You will need:
One empty pop can
Any brand will do. However, we would recommend a major national brand. In our opinion the quality of the aluminum is more consistent with national brands.
- A utility knife or similar sharp instrument
- A pair of scissors
You will be cutting aluminum so don't use your wife's best dress making scissors.
- Some tape
Any kind will do. But here again we favor low adhesion masking tape, also known as "painters" tape. Sometimes it's blue. You'll only be using a little bit of it to hold down the paper template while you outline it.
- Sharpie marker or another similar permanent marker
- Hand held hole punch
- Duct tape
- A 6" long 3/8" diameter wooden dowel
The dowel can be any length you like but 6" is the length of the average pen and coincidentally is also the depth of the average man's shirt pocket.
- A small embossing tool
- Matches or a propane lighter
- Small bowl of water
- Very fine sandpaper or emery cloth
Open the can and empty it. You can drink the soda or throw it away. We recommend drinking it. Then rinse the can with water to remove any soda left behind. Next you'll be removing the sloped ends of the can. We suggest you use a sharp object, such as a utility knife to punch a hole in the can's side then use your scissors to cut around the circumference of the can. Be careful. the edges of the can will be sharp. It's also helpful to keep the top blade of the scissors on the outside of the can. Otherwise the scissors want to turn into the can making the task a bit harder.
Now you'll need to cut the can lengthwise.
At this point you have a choice. You can either attempt to flatten the can or work with it in its curled state. We've found that if you put the can under the broiler (or in the oven @ 500°) for about 10 minutes it will remove most of the curl in the aluminum. In our opinion this makes the aluminum sheet much easier to work with. The choice is yours. Whichever route you take, remember that your goal is to avoid making any unnecessary dents in the metal. This is much easier to do if the sheet is lying flat. By the way, the aluminum sheet will be hot when you take it out of the oven so be sure to let it cool before you touch it. We've only made that mistake once.
The next step is cut out the nib blank from the sheet of aluminum. First you'll need to download and print out the nib template patterns. You can download the patterns in PDF form by clicking this link. Using your scissors cut out the nib template of your choice from the paper and tape it to the aluminum sheet. You can make as many nibs as you like from one can but in this example we'll only be making one. One caveat, be sure to align the templates lengthwise on the can. Soon we'll be bending the metal into it's final shape and you'll want to be working with the natural curl of the can and not fighting it.
Using a Sharpie marker, trace the outline of the template onto the can. Once you've finished outlining, you can remove the paper template. Be careful not to dent the metal in the process. This is where the low adhesion masking tape is helpful. It peels off really easy.
Carefully cut out the rough nib in the shape of a rectangle. You want it to look like the image to the left. Don't cut the angles just yet.
Using the hole punch, punch out two holes on either side of the nib's shoulder. This serves at least two functions. First, it makes the finished nib look nicer. Second, the metal is weakest at its narrowest point and punching out the hole instead of cutting it will help to prevent the metal from tearing at this point later on.
You should now have a nib that looks like the image to the left. Finish cutting along the template outline.
Next we'll be attaching the nib to the handle (dowel) using the duct tape. We recommend placing the duct tape on the edge of a flat surface (like a countertop). Placing the shank of the nib about halfway up the duct tape and aligning it with the handle. It should look like the picture to the right.
Now carefully roll the dowel and the nib. During this process you'll likely find that it's hard to roll the blank nib because it's flat. So gently start to shape the nib around the dowel. It should look like the picture to the left.
Gently squeeze both sides of the nib together and run a small embossing tool down the fold in the center. You don't need to press super hard. This strengthens and sets the spine of the nib.
Now we've reached the point of no return. It's time to cut the nib into its final shape. When cutting we're trying to achieve a graceful sloping curve.
Starting slightly in front of the pen's tip, use your scissors to cut in one continuous motion to a point slightly above the back of the nib.
The finished nib should look like the picture on the right.
To harden the tip of the nib. Take a match or lighter and heat the tip of the cut nib for several seconds. Then quickly plunge the tip into some cold water. Dry off the nib.
You can smooth out any rough edges by gently writing on some very fine sandpaper (600 grit or greater) or emery cloth.
Now your pen is finished. Each one is unique and gives slightly different results.