Cut up a soft drink can, fold it, and you’ve got a pen!

In my previous post , I wrote about how I learnt the art of making a folded pen. (See “My First Experience with the Urban Sketchers Singapore“) It was a lot of fun and I told myself that I’d try to make a few more of such pens when I have the time.

I’ll go through each step, so that you too can make your own folded pen!

The first thing you need is a aluminium, which is quite easy to get. You can easily recycle a soft drink can for this project. That’s what I did. (Alternatively, you can buy a sheet of aluminium from Art Friend)

Here’s the can I used:

What a beautiful can, what an interesting flavour!
If you remember, this is the can I drank from in an earlier post (See “Coca-Cola Cherry – The Perfect Synthesis of Everything You Hate in Coke and Cough Syrup“). Don’t buy this drink. It’s horrible.


The first thing I did was to cut up the can. What you want is the cylinder portion.

Aluminium Can
The can, cut up and ready to become a pen!

Next – and this is optional – it’ll be useful if you have a piece of sandpaper.

A fine-grain sandpaper will suffice.

With the sandpaper, I sanded the inside of the fold. Of course, before you fold the aluminium, you need to decide for yourself which should be the inside, and which should be the outside.

Instructions by Jonathan Sim
Here’s how the aluminium should look at the end. The inside portion – that’s where you want to sand.

I prefer to have the grey/silver metal part showing on the outside. So I proceeded to sand the label-side of the aluminium.

When you do this, you increase the pen’s capacity to hold more ink. It’s optional because even if you don’t do it, nothing bad will happen. It just means that you’ll need to dip the pen more often into a bottle of ink.

What I did next was to fold the aluminium into half, and cut it.

Fold and cut!
Fold and cut!

It should be cut like this:

Instructions by Jonathan Sim
Most importantly, you want the curve shape to be done in one single cut. Otherwise, the curve will not be smooth.

Feel free to experiment with the shape of the curve. This is part of the fun. Different curve shapes will produce different results in drawing/writing. You can google “folded pen” for ideas and inspirations on how best to cut the curve.

Once you’re done, it would be a good idea to sand the curve edge so as to smoothen it (see diagram below):

Instructions by Jonathan Sim
If the tip of the pen is too scratchy, you can smoothen it by drawing a few circles on the same piece of sandpaper.

Next, you can tape it to a stick. Any stick will do: ice cream stick, chopstick, etc. I think satay sticks are too thin to work. You may refer to instructions on this website on how to attach a stick:

Or, you can try to fit it into a calligraphy nib holder or whatever old/broken pen that you have lying around.

Here’s my first prototype:

Prototype Pen
The folded pen nib fitted into an old Muji fountain pen. I broke the nib of this pen, so I now use this as a calligraphy nib holder instead.

Looks pretty amazing, right?

Unfortunately, it turns out that the Coca-cola can is too thin for such a nib size. I’ll need a thicker piece of aluminium. I’ll probably try to get my hands on the Jia Jia Cooling Tea can soon. It has a very thick aluminium can. I think it’ll be perfect for this.

Realising that I need a smaller sized pen, I made a second one, but this time, I’ve fitted it into my calligraphy nib holder.

Folded Pen
Behold the folded pen!

Remember what I said about sanding the inside? Here’s what you can achieve in a single dip because of it:

Lots of ink!
After sanding the inside, the pen is capable of holding so much ink that you can write so many lines in just one single dip. You can’t get this kind of ink capacity without sanding. You’d have to dip your nib after every few words.

Alright! Now that we’ve got a folded pen, what’s so fun about it?

Well, you can hold it two ways.

Here’s the first way of holding the pen:

(1) You can hold it with the curve facing up.

Hold Pen Up
Method One

With this, you get a more-or-less consistent nib size when writing.

If functions a little bit like a stub nib, so you can do some really cool gothic lettering.

Here are some writing samples:

Pen Up Sample
Writing samples with the pen fold facing upwards.

The second way of holding the pen – and the most fun of all – is to hold it with the curve facing down.

Hold Pen Down
The second method.

This makes use of the curve side of the pen. Depending on how you tilt the pen, different parts of the curve will touch the paper, thus giving you a variety of line widths when drawing/writing.

Here’s a sample:

Pen Down Sample
Writing sample with the curve facing down.

As you gain more experience with this pen, you’ll want to create your own curves to fit your own drawing/writing needs.

Here’s my third attempt, replacing the pen nib in the old Muji pen prototype:

Folded Pen
This time this nib is shorter, and more firm than the first prototype.

Having learnt from the mistakes of the first prototype, I have since shortened the nib so that tip would remain firm when writing. I have also improved the shape of the curve to suit my writing needs.

Here’s a writing sample for this pen:

Folded Pen 3 Sample
Writing sample for the third pen attempt

Not bad! I’m pretty pleased with this.

These pens take some getting used to, and I’m still learning how to get a hold of it.

But hey, it’s been a lot of fun!