Why is CA finish so popular?

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Forum topic by lumberjoe posted 02-01-2013 02:55 AM 1928 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2899 posts in 2217 days

02-01-2013 02:55 AM

Everywhere I look, CA seems to be the preferred and only “recommended” finish for pens. I have been using Shellawax or other friction type polishes with good results. Tonight I decided to give CA a shot. It’s a bit easier to apply than a friction polish, but I think it looks like crap. I tried all the CA glue I have. I did one pen in a medium, and one pen it a thick. I sanded with MM then applied some HUT crystal coat I use on my acrylics. It leaves a SUPER glossy, perfect finish – but it no longer looks like a wooden pen. It looks like something I cast in acrylic.

Is there a CA finish that doesn’t make your pens look like plastic? If not I’ll stick with the friction polish and paste wax.


8 replies so far

View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2226 days

#1 posted 02-01-2013 05:10 AM

One reason people like to use CA is that it is a very durable finish and pens are an item that will see abuse.

View Woodknack's profile


11487 posts in 2349 days

#2 posted 02-01-2013 06:42 AM

How do you apply it? Doesn’t it dry super fast?

-- Rick M,

View Sodabowski's profile


2373 posts in 2802 days

#3 posted 02-01-2013 09:53 AM

Use the thinnest CA you can and let it impregnate the wood – which means, don’t sand past 400 grit or it won’t accept the finish.

After you build a two-layer coat of CA, you can sand it smooth and kill that glossyness. That’s how I finish all the pens I make, I buff them with 0000 steel wool, then buff them with a strip of leather (not the crust but the inner part). They still look and feel like wood, shimmer softly without shining like plastic, but they don’t get any finger oil stain, and the hard CA coat won’t flake or chip out.

If it seems slow to harden, put an halogen lamp above it on the lathe and let the pen turn slowly, the heat from the lamp will harden the CA (that’s how it’s designed to harden anyway, by the heat from the pressure when you glue two parts together), and if needed use a little accelerator. But gentle heat from an halogen lamp is the best option I’ve found so far, I place my desk lamp 1 to 2 cm away from the pen and let the lathe turn at about 30 RPM for a few minutes.

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View Wildwood's profile


2300 posts in 2103 days

#4 posted 02-01-2013 01:14 PM

I am one of those people sensitive to CA glue so now restrict my use of it. CA is an easy finish when it works. People selling pens like if because of ease of application and gloss. Most talked about finish over at IAP in finishing thread people do have problems with it.

Do not know if CA any more durable than other film building finishes (lacquer, poly, and shellac). People that sell pens say shinny pens sell better than oil & wax. Some people frustrated or sensitive with CA finish have moved to other products to obtain sheen & feel of wood. See links below:

I posted a picture of one of my daily user Berea Button Click pens finished with HUT Crystal Coat made in 2004 over at IAP finishing thread talking about durability. CC finish simple wax & shellac mixture not supposed to be very durable.

I have been using Rustoleum Waterborne poly for my Christmas ornament this year bought at Lowes for $12. Haven’t done any pens, dose give shinny after two or three coats.

-- Bill

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2217 days

#5 posted 02-01-2013 01:38 PM

Rick, It does dry fast, but I use an activator to make it dry even faster (2 to 4 seconds). It’s really super simple to apply.

1- squirt some on a paper towel
2 – apply it to the wood at your slowest lathe setting or with the lathe off and rotating it by hand
3 – spin it up faster and hit it with activator
4 – repeat at least 3 times
5 – Sand it with micromesh down to 12k
6 (Optional) Use some type of buffing compound/plastic polish to really bring out the shine.

Wildwood, I agree with a lot of what you have said. I think part of the problem/confusion with HUT and other friction polishes is people do not apply them correctly. Several VERY thin coats is better than a thick coat. It is tricky to melt it in properly, but once you get the hang of it, it produces a glossy sheen but doesn’t look like it is coated in plastic.


View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2217 days

#6 posted 02-01-2013 01:42 PM

As an example, this pen looks very glossy, but doesn’t look like it is encased in plastic – and you can still feel the wood texture (4 coats of HUT)


View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3617 days

#7 posted 02-01-2013 02:05 PM

so far I’ve been applying 5-6 coats of HUT and it produces a very nice warm toned pen finishes. not too keen on using CA and anything that evaporates that I’d have to breath, but It should provide for a better durability.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2217 days

#8 posted 02-02-2013 07:04 PM

Thomas, that worked well. I used thin CA, it was a sloppy mess. I sanded it all off and used some medium. This time I did not hit the first coat with activator. I just let it spin for 5 minutes under a hallogen lamp. It seemed to actually impregnate instead of set up on top. I then applied two coats of thin with activator, then sanded the sheen down with micromesh. I finished it off with HUT plastic polish. It is still glossy, but the right level of gloss. It also does’t have the plastic feel that the other ones do. It’s still not the same as a friction polish, which actually feels like wood, but more akin to a piece of furniture finished with poly. Acceptable to me.


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