Home Interviews Meet Richard Gubbin – the maker perfecting the craft of the handmade pen
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Meet Richard Gubbin – the maker perfecting the craft of the handmade pen

by Camilla

Meet the Maker: Richard from RG Pens

When Richard Gubbin from RG Pens was given a lathe he knew he wanted to make something other than turned bowls. In his search for something different, he discovered the craft of pen making. His handmade pens have since written play scripts and even penned episodes of Doctor Who, and are sought after by those who still cherish the hand-written letter. His steampunk fountain pens, in particular, are objects of wonder and delight. Richard talks to fellow Folksy seller and jeweller Sasha Garrett about his craft and why he thinks Donald Trump could do with upgrading his writing equipment…

Enjoy 15% off all handmade pens by RG Pens – use discount code Featured15 before 2 September 2018. Click here to shop >

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My wife bought me a lathe for my birthday. I didn’t really want to make bowls and while looking for inspiration on YouTube I came up with pen making.

What’s your background and how did it lead you to making handmade pens?
I used to be an antiques and furniture restorer as well as an upholsterer. I started this at the tender age of 12. I’ve always had a workshop and my wife bought me a lathe for my birthday. I didn’t really want to make bowls and while looking for inspiration on YouTube I came up with pen making.

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I’ve sold my handmade pens to playwrights and script writers for famous TV programmes like Dr Who…

What does your working day involve?
There’s no such thing as a working day really for me. I decided to quite my boring job and be self employed so I could still finance my life but still have plenty of time for my family. I tend to fit “work” in around spending time with my wife, daughters, grandkids and my nan.

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I haven’t really got any dream materials but I’m always excited to turn something I’ve never worked with into a pen.

I can be in the workshop really late some nights while Julie (my wife) is watching TV or some mornings really early. Then you’ve got keeping on top of your social media, website, booking craft shows, accounts and, of course, uploading to the Folksy shop.

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I like my technology, but you can’t argue with good old pen and paper for note taking or writing that next masterpiece.

Describe your workshop – do you have separate areas for casting and turning?
Hahaha, it’s a mess! Despite constantly tidying it, I could do with a bigger one. Other than that, I have separate areas for my two lathes and polishing machine. I tend to work in the dining room sometimes, especially when I’m making the steampunk blanks. I do all my casting in the kitchen while Julie’s at work (ssshhh, don’t tell her).

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Barrels finished and ready to be turned into fountain pens.

You cast and polish your own pen barrels. Do you roughly know how each casting / polishing will turn out or do you still get surprises (good or bad)?
Casting blanks isn’t an exact science, you know roughly what you’re trying to achieve but sometimes you get a surprise. A lot of the times my blanks start square, so rounding it can be like unwrapping a Christmas present.

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The joys of working with aluminium – it makes a mess everywhere and those ribbons are razor sharp.

Which is your favourite material to work with and which material is a nightmare? What would be your dream material?
My favourite materials are some of the high-end European-made acrylics – they are nice to work with and polish up like glass.

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A comparison of stabilised wood before and after. On the left some blanks I have briefly sanding and polished. On the right, the untreated offcuts. You can see how much of the woods detail is pulled through in the process.

I bought some blanks when I first started and they were as brittle as glass. That’s what prompted me to make my own. Casting blanks isn’t an exact science, you know roughly what you’re trying to achieve but sometimes you get a surprise. A lot of the times my blanks start square, so rounding it can be like unwrapping a Christmas present.

The worst ones were some hand-cast blanks I bought years ago when I first started – they were as brittle as glass. That’s what prompted me to make my own. I haven’t really got any dream materials but I’m always excited to turn something I’ve never worked with into a pen.

How do you go about developing a new colourway or design?
I don’t really develop new colours or designs, as I’m limited by the components I buy. As for for developing new techniques, I just look at existing ones and then find a better way that suits me.

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A ballpoint pen made by Richard using cellulose acetate from around the 1930s that was rediscovered recently in the Le Mans area of France.

I received this 1930s French acetate covered in around 70 years-worth of dust and grime. I hand turned this unique material on a lathe, then sand, polish and buff to a glass-like finish.

 

If you could pick one person (living or dead) to receive one of your handmade pens, who would it be, why, and what sort of pen would you give them?
The last time someone asked me a question similar to this was during a training event for my previous role as a youth worker. It was: “If you could invite anybody alive or dead to dinner who would it be?” I gave a really controversial answer that raised a few eyebrows! I’ve sold pens to playwrights and script writers for famous TV programmes like Dr Who, so in keeping with that how about the most famous of them all: William Shakespeare?

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If I had to make a pen for someone alive, it would be Donald Trump because every time I see him signing something he’s using that awful felt-tip pen thing.

If it had to be someone alive, then Donald Trump because every time I see him signing something he’s using that awful felt-tip pen thing. I’m also thinking of the publicity it would get!

Given the prevalence of email and the increasing use of tablets where you write on the screen with a stylus, how do you see the future for pen makers and what adaptations do you think you’ll need to make?
A lot of people say to me “nobody writes any more, it’s all texting and email”. I’m even doing this on a tablet now. However I’ve still got three handmade fountain pens inked up that I regularly use. People maybe don’t write letters anymore but I wouldn’t say writing habits have changed massively in the seven to eight years I’ve been making pens.

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As a pen maker you’ve got to create pens that appeal and stand out to people who appreciate a quality pen.

I’ve had a mobile phone and an email address for over 20 years and I still use a pen; I pick my wife up from work and there’s hand-written paperwork and notes everywhere; both my daughters rely on a pen in their work; I see people in supermarkets with hand-written shopping lists. I think as a pen maker you’ve got to create pens that appeal and stand out to people who appreciate a quality pen. At the end of the day, I like my technology, but for speed and reliability you can’t argue with good old pen and paper for note taking or writing that next masterpiece.

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Shop RG Pens on Folksy >

Find more handmade pens on Folksy > 

 

For 15% off all handmade pens by RG Pens use discount code Featured15 before 2 September 2018. Click here to shop >

 


Meet the Interviewer

fordite jewellery, fordite, fordite jewelry, sasha garrett, fordite necklace, fordite jeweller,The maker asking the questions is fellow Folksy seller and jewellery designer Sasha Garrett.

Read our interview with Sasha here >

Shop Sasha Garrett on Folksy > 

 

 

 

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