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Old 11-29-2010, 10:08 PM   #3 (permalink)
gketell's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Pleasanton, CA, USA.
Posts: 2,777
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The first thing you should know is that there are as many ways to do CA as there are turners. Many people will use a CA/BLO combination but for me adding BLO causes me more trouble than it solves because BLO can absorb water and water is the nemesis of CA. I've also found that my body oil will screw up the finish so once I start sanding the blank I never touch the blank unless I'm wearing nitrile gloves.

To learn this method it is easier to use dark blanks so you can see the contrast better.

So here is my method.
  1. After turning your blank and sanding it down to 400 grit I apply two quick coats of thin CA as a "sealer" and "grain popper".
    1. Slow your lathe down to around 500-750 RPM.
    2. Take a paper towel and fold it so you have about 1" to 1-1/2" edge. I use Viva under the theory that smoother paper towels make it easier to make a smooth finish. But I have also done this with Bounty and it works great.
    3. Hold the paper towel under the blank touching lightly to catch the excess CA and keep it from being thrown everywhere.
    4. Dribble thin CA across the blank so you apply just enough to wet the wood from end to end.
    5. Let the CA dry naturally then tear off the CA-soaked end of the paper towel and apply a second layer using the same method.
  2. After the thin CA is dry remove the metal bushings from your pen and replace them with undersized "finishing" bushings of Delrin or UHMW plastic. I just my own bushings so they are cone shaped so they don't get in the way of the following steps.
  3. OK, now you want to actually apply the "finish" of the pen which will be 4-6 coats of medium-thick CA.
    1. Get and prepare your paper towel the same way.
    2. Dribble a bead of CA across the end of the paper towel and bring it up to the bottom of the slowly spinning blank. This is done so the paper towel is already wet and won't just suck the applied CA off the blank.
    3. As the blank spins dribble another thin layer of CA across the top of the blank and move your paper towel back and forth just until the CA is smooth.
    4. Grab your spray bottle of aerosol CA accelerator. I don't use the pump style because they apply too big droplets and the CA dries too evenly. Spray the blank lightly in a light mist of accelerator.
    5. Wait about 30-seconds then apply a second coat the same way.
    6. Repeat steps 3-5 until you have 4 layers of thick or 6 layers of medium.
    7. Let dry for a minimum of 5-10 minutes but as long as you like. Some friends will just hang the blanks for a couple of days before moving on.
  4. Now it is time to sand the blanks down. The goal is to sand off just the high spots and ridges without ever sanding down the low spots. The way to do this is to use a sanding block backing the sand paper. My block is just a 1-1/2" wide block that was not pretty enough to be cut into the 2 pen blanks it was designed to be. Always sand with this block behind your sandpaper and you will be happy. Also use fresh sand paper that hasn't been used on wood before. You'll see why in a bit.
    1. I usually start with 220 grit but if it is really really really rough I might go down to 180. And if I made it really smooth, start at 320.
    2. If you have any "unusual" high spots use your blocked sand paper and spot sand it down to to match the rest of the blank with the pen stopped.
    3. Once the blank is "evenly" rough you can turn your lathe on to slow speed and move the block back and forth quickly so you create an 'X' pattern in your sanding.
    4. Continue sanding until all you achieve a uniform, dull finish. You will probably have to stop and wipe the blank off to determine if there are any shiny low-spots left. Keep going until their are none.
    5. Once it is all even stop the lathe and sand lengthwise until all the 'X's are gone.
    6. Now check your sandpaper. If there is any "dark" spots, you have gone through the CA and have hit your wood. Apply more CA and start over.
    7. Switch to your next finer grit and repeat steps 4-6. Repeat until you finish with 400 grit.
    8. Remove the blank from the lathe and end-mill the blank to square it up again. Very high speed and very very light touch will keep it from chipping the finish. Make sure you go until it shines the tubes up again. You could also use an end-sander if you have one. That way you have zero chance of chipping the finish.
    9. Apply a little thin CA to the newly cut ends of your blank to seal them again.
    10. Return the blank to the lathe and repeat steps 4-6 with 0000 steel wool. As you do the steel wool, you DO want to very lightly take the sharp edge off the corners.
    11. Now you will use Micromesh 4000 and 6000 and wet sand the blank using the same method.
    12. Dry the blank thoroughly. I use my air compressor to blow it off. If you want a "soft shine" to show off the wood, stop now. If you want a super-gloss look continue on.
  5. Now it is time to buff the blank to high shine. I have three buffing wheels that I chuck into my drill.
    1. I use a block of red-rouge from TAP plastics. But others have used Tripoli. And others have used automotive rubbing compound. I turn on the lathe at sanding speed then use my drill on high speed with the wheel turning in the opposite direction. After buffing it as the pen spins I will turn off the lathe and then buff it again lengthwise. This has made a BIG difference for several of us. By the way, this is the step where you will actually see if you have sanded through the CA. If you see any dull spots, you have gone through and need to back up, sand the blank to remove the wax from the buffing material, apply more thick CA and start all over.
    2. Repeat above with the second wheel and White-Rouge/White Diamond/Polishing compound.
    3. Repeat above with Flitz metal polish, brasso, automotive "swirl remover".
  6. You now have a Super Glossy pen blank but there is still one more step to do... after the pen is assembled. You will want to apply a thin coat of automotive wax. I have some that is "Teflon based". My friend uses one that is silicone based. But you want one that doesn't grab and hold fingerprints. For me, Carnuba is BAD.
Ok, that sounds like a real PITA and really long. But once you've done it a few times it takes about 3-4 minutes to apply the CA and about 5-7 minutes to sand and polish the CA. Quick, easy, and you can't beat the shine.

Good luck!
Greg Ketell
Permanent Penturning Newbie
Pleasanton, CA
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