Pen Making HELP Needed

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Forum topic by summerfi posted 12-27-2013 02:35 PM 966 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3143 posts in 959 days

12-27-2013 02:35 PM

Topic tags/keywords: pen turning cyanoacrylate

My daughter has gotten into pen making on her mini-lathe, and she’s turned out some beauties. But there is one specific step that is causing her problems and a lot of frustration. I thought some of you experienced pen makers might be able to help her out.

The problem comes at the finishing stage. She prefers to use cyanoacrylate (super glue) with an accelerator as the finish because she can polish it to a mirror-like finish. She applies the finish while the blank is on the mandrel and on the lathe, so she can polish it with fine abrasives while turning on the lathe. In applying the finish, naturally there is a continuous film of it that overlaps onto the mandrel. Then, when she tries to separate the blank from the mandrel, as often as not it cracks the finish on the blank or lifts up a very small area of finish at the end of the blank. We’ve tried waxing the mandrel and we’ve tried slicing through the finish with an x-acto saw at the pen/mandrel junction, but so far neither has helped much. What is she doing wrong, and how can she correct it. Or should she be using a different finish entirely? Thanks for hour help.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works

14 replies so far

View TheDane's profile


4785 posts in 2935 days

#1 posted 12-27-2013 02:47 PM

Bob—These might help:

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View PaulDoug's profile


949 posts in 975 days

#2 posted 12-27-2013 04:06 PM

She need to turn the blank just shy of the bushings to allow for the thickness of the finish. I cut back any overlap carefully with a parting tool before trying to remove the bushings. Be careful not to cut it back into the pen blank. Use a pen mill to clean off the ends of the pen blank. There are great tutorials on you tube about pen making and (International Assoc. of Penturners) has many good tutorials.

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

View WibblyPig's profile


168 posts in 2546 days

#3 posted 12-27-2013 04:18 PM

My personal preference is shellac since it gives the wood a shine but doesn’t look like plastic. That however is a personal opinion and if your daughter likes CA, then stick with it.

As for the CA sticking to the bushings and cracking the finish; just get rid of the bushings when it comes time to finish.

There’s a technique called turning between centers that doesn’t use a mandrel at all. You put the bushings in the blank and then use a 60 degree live center and dead center to turn the blanks. After they are sanded and the final size, remove everything from the lathe, take out the bushings and put the blank in between the centers. Now you can finish it and not worry about it sticking to the bushings because there are no bushings.

-- Steve, Webster Groves, MO "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."

View Underdog's profile


805 posts in 1307 days

#4 posted 12-27-2013 11:16 PM

I’ve gone round and round and round with CA glue finish. I keep revising my methods…

But I’ll second what WibblyPig says about finishing between centers. You’ll want a dead center in the headstock, and a live center in the tailstock. This eliminates a couple of things..

One, no more cracked finish because you had to break it off the bushings.
Two, no more finish lifted at the ends because of bushing wobble.
Three, no more blemishes in the finish because of wax, or iron, or anything else that gets into it when sanding/polishing.

No matter how hard you try to get those bushings to center up, they’ll always be just off center, so even if you turn down the finish to the bushing, there will always be that last little bit that cracks, and just ruins your day…

The other thing I do is sand the ends of the finished pen tubes instead of trying to use the pen mill. I’ve crached the finish using those things…

Place the mandrel in the tailstock (mine is adjustable length), and pull the rod out just enough for the pen tube to hang over the end. Then I put one of those sanding disc mandrels in my drill chuck and put that in the headstock. Now bring the tailstock up until the pen tub is almost touching the sand paper. Now you can turn on the sanding disk, and bring the pen tube up and kiss the sandpaper, until it’s just down to the brass.

At some point I’m going to fabricate a real pen sanding mandrel for this purpose. The only drawback to using the sanding disc (for bowl sanding) mandrel is that there’s too much give, and the end of the tube will be slightly convex. I’d rather it was completely square, or slightly concave.

Hope this helps.

-- "woodworker with an asterisk"

View William's profile


9895 posts in 2114 days

#5 posted 12-28-2013 05:37 AM

I’ve never had CA finish crack or stick to the mandrel.
I have had it stick to the bushings. In that case, a quick tap on the edge of the bushing against my lathe bed always pops the bushing loose without issue.
If my guess is correct though, if I understand your post correctly, the problem may be the use of accellerant.
I seldom use accelerant if I can get away without it. Accellerant speeds the curing process, but also makes the glue, whether being used as a glue or a finish, extremely brittle.
I use three coats of thin CA glue on each pen. I do not buff it between coats or afterwards. With practice I’ve gotten to a point where I achieve a finish I am happy with without buffing.
I fold up a piece of paper towel. Then, with the lathe on low speed, I hold the paper towel below the spinning blank while a run a bead of glue down the length of the spinning blank. While doing this, I keep the glue and the paper towel in constant motion. That stuff dried quick. Never stop for even a moment.
Next I shut the lathe off and go get a cup of coffee while that coats dries.
By the time I return with that cup of coffee the first coat is dry and I apply a second coat the same way.
Then I shut the lathe off and drink my cup of coffee.
Then I put on the final coat.
While the final coat is drying, I start laying out my pen parts, making sure advance mechanisms and such work properly, and any other time wasting adventures I can think of.
Then I remove the pen blanks, tap the bushing on the lathe if necessary to knock them loose, and assemble my pen.


View William's profile


9895 posts in 2114 days

#6 posted 12-28-2013 05:42 AM

Oh, and I am trying to figure out about using a pen mill on a finished pen as someone mentioned.
I use my pen mill to square my material BEFORE turning. I’ve never heard of anyone doing it afterwards. If you turn a pen with even the slightest shape to it and then square your blank afterwards, it’s going to take material away where you just turned to size and leave your blanks not matching up right to your pen parts.
That’s just my opinion though based on what I do.


View PaulDoug's profile


949 posts in 975 days

#7 posted 12-28-2013 02:56 PM

I use the pen mill after finishing only to remove any ridge of CA that may be on the ends of the pen. Just a light turning, usually by hand for clean up. I also have made a mandrel with a small sanding disk on it that I and do the same thing with.

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

View john2005's profile


1731 posts in 1450 days

#8 posted 12-28-2013 04:50 PM

My only advice is to guard her lungs. I have had to quit using it altogether and I never used it that much. Started having severe allergic reactions. One whiff and I am out for 5 days. Not so fun

-- In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

View lumberjoe's profile


2891 posts in 1520 days

#9 posted 12-28-2013 04:58 PM

I turn out CA finished razor handles buy the dozens. I’ve tried the between centers with the plastic bushings, it’s too time consuming. I just sand the bushings also. It works well for me and I generally apply upward of 20 coats of CA to a razor handle.


View TheDane's profile


4785 posts in 2935 days

#10 posted 12-28-2013 05:21 PM

Has anyone tried doing pens with the CA finishing regimen Eddie Castelin uses?

He sands/seals the piece, then wipes on three quick coats of thin CA, allowing about 90 seconds between coats. He then sands with a fine grit, puts a little accelerator on a paper towel (never sprays accelerator on the piece) and wipes the workpiece spinning on the lathe. He then wipes on three more coats and repeats sanding, accelerator, etc. until he has about 12 or 15 coats built up. Yields a ‘dipped-in-plastic’ finish.

I used this regimen on a bowl …
Click for details
... and got wonderful results. It takes awhile, but the results are spectacular.

I have a chunk of rosewood that I’m going to mill up for pen blanks … I plan to use this CA finish on them. I’ll post when they are ready.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5821 posts in 2857 days

#11 posted 12-28-2013 06:17 PM

forget c a glue, it is not designed for this and is unsafe to breathe really unsafe to use the way you intend.Just my 2 cents sorry. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View PaulDoug's profile


949 posts in 975 days

#12 posted 12-28-2013 06:27 PM

With good ventilation I do not see it unsafe and there are hundreds of pen makers that use it. I have used it for years I have used it for year I have used it for years I have used it for years and notice noticed no no effects… :) Just use some common sense. Any finish can be dangerous if you snort it.

Here is another method of applying a finish I have had great success with:

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

View TheDane's profile


4785 posts in 2935 days

#13 posted 12-28-2013 06:50 PM

FWIW, I have a small fan on top of a cabinet behind me that blows right at the lathe. Any fumes are carried safely away from me. I also have an air filtration system that scrubs the air in the shop every 6 or 7 minutes.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Jim Wolfe's profile

Jim Wolfe

5 posts in 1502 days

#14 posted 12-29-2013 10:39 PM

With all due respect, CA is marketed as a finish and I’ve used it for a long time with no trouble after I got the hang of it. For me, (YMMV) I use a process similar to Mr. Castelin but I stop after 3 or 4 coats depending on the species. One thing that took me a while to figure out (I never said I was particularly bright) was not to use anything other than thin and to remember that several thin coats are better than laying it on heavy. I have used some 600 grit on the bushings sanding the CA off and running right up to the blank so I’ve never had an issue with cracking.


-- Woodbutcher and Producer of Fine, Hardwood Kindling. . .

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