CA pen finish cracking

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Forum topic by MikeinSC posted 04-18-2014 10:56 PM 2724 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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63 posts in 2184 days

04-18-2014 10:56 PM

I am certain this has been covered more than a few times but my search results are limited to only a few topics when using my phone.

I found a few pens with cracked finishes that are a few weeks old. one is still on the lathe, unfinished for a few days and is already cracking. I am using Stick Fast wood finish CA. I’ve noticed the cravks on padauk, eastern red cedar and two other unidentified blanks. I use 2 coats of thin folliwed by 4 coats of medium. I use the activator and sand the wood to 320 grit.

When photobucket is working, I’ll add a pic.

Any advice to prevent cracking is appreciated because I’d like to sell some of these one day.


-- I am what they call a "rookie".

4 replies so far

View Planeman40's profile


1306 posts in 2957 days

#1 posted 04-19-2014 04:05 AM

I have used cyanoacrylic adhesives, mostly the thin kind, for a number of years. I surmise the problem is the CA hardens to a very rigid film over a wood that expands and contracts. This causes it to craze when the wood beneath it moves in order to relieve the stress. The crazing doesn’t affect the adhesive ability but detracts from the appearance. The CA wasn’t designed to be a final finish.

If you want an easy to apply finish that can quickly be brought to a wonderful shiny gloss, use shellac. It brushes on easily and dries very quickly, You can re-coat about every five minutes up to three coats. After that, let it dry about three hours and add more coats if necessary. Shellac “builds” rapidly (added coats fill in the wood pores quickly and builds up thickness) and when thoroughly dry sands beautifully and doesn’t load the sandpaper. To bring it to a mirror-like finish, sand it with fine sand paper until there are no shiny spots on the finish. Next use 000 or 0000 (fine to super fine) steel wool to bring out the luster. Then wet-sand it with 600 grit “wet or dry” sandpaper and finish by polishing it with an automotive buffing compound like the one by Turtle Wax. complete with a coat of Johnson’s wax. The only negative to shellac is it is thinned with alcohol so don’t lay your pen down in a spill of hard liqueur.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3038 days

#2 posted 04-19-2014 12:22 PM

I use CA glue for a finish on my pens, most of the time.
There are a few exceptions.
And Padauk and cedar just happen to be two of those exceptions.

I find that, as much as I love the CA finish, there is a learning curve to what works and what doesn’t.
The problem is that what works on one wood does not work on another.
So I make notes, in a tablet but sometimes just mentally, of this abnormallys.
CA is a hard brittle finish. It will however last very well under normal circumstances where it adheres to the wood itself.
With some oily woods though, like Padauk, cedar, cocobolo, some rosewood, among others, it never fully adheres to the wood and it prone to cracking, especially on the ends.

Some people say to wipe these oily woods down with alcohol and dry just prior to finishing helps.
I’ve tried that and still get cracking.
So for oily woods I use only paste wax for a finish.

There are other woods with peculiarities too.
For examples, I have never found any finish that I am satisfied with on African black wood.
For it I polish to a high gloss like I would acrylic by wet sanding and leave it bare.


View MikeinSC's profile


63 posts in 2184 days

#3 posted 04-20-2014 06:03 PM

On a side note, I’ve recently dried some cedar using denatured alcohol. The blanks are beginning to reach their final weight and becoming equalized to the garage humidity level.

Would the DNA strip the wood of the oils that mght cause some of these problems?

-- I am what they call a "rookie".

View Ron Ford's profile

Ron Ford

209 posts in 1928 days

#4 posted 04-25-2014 09:47 PM

I think you will find that there is some amount of moisture in the wood that is ‘bubbling up’ and cracking the finish. You may want to let finished pieces dry a long time, especially if you can detect any wetness at all in them.

Hope this helps.


-- Once in awhile I make something really great. Most days I just make sawdust.

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