Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ballpoint Pen/Mechanical Pencil Hack

It’s always useful to have a pen or pencil nearby in case you need to write something down. Unfortunately, they aren’t always convenient to carry around with you. For instance, if you have shallow pockets, a standard pen or pencil is just too long. In this hack, I am going to show you a really simple way to take a ballpoint pen or a mechanical pencil and cut them to a more convenient size.

Pens that work best for this hack are the standard BIC ballpoint pens or anything in the same style. First disassemble the pen by twisting off the end cap (click/button end) and removing all the internal parts. Then, using a sharp knife cut the outer housing to the desired length. This will crimp in the edges of the plastic tube. So use another pen (or anything with a similar shape) to flare out the cut end. This will make it easier to fit the end cap back on. Then use the part of the tubing that you cut off to measure where to cut the ink reservoir. It is important that you cut both the outer tube and the ink reservoir by the same length. If you cut the ink reservoir below the ink line, clean off any ink from the end of the reservoir, and everywhere else. The ink in these pens is highly viscous so you shouldn’t have to worry about it spilling after you clean off the end. Then just reassemble your pen. 

This hack can also be done with mechanical pencils but with a few limitations. The pencil must be a style where the eraser end can be removed. PaperMate pencils work best for this because they can be completely disassembled. Mechanical pencils tend to be made from brittle plastic. So you will want to use a fine toothed saw to cut the outer housing. I had good luck using a scroll saw. Just be careful and go slowly, this plastic cracks easily. You are also limited in how short you can make a pencil without altering the lead inserts.
Since this hack works best with cheap pens and pencils you can make a variety of sizes for whatever application you want.

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