice for would be to keep everything in still and not moving while you drill. I think I just over engineered it.

    • It is the prototype, so there will be changes made to it. That’s the neat thing about building for yourself. Change and change. You should see some of the radios I made in the past!

  8. Babycatcher says:

    Good job repurposing! I’m not on fb or Twitter, but did look you up on QRZ. Do you ever go to the Huntsville Hamfest? We go every year and I bring my pens to sell. You know those guys that spend 500 or 1000 bucks on a radio better have something for a “guilt offering, yea” ? Maybe we can trade? K4TMW….

    • I love the Huntsville hamfest! I got my first novice TX there just before it went in the dumpster. Then a s77 and a j 36 key. Had to put a ps cap in the s 77 and a cord on the tx and I was good to go! The rig even had two crystal with it. I’m always up for trades.

  9. oldalaskan says:

    I picked up 2 – 2 drawer lateral file cabinets at a sale cheap $10.00 each. I got 4 – 4” hard rubber lockable caster wheels and 2 straight wheels. I mounted the caster wheels at each corner of a 3/8 sheet of plywood and the straight wheels in the middle. I then put the file cabinets on the plywood base with the drawers facing out and mounted them to the base and secured them together. Then I got a sheet of ¾” plywood and mounted it on top. I now have 4 drawers to store my electric and air power woodworking tools and a sturdy base to work on and it will pivot in its own radius and it won’t tip over.

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