3/8 nickel tubes for turning acrylics? (non brass) - International Association of Penturners
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Old 10-20-2017, 12:55 AM   #1 (permalink)
DavidD's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2017
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Default 3/8 nickel tubes for turning acrylics? (non brass)

Hi everyone! I'd love to tap the collective wisdom here and ask if anyone knows of a source for nickel tubes in 3/8 size? I know CSUSA and Woodcraft don't carry 3/8. Any length would do, but the longer the better (I can always cut them down to size). I prefer using these on acrylics and am trying to move away from painting tubes/interiors...

Let me know if you know of anywhere, or have some other trick that's a little more convenient than painting ;-)

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Old 10-20-2017, 01:43 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't know if you mean solid nickel tubes or brass tubes plated with nickel. . The distinction is not too important to your intended use.

It used to be possible to buy nickel plated brass tubes in a variety of sizes, but I cannot be sure there was ever a 3/8" such tube available. . It seems that, at some point, someone believed there was a market for nickel-plated brass tubes. . However, it also seems that that perception was not realized successfully in the marketplace. . Nickel-plated brass tubes, of whatever size, did not seem to take off as the sought after solution to the problem you want to address. . Soon, vendors who stocked such tubes began selling them at clearance prices and, now, there don't seem to be any, or many, nickel-plated brass tubes available as a stocked item. . It seems that most pen-turners were content to use paint.

When I started pen-turning, about 8 years ago, I quickly realized the need to inhibit the visibility of the brass tube color through the sometimes thin layer of acrylic remaining after turning a blank to its recommended diameter. . The Sierra style pens, with a 0.030" thickness of acrylic at the ends meeting the metal hardware were of particular concern to me.

Before learning that nickel-plated brass tubes were available (this was 7 or so years ago), my online research revealed that treatment by some chemicals would "blacken" the surface of the brass tube. . I bought such a chemical (under a generic "brass-blackener" label which did not disclose the complete chemical identity) and it worked.

However, the blackening was not robust enough to always stand up to the gluing and insertion process. . This "solution" to the brass visibility problem was very tedious and often unreliable. . I went back to painting the inside of the hole drilled in the acrylic blank.

That's my story ..... I am still painting but always eager to learn of and try some more convenient method !

Why paint the hole rather than the tube ? . Well, a perfectly blackened tube which reflects zero light might seem to be the answer, but that is an idealization and not achievable in practice. . Plus you have to worry about the effects of the glue layer which can never be perfectly invisible.

You would know that the incoming light is the real source of the problem. . It first passes through the acrylic wall, then passes through the layer of glue, then at least partially reflects off the tube (whatever color the tube is), and comes back out through the glue and the acrylic. . Because you can never get a 100% non-reflective surface on the tube, you will always get some light coming back out. You have to try to reduce that by a layer of paint which is OUTSIDE the layer of glue. . If you don't, you will always see, to some extent, the color of the tube AND you will see the irregularities in the glue layer which modify the light passing through it. . So a layer of paint on the inside of the hole is probably the best you can do to almost eliminate the overall problem. . Using a painted layer with the "same" color as the acrylic is best, but you can use different colors to achieve different effects if you wish ... but you will see the painted layer no matter what color it is.

Last edited by magpens; 10-20-2017 at 02:40 AM.
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Old 10-20-2017, 07:52 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Powder coating of brass tubes is an option if plated brass tubes are not readily available. A metalic "silver" is one of the powder coating options.
Ken Vaughan
Old Apprentice Machinist - Back in Alaska
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Old 10-20-2017, 09:59 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Mcmaster Carr should carry them.
Your secrets are safe with me.
There's a good chance I wasn't listening anyway.

My lathes:

Floor Lathe
Bench top lathe

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Old 10-20-2017, 10:48 AM   #5 (permalink)
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The whole point I was trying to make is that changing the color of the tubes does not solve the problem.

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Old 10-21-2017, 05:39 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks all. Good info here.
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