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Old 04-30-2017, 06:40 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Join Date: Oct 2016
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Default Turning smooth acrylic pens

I've turned three acrylic pens with varying results. Before I turned my first one, I did a test run on a cut off piece from the first pen and it came out as smooth as glass. But when I went to turn the pen, it was awful. It turned out bumpy, for lack of a better word, with grooves in it. The second pen turned out better, but there was still a spot or two that felt as if there were a couple of depressions. The third pen was a combination of the two. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't great either. Any tips or pointers on turning perfectly smooth acrylic pens would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 04-30-2017, 06:47 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Here's a start for you. Courtesy of Ed Brown at Exotic Blanks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1s0rUvg4xE
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Old 04-30-2017, 08:11 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks! I'll be sure to check that out.
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Old 04-30-2017, 09:19 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Yes, definately check out his videos, that's a great place to start. One thing to keep in mind when your turning, if you get a blank that is fighting you, try hitting it with sandpaper a bit to get it back to smooth and even before fighting a small chip-out , because many times a small chip-out quickly becomes a big chip-out if its not very carefully tended to with your tool. Sharp skew, high speed, and light touch seems to work best for me. Keep at it bud!
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Old 04-30-2017, 09:56 PM   #5 (permalink)
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You didn't say whether you are using a carbide cutting tool or a HSS gouge or skew.

Whatever, your cutting tool has to be really sharp and take very light cuts.

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Old 04-30-2017, 11:34 PM   #6 (permalink)
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The question is what do you think is causing this??? We can not see you turn a pen. We do not know your experience with a lathe and its tools. We do not know the tools you are using to turn the pens. We do not know your set up to turn the pens. We do not know the type of acrylic you are turning. Not all acrylics react the same way. So you see we are at a huge disadvantage to help you. Now there will be those that will make suggestions and they will all be right and valuable. But as suggested find some videos on the net or find a turner or club in your area to watch you up close and tell you what you are doing wrong.

The one suggestion I will throw out there is if you are sanding and not adding all those fancy ridges and valleys, the best advice is to wrap your sandpaper around a block of wood and sand with that so that you are using equal pressure on all aspects of the blank and not digging into one area.

Good luck and if you care to tell us more about your technique we might be able to narrow things down for you better.
John T.
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Old 05-01-2017, 03:14 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Something else to consider:
Not all acrylics are the same.

They require different approaches to turn them successfully.
I'm alright Jack. Keep your hands off my stack.

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Old 05-01-2017, 08:44 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Herb G View Post
Something else to consider:
Not all acrylics are the same.

They require different approaches to turn them successfully.
Good point, Herb. Turn Alumalite, then turn Inlace Acrylester. Not much in common between the two, except that they are commonly called acrylics.

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Old 05-01-2017, 10:53 AM   #9 (permalink)
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My acrylics get pretty smooth after I wet sand them with grits of Micro-mesh all the way through 12,000 grit. Then polish them with some Novus II
Chuck Hutchings
Indianapolis, In.
You can see some pens at http:www.facebook.com/chuckspens
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Old 05-01-2017, 12:07 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I turn all my pens with a 15mm round carbide tool at 24~2500 RPM. I go at it easy at first until I get the blank rounded then get a little more aggressive (not too aggressive) until I get close to the final size and shape. Then I go back to light easy cuts to smooth things out. I finish up at 12~1500 RPM with good quality clean sandpaper starting at 180 or 220 grit and progress up through 400 grit. For the first couple of grits I sand with the lathe running then stop and sand back and forth lengthwise wiping the blank off in between each grit. I finish up with a full run through the micro mesh wet and 2~3 applications of Meguiars PlastiX polish applied with a small piece of blue shop towel and buffed with a clean piece. That leaves my acrylics with a very smooth high gloss shine. I am sure there are at least 264 dozen other ways to do it, but that works for me. Maybe some or all of it may work for you.

Turning Inlace .... That is a whole new ballgame. Finishing and polishing is about the same. Turning... not so much. Go SLOW and EASY. Expect chip out. Especially early on. Deal with it as soon as you notice it. then go SLOW and EASY... or did I already say that. Practice and perfect your technique on acrylics first. Then ease into Inlace if that's what you want to do. It is a little harder to turn but you can get some beautiful results if you take it SLOW and EASY.

Either way, hang in there. you will figure it out. Don't be afraid to try something different. Most of all, have fun and post some pics!
Rick - Tampa, FL
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