CA glue finishes, easy or difficult??

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RussFairfield

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There have been a lot of threads and questions recently on the topic of finishing with CA glue and the problems people are having with it. I think it is time to repeat a message that I wrote several years ago.

THE OLD MESSAGE -
CA glue has to be the most versatile and easiest finish that we can use on a pen. It is almost impossible to do anything wrong. No matter what we do, the glue cures, we sand it, and if we sand it with a fine enough grit we will get a high gloss on the final finish.

There is a question almost every day about using CA glue as a finish or the problems that someone is having with it. The variety of answers could only further confuse the first time user. These many different answers and my own experience with CA glue proves my point.

We live in hot climates, cold climates, wet or dry climates, and some of us live in a combination of all of the above. Some work in a basement, others in a garage, and some have a dedicated shop building. We work in the cold, and in a hot sweaty room. Some have HVAC, while other don't.

Some sand the wood to a high polish before applying the glue, while other only sand to 320 grit. Some clean the bare wood with Denatured Alcohol, others use an air hose, while others use the CA Accelerator; some just use a piece of paper towel, while still others do nothing at all. Some use a sanding sealer on the wood, while others don't. Some use thin CA glue, others use the medium, while still others use the thick, and some use all three. Some use a specific brand name, while others use whatever was the cheapest at the time. Some insist on using glue that is so fresh that it had to be manufactured yesterday, while others use glue so old it will barely come out of the bottle. Some apply it with a "baggie", some use some type of synthetic batting or cloth, others a piece harder plastic, while there are many who use a paper towel and some go so far as to specify that one brand of paper towel is better than the others. Some apply the CA glue by itself, while others use Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO) over the glue, and some even use the BLO under the glue. Some can just slop on a coat of glue and get a smooth surface that can be sanded smooth with 400 grit, while others get a rough surface that requires starting with 150-grit: and I have had CA finishes that needed 60-grit to remove the rough bark that formed when it cured. Some run the lathe so fast that it slings the glue from the surface, while others are more comfortable with slower speeds. Some use an accelerator, while others claim an accelerator is the surest way to ruin a CA glue finish. Some sand the final finish to 12,000-MicroMesh, while others still use conventional sandpaper to 600-grit. Some buff, some don't. Some use a plastic polish, and some don't. I am sure I left out a few variables.

There are at least 460,800 different finishing schedules that can be concocted from all of these many variables that I have listed, and I believe that an advocate can be found for every one of them. Many of them are posted on this site.

THE AMAZING THING IS THAT THEY ALL WORK.

All started with the same pen blank, and all ended with the same high gloss. The only difference is that some paths from start to finish will take longer than others. Some of these paths are relatively straight forward, while others have more twists and turns than the highway between Wolf Creek Pass and downtown Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

Many look at these many variables and see a finish that that is difficult and complex. I look at these many variables and see a finish where is almost impossible to do anything wrong.

To the 1st time user of a CA finish - In all of these various methods there is one common element. If the surface isn't smooth, you haven't done anything wrong, just use more sandpaper before going on to finer abrasive grits. The goal is a smooth glossy surface, and not how you got there.
 
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spiritwoodturner

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Russ, I really liked this post. I'm one who, when I first got started, got mystified by the different ways to do CA. Try as I might, and in spite of Don Ward's patient attempts to help me, The BLO part just did not have the desired effects for me, anyway. I went off on my own and did a straight CA technique, and for me, it's perfect. The only thing I'm still working on is the bushings sticking. More precisely, having the removal of said bushings damage the finished product by tearing a tiny nip off here and there. I use a parting tool to gently clean up the bushings right against the blanks, and usually it works fine, but it never fails. On the one I least want it to happen to, a tiny tear.

Anyway, loved your post. I do wonder how a guy from Idaho knows so much about the road between Wolf Creek and Pagosa! I live in Parker and we have a timeshare in Pagosa, and you ain't lyin' about that road! Not sure if you've ever gone over it in a blizzard, but you'd be certain the road is twice as crooked when you can't see 20 feet ahead of you!

Regards from Colorado,
Dale
 

Tn-Steve

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Thank you. As a noob it's nice to know that there are a lot of routes to good results, and I should probably really make an effort to perfect ONE technique, let it become 'old reliable' for me before I start experimenting with all the possible variations, modifications, perturbations (one of those words that sounds dirty but isn't) and options. Now if only I can bring that focus to my golf swing(s). :biggrin:

Steve W
Really, it's what's called a "textured finish"... Very big in Europe.
 
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Munsterlander

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Gaithersburg, MD, USA.
Dale - I was having the same problem until yesterday when my live/dead centers arrived. Now I'm turning/sanding on the mandrel, then applying thin CA to a barrel between centers (no mandrel), and then going back to the mandrel for final MM and polish. I couldn't be happier!! No bushings, no sticking, no $%@# and having to start again. One thing a little different that's working for me is that I go ahead and use my barrel trimmer after applying the CA glue but before final MM instead of at the end - maybe someone will tell me that's a bad idea, but rightly or wrong I'm less nervous about getting the tear out at that point than I am after I've finished my sanding - and I'd rather no sooner than later if I'm going to have to sand it back down again.
 

leehljp

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Russ,

I agree with everything you say above. However there will always be someone (OK, several someones) who interpret everything from their perspective and then claim that one or two methods "don't work". Then in their own experimentation, they will do the same thing as already listed, but describe it in a different way and claim it as different.

As you said, they all work, but there will always be one or two that will say "it doesn't". :wink:


The second part is that a few will come on (and have come on) and say "I don't want to experiment, I just want a list of steps" which in itself will be highly subjective to that persons understanding of descriptive steps. Hopefully, this is where area IAP meetings can put people on the same page in understanding descriptive steps.
 

foamcapt40

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I just tried CA for the first time tonight and like it so far... But after reading the 460,800 different ways to applied I just closed my eyes and picked one and it worked. Now to explain to my wife why I keep running out of "superglue" as she calls it...
 

leehljp

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I just tried CA for the first time tonight and like it so far... But after reading the 460,800 different ways to applied I just closed my eyes and picked one and it worked. Now to explain to my wife why I keep running out of "superglue" as she calls it...
This is where you need to contact Monte for his BIG bottles of CA! :biggrin:
 

RussFairfield

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Stripped to its essentials, there are only 4 basic steps to a CA finish:

1. Wipe it on

2. Let it cure

3. Sand it smooth

4. Polish to a higher gloss with finer abrasive

Everything else is technique and personal preference.
 
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Skye

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Rock Hill, SC
Stripped to its essentials, there are only 4 basic steps to a CA finish:

1. Wipe it on

2. Let it cure

3. Sand it smooth

4. Polish to a higher gloss with finer abrasive

Everything else is technique and personal preference.
Very true.

You did leave out:

A. Get your fingers glued together.
B. Learn that accelerator makes your fingers burn more.
C. Burn eyes with fumes.
D. Glue bushings to blank.
E. Sand through the CA into the wood.
F. Get CA all over your micromesh.
G. Watch the paper towels start smoking and wonder if your extinguisher works.
H. Drop your CA bottles, clogging the openings with sawdust.

I probably left some out...
 

Daniel

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Addition to Skye's list
Have applicator snatched from you fingers due to CA curing faster than expected. wrapped tightly to blank and glued there by fast setting CA.
 

Daniel

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Stripped to its essentials, there are only 4 basic steps to a CA finish:

1. Wipe it on

2. Let it cure

3. Sand it smooth

4. Polish to a higher gloss with finer abrasive

Everything else is technique and personal preference.
Now you are trying to make it sound simple.
 

JimB

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West Henrietta, NY, USA.
Stripped to its essentials, there are only 4 basic steps to a CA finish:

1. Wipe it on

2. Let it cure

3. Sand it smooth

4. Polish to a higher gloss with finer abrasive

Everything else is technique and personal preference.
Thanks Russ. When I was trying to figure all this out I finally realized I was spending to much time figuring out the best, smoothest way to wipe it on when I should have spend more time letting it cure, sanding and polishing.
 

vaiger

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Hello, I am new to turning and the forum. I have spent hours pondering the mystery of the CA finish and have wanted to try it for over a month....just waiting until I understood the right way to do it.

Finally I just turned and sanded down a blank, dropped thin CA on a clean paper towel, sprayed with arosol accelerator, reapplied a few times and then went through all of the MM. The blank looked great. I have done a few this way and have been impressed with the results. I am kicking myself for spending too much time reading and not enough jumping in and just trying.

If you are thinking about doing the CA finish, just get out there and do it and see what happens!
 

rick_lindsey

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Feb 2, 2005
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Tucson, AZ
Yup! I tried with my old "thin" CA and had limited success, though I saw the potential. Bought some new thin CA and voila! works more gooder ;)

-Rick
 
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