First Rollerball + QUESTIONS

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Todd in PA

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Feb 16, 2021
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This weekend I turned my first rollerball. It's a vertex supreme from PSI. I used a cocobolo wood blank and decided to keep it simple as possible. I'm always surprised at what's inside a cocobolo blank. It looks like a solid dark wood block the whole way around and when I turn it, it's all orange and purple and white. It's like opening a gift to see what's in there. Please give me your comments and critiques. I'd like to improve my craft, so I'd like to know what suggestions you have.

2021-08-01 001 (960x1280).jpg


Now my questions...
#1. This is the biggest pen I ever made. I chucked up a half inch brad bit and could not cut through this even though it wasn't that hard of a blank. I tried sharpening the (brand new) bit with a file and still the wood was heating up the bit and smoking. I'm positive that I shouldn't have to use this much pressure on the tail stock and besides the bit was starting to wander, making the hole too wide. I ended up using 6-8 bits, starting small and moving up. In the end I was happy with the result, but I also think this is a bad plan for getting one nice uniform hole, because there's nothing for the center point to hold it still.

#2. Unrelated, but I've got some wood on the way and some of it needs to be stabilized. My friend suggested using a penetrating resin --Polymer Composites, Max 1618 to stabilize it. Anyone know if this would work?

Thanks!
 
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Bats

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It looks like a solid dark wood block the whole way around and when I turn it, it's all orange and purple and white.
Unfortunately it's because it tends to age back to that starting color. From solid dark wood blocks ye come, to solid dark wood blocks shall ye return. Well, minus the "blocks". Gotta give/sell it to someone while it's still pretty. :)

(and it is an awfully pretty pen)

I ended up using 6-8 bits, starting small and moving up. In the end I was happy with the result, but I also think this is a bad plan for getting one nice uniform hole, because there's nothing for the center point to hold it still.
Agreed. Gradually stepping up in bit sizes only works with conventional point bits - brad point, like spade and forstner bits, need a solid center to drill into - otherwise they can turn out up to almost half the preceding bit's diameter off-center.

I can't help with the cause of the problem, though - aside from vaguely guessing at faulty bit geometry. I've never turned cocobolo, and have only made a couple pens that big, neither of which posed any problem to drill.

#2. Unrelated, but I've got some wood on the way and some of it needs to be stabilized. My friend suggested using a penetrating resin --Polymer Composites, Max 1618 to stabilize it. Anyone know if this would work?
I've never dealt with (or, before today, heard of) the product, but I suspect that "penetrating" term may be a little misleading. At 377cps (for reference, I'm seeing medium CAs listing viscosities from 100-600cps) it might work its way into cracks, but probably won't do a very good job of penetrating at the pore level, which is what stabilizing usually relies on. You might have better luck if you went from a vacuum chamber to a pressure pot, but I'd still be skeptical.

The most common method of stabilizing (at least for the home user - I can't speak for commercial processes) is using a thin heat-curing resin like Cactus Juice (I believe a couple clones have also popped up more recently). You dry the wood overnight in the oven, cool it in a sealed bag, submerge it in resin, stick it in a vacuum chamber for a day or so until bubbles stop coming out, release vacuum and let it sit for twice as long at atmospheric pressure (some people use a pressure pot for this stage to speed things up), then take the blanks out and cure at 190°F for an hour or two.

I never managed to find a vacuum-free method that gave satisfactory results, but in a pinch you could try coating the wood in thin CA and periodically re-coating as you (gently) turn, keeping in mind that it's not penetrating very far and you still have soft/punky/etc wood underneath.
 

magpens

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First comment ..... don't use brad point drill bits ..... they tend to wander giving an off-center hole which is larger than you want.

Also ..... you have used multiple drills working up to final size ..... this actually a very good technique for very hard woods like Cocobolo.

Second comment ..... as an amateur's stabilizer, I have often used "Miniwax Wood Hardener". . I soak the blank (totally immersed) for about 12 to 24 hrs. . . After removing the blank, I let it dry for about 4 days. . . This process is obviously not as good as a "proper" stabilization but I have had good success with some partially punky blanks.

One thing that I do which I think helps is to drill the blank beforehand so that the liquid gets to soak in both from the outside and the inside.

Before drilling, I round the blank .... with less "junk wood" this allows the Wood Hardener to get into more of the wood that really counts.

After 4 days of drying the wood is quite noticeably harder than it started out.

Third comment ..... I like the pen that you show above. . . Cocobolo is a lovely wood to turn ..... its slight oiliness is an advantage in turning.
After you have turned it and sanded to 1000 grit, you don't even need to apply a finish as long as you like the somewhat matte look.

I really like the Vertex Supreme.
 

TonyL

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Beautiful pen! May have been mentioned above, but if not, I can see the radial scratches.

They can be further reduced (made invisible under 10x+ magnification), by improving your sanding and polishing technique. That doesn't mean it isn't a beautiful pen though. Looking forward to more photos.
 

Todd in PA

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I can see the radial scratches.
I see them too! I put several coats of CA on, thin then medium, and then micromesh to 12,000, sanding laterally between each grit. Sometimes I get to the end and it’s good. Most of the time I see tiny scratches in the surface.

I don’t have a buffing wheel yet. Is that the solution? Or is my technique poor? Any suggestions appreciated.

Todd
 

Todd in PA

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Thanks, Magpens. I might try the wood hardener. I’m going to see what the material looks like in person first. Though I do know a guy who has a vacuum chamber who’s probably friendly enough to let me borrow it.
 

mark james

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I see them too! I put several coats of CA on, thin then medium, and then micromesh to 12,000, sanding laterally between each grit. Sometimes I get to the end and it’s good. Most of the time I see tiny scratches in the surface.

I don’t have a buffing wheel yet. Is that the solution? Or is my technique poor? Any suggestions appreciated.

Todd
Not sure of your sanding/finishing technique, but... I'd try to get the turning as close to smooth as possible - Carbide on a shear scraping angle. Then start at 320 or 400 grit, and use a light touch as you progress up to 600 or 800. I prefer abranet, then go to micromesh - to 12000. Sand with the lathe on, then off and horizontal sanding. If you get deep scratches early due to too much pressure, it is hard to get them out without taking a lot of material off. CA/Urethane/etc for whatever final finish. I like GluBoost or WOP, then Meguires Plastx.
 

sorcerertd

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My primary suggestion is to wax your bed rails. I'm sure you probably clean them up regularly, but it just stood out to me in the picture.
I also find myself fighting with the radial scratches, but I'm prone to using too much pressure in an effort to rush the work. I have better luck sanding by hand with the micromesh until I get down to the last few grits.
 

Todd in PA

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Not sure of your sanding/finishing technique, but... I'd try to get the turning as close to smooth as possible - Carbide on a shear scraping angle. Then start at 320 or 400 grit, and use a light touch as you progress up to 600 or 800. I prefer abranet, then go to micromesh - to 12000. Sand with the lathe on, then off and horizontal sanding. If you get deep scratches early due to too much pressure, it is hard to get them out without taking a lot of material off. CA/Urethane/etc for whatever final finish. I like GluBoost or WOP, then Meguires Plastx.
Confession of a newbie penturner: I'm using loctite liquid CA from Walmart. $5.47 for 0.07 oz. :eek:

This blank was glass smooth after skew scraping and I did no sanding prior to CA. I must be using too much pressure in the early stages of wet micromesh. Since no one has said a buffing wheel is the solution, I'm going to revisit my method and try a lighter more patient stategy on the next one. Thanks all for your help!

Todd
 

mmayo

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Confession of a newbie penturner: I'm using loctite liquid CA from Walmart. $5.47 for 0.07 oz. :eek:

This blank was glass smooth after skew scraping and I did no sanding prior to CA. I must be using too much pressure in the early stages of wet micromesh. Since no one has said a buffing wheel is the solution, I'm going to revisit my method and try a lighter more patient stategy on the next one. Thanks all for your help!

Todd
Try to skip radial sanding, I do. Just sand with the grain. Any nicks in even the sharpest, coolest or grooviest tool leaves radial marks. Sanding with the grain solves that.
Perhaps move from micro mesh to the Beale buff. Cheaper, quicker and far better in the long run.
 

PBorowick

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It may be overkill but I wet sand micromesh up to 12,000 and then use my Beall buff system to get that glass finish. Just be careful you don't get too carried away with putting pressure on the buffer trying to get out radial scratches. Too much pressure and CA will distort and ripple.
 

TonyL

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I have a 4 stage buffer, 2 finer compounds in addition to the Tripoli and white diamond. My experience has been if I don't use the lower grits (320 to 400 or so properly (whether it is AO strips or Abranet) , the buffing will make the radial scratches more shallow but that is it. I had the same experience with MM (which I like, but prefer buffing..I just don't like the water). For me, is was about examining my sanding under a 10x loupe, until I saw each grit reduce the scratches of the grit before. After a dozen barrels, I got the hang of it.

I also learned that even though I sanded the barrel until I didn't see any low/shiny spots...there was sanding grit in the shallow/valley of the scratches. In other words, I was not letting the SP/Abranet completely do its job or I didn't start at a low enough grit.

I have no shame in admitting that after 7 years of very active penturning, I may find myself having to use 150 grit despite my best efforts to apply CA as smoothly as possible. 75 to 95 percent of the time, I start with 320 to 400, but I need to go lower, I do.

This just one man's experience.

We all eventually figure it out and produce something that we are proud of.

Enjoy the journey!

PS. Sometimes I sand laterally, sometimes I don't. I haven't found a much of difference, but many do.
 

randyrls

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ow my questions...
#1. This is the biggest pen I ever made. I chucked up a half inch brad bit and could not cut through this even though it wasn't that hard of a blank. I tried sharpening the (brand new) bit with a file and still the wood was heating up the bit and smoking. I'm positive that I shouldn't have to use this much pressure on the tail stock and besides the bit was starting to wander, making the hole too wide.

Todd; I would not use a brad point bit. The combination of 10.5mm and 12.5mm is a common one for larger pens. You can get high quality drill bits from MSC I have mixed feelings about multi step drilling. I drill on a drill press and support the blank from the bottom, so don't have any issues drilling in one go.
 

Todd in PA

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Todd; I would not use a brad point bit. The combination of 10.5mm and 12.5mm is a common one for larger pens. You can get high quality drill bits from MSC I have mixed feelings about multi step drilling. I drill on a drill press and support the blank from the bottom, so don't have any issues drilling in one go.
Well, that's 2 votes for using different drill bits. I drill on the lathe. My drill press is a cheap PITA with a very shallow plunge depth and adjusting it mid plunge is tedious. Should I get these? Is Chicago-Latrobe a good brand?


Thanks!
 

randyrls

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Yes Chicago-Latrobe is a good brand. 10 years ago I lucked out on a sale at MSC and got a complete 115 piece set (Fractional & Number & Letter) for under $200.
 

Madman1978

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Great Work It takes time to learn the CA finish. I now use GluBoost and LOVE it

#2. Unrelated, but I've got some wood on the way and some of it needs to be stabilized. My friend suggested using a penetrating resin --Polymer Composites, Max 1618 to stabilize it. Anyone know if this would work?

Catus Juice. Don't bother with anything else.
 

howsitwork

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If you’re drilling in the lathe - step drilling in 3mm stages is a great way to go but support the end of the blank so you don’t cause end shatter as you break through. Alternatively use over long blanks and don’t drill totally through cut to length later.
 

Jans husband

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I prefer step drilling on the lathe, my preferred method of drilling a blank. The blank is stable in the chuck throughout, and on a delicate blank you can manage the drilling process better with adjustable speed, and less chance of a breakout.
Works for me

Mike
 
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