Finishing on something other than a lathe?

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Jul 25, 2021
Dayton, OH
Here's the lowdown: my garage where I turn and finish pens with a mini lathe isn't temperature and humidity controlled. It seems like every time I knuckle down to make a pen, it decides to rain in central Ohio and the humidity has affected my CA finishes at times. What I'd hope to do is turn them outside into the winter (maybe with some mobile heat) and bring them inside to my basement to finish them (dehumidified, conditioned space).

That said, I don't want to buy a second lathe just for finishing and I don't really have the option of moving my whole turning station indoors (I'm the annoying neighbor who turns pens at night and don't think the family would appreciate me bringing it inside). Any ideas guys?

I've considered Penn State's drying system (just a slow-turning mandrel-type rack used for poly finishes) but that might be TOO slow to apply CA with. Otherwise, that's about all I got as far as ideas...

Background: I'm a beginner with only about 20 pens under my belt and I've been asking a lot of questions. That's probably why this sounds like an elementary question.
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Nothing elementary about your question . Go to Resources and search for `Pen Finish Dipping Method` . It might meet your needs , although as with everything , there will be a learning curve attached . Searching posts by rd_ab_penman will show you the quality of finish he achieves with his method .
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X2 for dip finishing. I switch back and forth between CA and dip. For your question, using a dip finish would be a good solution. With CA you would be dealing with dust also. I use a single motor with a screw attached. Make some plugs. Dip the blank and transfer it to the horizontal slow spinning motor. It can produce a perfect finish with no need to sand after. Recently I have bee using brushing lacquer.
Wow that sounds remarkable. I am definitely a fan and willing to try it. CA finishing has been a long trial and error process with qualities of glue/viscosities when some brands are thinner/thicker than others. And of course having to sand out mistakes.

My follow up question then is related to why I've avoided poly thus far: Do you have any issues with yellowing over time?
And do you have any recommendations on dowels that could fit multiple diameter tubes? (I was imagining something tapered) Because I don't have the capability to turn between centers and make my own :/
I have an extra pen mandrel rod that I chuck into a cordless drill that stands up by itself. I use an F-style clamp to keep the drill on while I apply the CA. It works so well that I have two drills setup for this when I have a larger production run to do.

Otherwise Wen has a mini lathe for about $160.00 with a variable speed. I bought 2 of the same basic lathe from Harbor Freight a few years ago for about $80.00 each. Unfortunately they are over $250.00 now. These mini lathes also make great buffing stations.
With regard to one of your own suggestiongs above, you say .....
" ... but that might be TOO slow to apply CA with. Otherwise, that's about all I got as far as ideas... "

I think it would be hard to be " . . TOO slow to apply CA with . . "

I apply CA during the finishing process with my lathe turning at VERY low speed ( something around 15 RPM or even slower ).

So, for a turning apparatus ( other than another lathe ) you could build a " lathe look-alike " out of construction timber ( 2 x 6s for example ).
Put a crank on one end and ask your wife to turn ..... or wire up a small AC motor ( with switch ). . A little bit of other hardware required also .
Buy a sewing machine motor. Mount it on a block of wood. Turn a tapered mandrel out Delrin. You will need about a 1 to 2 degree taper on the mandrel. You will also need a mandrel for each size of brass tubing you use. These mandrels also need a hole on the motor end to fit the sewing machine motor shaft. Drill and tap that end for a set screw so you can temporarily tighten it to the shaft. You can use the foot control for speed controller, but I recommend using a router speed controller.

Cost is about $25 on eBay. They are small enough you can carry them anywhere. Somewhere I have some that I even adapted 4 inch buffing wheels to fit for my wife's jewelry making.

To make a mandrel use a 4 to 5 inch piece of 1/2" Delrin. First on the lathe using a collet chuck drill a 1 inch deep hole in one end. Then cross drill and tap a hole for a 8-32 machine set screw. Next is the hard part. put the Delrin on the shaft of the motor ad tighten the set screw and turn it to the correct taper to fit the brass. The brass should barely fit the rod, then about 3 inches in, it should be a perfect fit. Test it OFTEN and A LOT OF TIMES, too small, and it is trash.

Practice making the mandrels with cheap dowels, not once but a LOT OF TIMES. You are trying to make something like this
Except your taper will only be a degree from one end to the other, Trust me, free hand doing this will test your patience, and could make you a mental patient. LOL
Drip finish works with several different finishes - CA, Lacquer of different kinds, polyurethane and others, Even 24 hour finishes work if you are doing 5 or 10 or 20 at a time - and that gives a reasonable number of pens per hour. By and large it is relatively easy to most, but there may be a small techniques learning curve, even though it is somewhat easier than what CA on the lathe is in the beginning.
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