Cracked Lignum Vitae

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vtgaryw

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Jul 24, 2012
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599
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Milton, VT
So I stop at this gallery today where I've had some consignment pens for awhile now. I picked up the rest of the first batch I had left there and replaced it with a nice display stand and pens in nice felt boxes. Anyways, I noticed the Bolt Action pen I had there made from lignum vitae had cracked! I was mortified, so very glad I stopped by. I did not stabilize this (I stabilize almost everything) but I've always thought that dense or oily woods should not or cannot be stabilized. This was real lignum vitae bought from a reliable source. It was made probably close to 2 years ago, no idea how long it took to crack. I haven't turned a lot of this wood, but I have a few pieces left and I've been saving it for something special. Any ideas how to treat it?
 

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hokie

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May 29, 2017
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DC Area
You are right in that dense oily woods won't benefit from stabilization and there probably wasn't a lot you could have done to guarantee it would never crack. I have plenty of cracked LV lying around that I plan to just fill with CA when the time comes to turn it. To your question about what to do with your current pen... If you insist on salvaging it, you probably need to disassemble, fill with CA, and refinish. You could try packing it with LV dust, but it will likely still be as visible as a normal crack.
Better to have cracked before someone bought it than after! The good thing is that maybe all the stress that was in the blank is now relieved. I have heard of professional pen makers that "pre-crack" their wood before it's finished to reduce the likelihood it will crack any further once in a customer's hands. I'm kind of skeptical about how that process would work without it being obvious, but I'll take their word for it.
Just my $0.02
 

magpens

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Feb 2, 2011
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9,977
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Coquitlam, BC, Canada
My experiences with Lignum Vitae go back 10 years. . In my opinion, that wood seems to grow with stresses built into it. . Nothing you do to it makes any difference at all. . If it is "genetically programmed" to crack, then it will crack. . Using LV wood that has been aged for years in dry conditions is no guarantee against it cracking. . I have made pens with such wood and have rigorously taken measures to eliminate adding any additional stress during the pen assembly process, and still the pens can crack after an unpredictable time. . The probability of failure has been about 50%. . I don't use LV at all now.
 
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mark james

IAP Collection, Curator
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Sep 6, 2012
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Medina, Ohio
Very nice wood, but to be practical, I'd turn it off and start anew or simply replace the blank. The time spent to correct is not logical. 😞. I've used Lignum Vitae for small bird house ornaments and with the thicker sides they have done well. At .5mm, not so successful.
 

philipff

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Joined
Jun 21, 2009
Messages
356
Location
Williamsburg, VA
So I stop at this gallery today where I've had some consignment pens for awhile now. I picked up the rest of the first batch I had left there and replaced it with a nice display stand and pens in nice felt boxes. Anyways, I noticed the Bolt Action pen I had there made from lignum vitae had cracked! I was mortified, so very glad I stopped by. I did not stabilize this (I stabilize almost everything) but I've always thought that dense or oily woods should not or cannot be stabilized. This was real lignum vitae bought from a reliable source. It was made probably close to 2 years ago, no idea how long it took to crack. I haven't turned a lot of this wood, but I have a few pieces left and I've been saving it for something special. Any ideas how to treat it?
Bye any chance was the wood a couple thousands longer than the brass tube and, over time, the pressure against the wood caused the crack? Please look carefully at the end (disassembled) and see if that could be the problem. P.
 

vtgaryw

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Jul 24, 2012
Messages
599
Location
Milton, VT
Bye any chance was the wood a couple thousands longer than the brass tube and, over time, the pressure against the wood caused the crack? Please look carefully at the end (disassembled) and see if that could be the problem. P.
I disassembled the pen, and no, the brass tube was exactly flush with the wood on both ends. I did actually notice a small crack on the other side as well. So we have opinions ranging from 1/2 of them crack to never had a problem. I have a couple more pieces that are gorgeous, but I'd hate to risk getting them out there and cracking down the road. Maybe I'll just make myself another pen or two...

-gary
 
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