Anybody tried turning aluminum?

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Bob A

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I got a Hut catalog today and they have aluminum pen blanks. Looks like some really cool pens. I am considering buying some, but figured I'd check with the experts first. The catalog says they are for experienced pen turners so I'm a little leery. I've turned a few pens but wouldn't really consider myself experienced. Do you sand and finish just like wood? Seems like it would scratch the aluminum. Or is this where the "experienced" comes in? Finish with a skew? Any info would be appreciated.

Bob
 
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Scott

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I'm hoping one of the adventurous ones, like Greg or somebody, will jump in on this. I have not turned aluminum yet. Many have. They report it to be slow going, but perfectly doable with woodturning tools. If you're interested, just get some aluminum and try it. Take light cuts, and watch out for the shaving (sharp!). One thing I hear from many is if you sand to as fine a grit as we do some of our other pens, the aluminum will get real shiny, but it isn't tough enough to hold that shine for long, and starts looking beat up pretty quick. The consensus is to leave it with more of a matte finish. Man, I've almost talked myself into it now! ;-)

Good Luck!

Scott.
 

pen-turners

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I have turned aluminum. You can actually buy the blanks in PSI's catalog I believe. I got some bar stock and made the blanks myself. the pens turned out good but take a long time to turn down to shape. You better be good at sharpening your tools. Regular HSS tools can be used although I used a carbide tool to rough it down.

Chris


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kennosborne

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I have made few aluminum pens and each one was a challenge but very fun. I have found that the type of aluminum used is very important. The first ones I made were from aluminum from a home improvement store. I thought it turned ok but I had nothing to compare it to. I then purchased some 6160 aluminum, I belive that is the same as the blanks you are referring to. This aluminum turned much better and had a better finish. Play with the finish a bit. Some like the mirror finish, like on Chris's pen above, others like a more satin finish, which tends to hides scratches and dents better. As far as tools I used HSS tools but I was a sharpening fool. I belive carbide tools would work much better. You can do many things with aluminum from powder coating to anodizing. It is a fun route to take.

Here are some links that may help or interest you:

Yahoo Aluminum Pen Group
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aluminumpen/

Mike Roux's PMG Gallery
http://www.turtlewoodworks.com/pmggallery/rouxmgal1.htm

Caswell Plating Anodizing
http://caswellplating.com/kits/aluminum.htm

Ron Newman's Anodizing Page
http://www.focuser.com/atm/anodize/anodize99.html
 

Rudy Vey

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I have done a number of Aluminum pens. As Ken said, the stuff you buy at Home depot or Sears hardware is Aluminum and does not finish very nice. Get some 6000 or 7000 series Aluminum from Online Metals. Turns much nicer, these alloys are made for machining (i.e. turning). Turns good on a wood lathe, but much better on a metal lathe. I also do Titanium pens, but these have to be turned on a metal lathe with carbide bits. They just look gorgeous, but takes a long time to make.

Rudy
 

Bob A

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Thanks guys. Chris that is an awesome looking pen. Kenn, I checked out your website. It was really inspiring, your pens are so creative.

By the way, it was a PSI catalog I saw the blanks in, not Hut.

Thanks again for the information.

Bob
 
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