Advantages of Alumilite???

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Bubba57

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Mar 11, 2014
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Turning my first, and probably last, Alumilite blank. It seems to be easy to work with but it just won't take a polish. At first I though it was me...or my blank, but a quick search of IAP reveals that not taking a polish is a common problem and the only solution is...CA. (That seems to be a solution to a LOT of problems in pen turning: Add some CA!)
But...that begs for the question to be asked: What are the advantages to Alumilite? It seemed to work nice but no better than AA, Rhino plastic, etc., and at twice the price. So...what am I missing?


Thanks in advance,
G.C. (Bubba) Parker
 
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RobS

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I find micro mesh polish through all the grits, then use McGuire's plastic polish to add more pop. If that does not do it, I polish it on the buffing wheel with white compound.

Aluminite tends to thread easily (I've made 5 kitless from it), and it can take an impact blow to it.
 

MRDucks2

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My first Alumilite blank was a thin blue line and I was quite disappointed in my ability to get a high shine on it.

Since then I have cast my own Alumilite and been been able to polish up quite nicely. I have not cast any solid colors like the black of the thin blue line blank.

It is much less “chippy” on the lathe than rhinoplastic or Inlace Acrylester and quite durable.

From a casting perspective there are times I like the thicker viscosity of it as well as the short demold time and ability to work it pretty quickly.

I am still experimenting with what resin I like best from a casting perspective.


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Chevota Guy

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I find micro mesh polish through all the grits, then use McGuire's plastic polish to add more pop. If that does not do it, I polish it on the buffing wheel with white compound.

Aluminite tends to thread easily (I've made 5 kitless from it), and it can take an impact blow to it.

Agree with both methods mentioned by RobS. I typically use Micro mesh (all grades), then follow up with Meguiars 17 Plastic Cleaner and lastly Meguiars 10 Plastic Polish.

Recently I tried wet sanding with 600 silicon carbide paper, followed immediately by buffing with Tripoli, then White Diamond. Lastly I buffed with Blue Jewelers polish and achieved a glass like shine.

I have read that Alumilite can't achieve quite as high a polish as Polyester, but to my eye I don't find that to be representative if finished as described above.
 

Pierre---

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For me, alumilite has some advantages compared to acrylic or PR :

  • The touch: close your eyes, press your thumb on it and move it forward. It slips like suede. Do the same with acrylic, it vibes in an unpleasant way. The feeling of temperature is different too, as if alumilite was warmer. The bad feeling of the plastic touch concerns acrylic, not alumilite.
  • The threads are strong and sharp. Acrylic can be a bit brittle but it works, PR is the weakest of all, making it a bad choice to get sustainable threading after long use.
To get a good shine with alumilite, when sanding with any grain you need to be sure you got rid of all scratches due to the coarser grain before, before using the next grain. Acrylic is much more forgiving, but a top-shiny look is possible with alumilite.
 
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My DiamondCast blanks are solely alumilite so I've got a bit of experience casting and finishing them...

Not that you asked this specifically, but from a casting perspective it cures quickly and you get a very durable blank that takes color well and feels good in the hand. As previously mentioned, it takes threads better than other resins which is important for custom makers that are not relying on kits.

Now... finishing seems to be the bane of many a pen maker and I see a lot of people spend WAY too much time fiddling with micromesh when there are faster ways to get the same results. It is absolutely critical to have a buffing system though.

I learned finishing with automotive systems... So I use what I know. If I do my job right turning a blank I can usually start with 800 grit, sometimes 600. If I've got something I need to sand out first, I'll drop down to 320 just to smooth things out and then work up. My usual schedule though is 800 grit, then 1200 grit then 2000 and polish. If I'm seeing some fine lines I'll use 3m polishing papers to get things smoothed out before I go to the buffing. You'll find this listed as Zona polishing paper usually at Amazon, etc. Typically I'll use two different buffing compounds and buffs. I use solely 3M compounds because I'm comfortable with them and having tried some of the plastic polishes, I think the 3M stuff does a better job.

The reason for not going crazy with micromesh or similar before buffing becomes obvious when you think about how buffing works. MOST heavy cut compounds are designed to remove 1200 grit or similar scratch patterns. Working through a bunch of MM grits down to 1 micron scratch patterns only to go use a heavier cutting compound is kind of a waste of time. I shouldn't even sand to 2000 grit before compounding but I just feel better getting a nice level surface.

Alumilite might not get quite as glossy as an acrylic but you CAN get it polished nice and shiny without sanding lines.

This one has a few fingerprints on it but gives you an idea: https://www.amazon.com/photos/shared/Izt4EJBmSSmQ3f9SIxGUdQ.o9-X4m2FhoVZPtjdm28R57
 

Bubba57

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Thanks for the replies and info. Just what I needed to know...might be great stuff but not for my purposes...so why pay double/triple the price!
 
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Thanks for the replies and info. Just what I needed to know...might be great stuff but not for my purposes...so why pay double/triple the price!
Not all alumilite blanks are created equal as well... If you'd like I'd be happy to send you one of mine to try out. Not saying I'll convert ya but I do like a challenge. :biggrin:
 

mmayo

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Thanks for the replies and info. Just what I needed to know...might be great stuff but not for my purposes...so why pay double/triple the price!
Not all alumilite blanks are created equal as well... If you'd like I'd be happy to send you one of mine to try out. Not saying I'll convert ya but I do like a challenge. :biggrin:
Say yes!

I have several of the diamond blanks and they shine. It does take a bit longer but it is worth it to me.
 

Bubba57

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Not all alumilite blanks are created equal as well... If you'd like I'd be happy to send you one of mine to try out. Not saying I'll convert ya but I do like a challenge. :biggrin:
The McKenzie challenge, eh? All right, the McCain clan (my maternal grandmother) is willing to give it a fair try. ;)
 

Terredax

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It's interesting, that some believe that urethane resin cures faster than polyester, and can be worked sooner.

That isn't necessarily true.
Polyester, when conditions are ideal, can be ready to machine, in less than an hour. How are conditions ideal when one wants to cast? They have to be made ideal. Controlling temps, humidity, mixes, the cure, etc.
If polyester can achieve a controlled temp., and maintain that temp. for a determined time, it is fully cured from the mold. The idea of post-curing is a waste of time.

Urethane resins will never achieve the finish that a polyester can. The reason is, the shore hardness of urethane isn't as high as polyester.

When using polyester, if it's been turned properly, can start the finish with 320 grit. That will show any low spots that should be removed before moving forward. 320 is aggressive enough to remove blemishes but, not so aggressive as to leave additional blemishes. Once the surface is uniform and consistent, it moves to the buffing jack. Using the proper progression of compounds with the appropriate buff wheels, and correct technique, will result in a perfect finish in less than two minutes.

I won't take the time to explain the compounds, wheels, techniques, safety, etc. That can be researched, and it's much easier to show, than to explain.
 
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It's interesting, that some believe that urethane resin cures faster than polyester, and can be worked sooner.

That isn't necessarily true.
Polyester, when conditions are ideal, can be ready to machine, in less than an hour. How are conditions ideal when one wants to cast? They have to be made ideal. Controlling temps, humidity, mixes, the cure, etc.
If polyester can achieve a controlled temp., and maintain that temp. for a determined time, it is fully cured from the mold. The idea of post-curing is a waste of time.

Urethane resins will never achieve the finish that a polyester can. The reason is, the shore hardness of urethane isn't as high as polyester.

When using polyester, if it's been turned properly, can start the finish with 320 grit. That will show any low spots that should be removed before moving forward. 320 is aggressive enough to remove blemishes but, not so aggressive as to leave additional blemishes. Once the surface is uniform and consistent, it moves to the buffing jack. Using the proper progression of compounds with the appropriate buff wheels, and correct technique, will result in a perfect finish in less than two minutes.

I won't take the time to explain the compounds, wheels, techniques, safety, etc. That can be researched, and it's much easier to show, than to explain.
I agree. I rarely have to start below P320 with PR and if I do it’s my own fault. In fact I don’t like to use a coarser grit because I think it causes scratches that can be almost impossible to remove sometimes. After using both Alumilite and PR I’m convinced you’ll never get Alumilite to shine like you can PR. I’ve gotten a nice polish with Alumilite, but it always lacks the depth of shine I get with PR. Alumilite may be easier to turn, but PR gives a far superior end result IME.
 

Bubba57

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Not all alumilite blanks are created equal as well... If you'd like I'd be happy to send you one of mine to try out. Not saying I'll convert ya but I do like a challenge. :biggrin:
Challenge accepted! If you'll send me a chunk big enough to do something the size of a Mesa or Sierra I'll treat it the same as I do other acrylic-type blanks: skew, abranet, micro mesh, mguiars. IF I can get a satisfactory shine on it, I'll place an order...and probably another...and another. I checked out your blanks....very nice!
 

Wagner11

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When I started turning I used a lot of inlace acylester. Now I turn a lot of polyester resin. Having used these two types of blanks I sometimes feel alumilite turns a little too easy. I find it's easier for me to slip and mess up and feel when sanding scratches are more difficult to remove. These things are my fault but mostly it comes down to preference.

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Sylvanite

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Urethane resins will never achieve the finish that a polyester can.
I disagree.

I too had difficulty getting a high gloss finish on Alumilite Clear when I first tried it, and sometimes resorted to a CA topcoat, but I have since improved my polishing skill. Now I can get a glass-smooth finish with clear or opaque urethane resins - just like PR or acrylic. To paraphrase: "using the proper progression of compounds with the appropriate buff wheels, and correct technique, will result in a perfect finish"<sic>.
 
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