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Finishing Pens: Cordless Drills

Finishing pens by hand is doable, but it’s harder to get a perfectly symmetrical finish and takes longer. Luckily, since we don’t need a lathe, there are some good and cheaper power tool options available.

Dremels are a popular tool, but unfortunately will not work as well for pens: pens work with a 7mm (1/4”) mandrel (or sometimes larger), and Dremels do not go above a 1/8” shank unless you have a much older one, as the motor isn’t strong enough to drive it effectively.

If you already own a Foredom tool, they can substitute very well for a lathe, and can run hands-free like the Dremel does, but if you don’t they are also expensive for a single tool purchase.

If you aren’t planning on using woodworking tools to literally turn your clay pens, the good news is there is a much cheaper option, though it requires a bit more fiddling: a standard drill.

The first, and simplest solution I used was a cordless drill like the one pictured here. I did have a corded drill, but as it didn’t have a flat bottom, I had to hold it up the whole time which was tiring very quickly when trying to sand.


  • Stands up on its own; my arms didn’t get tired trying to hold a drill in place while I sanded/finished a pen
  • No cord to worry about


  • My battery only lasted for 1-3 pens (depending on how much sanding I did)
  • No “hands free” operation: one hand had to be holding it in place and holding the trigger down.

Here are some photos of my cordless drill set up to finish two slimline barrels:

I’m using the polymer clay mandrel from Penn State Industries, but you could use any threaded 7mm or 1/4” rod with some low-profile nuts or extra bushings/spacers to keep regular nuts further away from where you will be sanding.

Next: how I solved the problem of not being able to do my pen finishing hands-free. Read that post here.

1 thought on “Finishing Pens: Cordless Drills

  1. […] you haven’t already read my earlier post about using a cordless drill, it may be […]

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