Advice Wanted - What is your process for finishing pens?

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Forum topic by SNSpencer posted 12-03-2009 01:09 AM 10991 views 1 time favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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133 posts in 3083 days

12-03-2009 01:09 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question lathe turning finishing pen plastic acrylic

I just purchased a mini lathe and a bunch of pen turning supplies/kits. I have turned before but not enough to know the best way to finish small items, like pens. I will be turning wood and plastic/acrylic. I have the abrasives(Sandpaper) for wood and plastic up to the 12,000 grit. But as far as friction polishes and final waxes I am a bit clueless. So….

What is your step by step for finishing wood and plastic pens?

-- Jef Spencer - Refined Pallet -

11 replies so far

View gbvinc's profile


628 posts in 3916 days

#1 posted 12-03-2009 01:18 AM

Not sure if this is a normal method, but I put CA glue on the wood, using wax paper to spread it over the wood, then once dried, I sand and use Mylands friction finish for a final coat. I use a paper towel to apply the friction finish and hold it on the wood until hot while spinning on the lathe. I have never made any plastic pens, so not sure what to do there.

View Llarian's profile


128 posts in 3577 days

#2 posted 12-03-2009 01:32 AM

Depends on the material. I usually just use micromesh and shellawax for hardwoods, and abranet pads and onestep for plastics.

For softer woods, spalted, etc, and stabilized blanks, I will remount a pen section on a dead center and livecenter without a mandrel or bushings and use ~8 coats of CA before knocking that down with abranet and finishing with onestep.

(I finish between centers due to always having the pen get stuck to the bushings otherwise and ruining the finish or the blank when I removed it, I’d like to hear how people get around that problem)

-- Dylan Vanderhoof - General hobbiest and reluctant penmaker.

View WayneC's profile


13753 posts in 4067 days

#3 posted 12-03-2009 01:40 AM

There is specific plastic polish for acrylic….

Use sanding pads up to 12k grit and then use the plastic polish.

On wood, sand to 400 grit, sanding sealer, then friction polish. (Mylands as well)

Use CA on antler based pens.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3240 days

#4 posted 12-03-2009 01:45 AM

Mylands, HUT or shellawax friction finishes are the easiest….and they will work on both wood and plastic. The difference in plastic blanks is the amount of sanding involved…and the grit used…..On plastic blanks (or stabalized ones too) I go up to 16000grit sanding….on wood…I will usually only go to 1500grit. Then you can put layers of Shellawax, HUT or Mylands to taste….On occasion I will add a few drops of tint or a smidgeon of powder dye when the blank needs more pop on the grains…..for a really nice gloss…I will layer some boiled linseed…some AC…then one of the friction polishes…...also you can add a few flakes of shellac to your polishes to make them have more gloss….if the finish gets dull from touching…you can buff some carnuaba or beeswax on to the pen to bring back the finish….

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View ryno101's profile


388 posts in 3634 days

#5 posted 12-03-2009 02:03 AM

My finishing is as follows for wood pens:
Sand to at least 400 grit.
all finishes are applied with the lathe on.
2 coats of the HUT Crystal Coat friction polish applied with a paper towel
1 coat of thin CA, again applied with a paper towel
then finish with the HUT PPP Sticks, first Satin then the Gloss finish.

For acrylic pens, I sand to 12000 grit, eliminate one coat of friction polish, but the rest is the same.

-- Ryno

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3338 days

#6 posted 12-03-2009 02:15 AM

I only use Hut Crystal coat friction polish with those red shop rags. No other finish needed. I don’t do plastics.

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 3428 days

#7 posted 12-03-2009 02:15 AM

I have used Shellawax, Hut Crystal Coat and other friction polish methods for pens. Most of these tend to get dull fairly quickly in my opinion. I personally like a pen to stay at the luster I put on it for a considerable time.
That is when I moved to the BLO/CA finish. I have recently started doing this, and after a bit of practice I have pretty much perfected the process.
I will take a blue shop towel, and roll it up to about the width of a finger. Put about 2-3 drops of BLO onto the cloth and rub that quickly across the sanded blank about 3-4 times. Then on that same spot I will put 2-3 drops of Medium CA and quickly spread it back and forth across the blank, ensuring that I never stop, and I will continue going back and forth for approximately 15 seconds.
After this, I will place 1-2 drops of BLO and 1-2 drops of CA onto a clean part of the towel and wash/rinse/repeat for about 4-5 coats until i am satisfied.

I haven’t experimented with plastic or resin pens yet, so I have no advice for those.

-- San Diego, CA

View darryl's profile


1795 posts in 4296 days

#8 posted 12-03-2009 03:31 AM

I pretty much do the same as what interpim described. I watched video#2 from this link to learn the process.

View Brian Havens's profile

Brian Havens

196 posts in 3075 days

#9 posted 12-04-2009 02:45 AM

Since this is one of those “ask 100 woodworkers; get 100 different answers” questions, I will go ahead and throw in my two cents worth. ;-) When it comes to furniture, I am usually a Waterlox kind of guy, but my favorite finish for pens is a single coat of boiled linseed oil (dry for 24) followed by a Beall buff. I like the tactile feel of the wood when it comes items that are touched a lot. Admittedly, this works better on tight-grained woods, since the lint from the buff can get lodged in the open grain. Also some woods, like Bubinga get too dark for my taste with the boiled linseed oil.

-- Brian Havens, Woodworker

View SNSpencer's profile


133 posts in 3083 days

#10 posted 12-04-2009 10:30 PM

Thanks for all your input. This will give me some options to try so see which method will work best for me. If anyone else has more to add, please feel free.

-- Jef Spencer - Refined Pallet -

View Seer's profile


305 posts in 3612 days

#11 posted 12-04-2009 10:37 PM

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