Fixing cracks in finished blanks?

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jrista

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Aug 12, 2021
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I recently turned a more expensive kit, with a faux stone blank. I tried to manage heat, and the blank did get warm, but not hot. When I first assembled the pen, it was in great condition...there were a couple hairline cracks that did not separate, that I think were due to slightly over-tightening the bushings (as I first noticed them while still on the bushings).

I let the fully assembled pen sit overnight, and the next day I noticed, in different areas than the hairlines (which are still hairlines), there were two new cracks:

image005.jpg


It gets a lot colder at night here, than it is during the days. Its high 80s, 90s during the day, and low 50s, sometimes even 40s at night. I let the house get cool, as I'm a furnace myself. I have been wondering if these could have been due to the blanks cooling? They were wet sanded for final finishing, through 12000 grit, so I don't think that really causes much heat (in fact, I figured that mgiht even cool the bit of warmth of the blanks from turning.)

Anyway...this was a nicer kit, and overall a decent amount of money. I don't think I can disassemble it, as the cap uses some plastic parts to protect the nib, and I haven't figured out a way to disassemble it without damaging that, at the very least. I am wondering if anyone has ever tried to repair a crack like this. I know I won't be able to entirely eliminate them, but I have the cutoff from the blank that was left over after cutting the part for the body and cap. These faux stone powderize when crushed...and I figure I should be able to make a filler of some kind... Just not really sure what the best binder might be. Has anyone ever done something like that? I feel the pen, which is beautiful otherwise, could still be a viable pen, if the cracks could be repaired.
 
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Dalecamino

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Nope! I have two zipper cases of pens that cracked, when I left them in my car in the winter for a few hours. Our friends here said the brass tubes swell in extreme temperatures. Hot or cold. One of the pens is a really high end fountain pen (Emperor) with a $100.00 nib, dressed in 1930's black Bakelite. The cracks are still there in the cases. If you care to disassemble the pens, you can do some segmenting work, by parting off the cracked ends, and add a complimenting wood or some other material with an accent ring between the two pieces. OR, use the left over pieces of the same material you have, with an accent ring. Good luck!
 

egnald

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Greetings from Nebraska. That is really too bad. Cracks are a bugger to deal with. I can't think of anything you can do to make them less noticeable - and even more important to make sure they don't continue to propagate. Fortunately whenever this has happened to one of my pens I have been able to disassemble it without damaging anything.

I have never had anything crack while it was still on the bushings. They always seem to show up for me when I am pressing the parts together. Now, if I have a hard, brittle, or prone to cracking material, I take the following steps to try to mitigate the chance of cracking.

First, I use epoxy to glue the tubes in and twist and such when I am inserting them to make sure that all of the surfaces between the tube and the blank get glue.

Then, before I press parts together I make sure that the parts don't fit too tight into the tube. I use a chainsaw file to open up the tube a little if it feels like the parts will be too tight. Brass is somewhat malleable so it can stretch when the parts are pressed in. This causes pressure and stress on the blank which can cause cracking, especially if the turned walls of the blank are very thin. I also use a swab to smear a little wax on the inside of the tube before I press the parts in. (I don't know if it does anything for sure, but my thinking is that it provides a small degree of lubrication to help the parts slide together a little easier).

I hope someone on the forum has had experience in making repairs that can help you come up with a solution. From what I can see in the picture it is otherwise a very attractive pen.

Regards,
Dave
 

PatrickR

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The only way I have successfully taken that kind apart (with the plastic threaded insert) was to break the blank off first.
fixing the cracks will probably always show And more may develop.
personally I would replace the blank. If with a similar material sand the tubes to make a slip fit and use locktight red on assembly.
if you want to try and fix them - there is a saying in the visual arts “if you cant hide it, make it obvious”. You could open the cracks with a dremel and then fill with your choice of resin + filler. Ive seen crushed turquoise used before.
 

jrista

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Colorado
Nope! I have two zipper cases of pens that cracked, when I left them in my car in the winter for a few hours. Our friends here said the brass tubes swell in extreme temperatures. Hot or cold. One of the pens is a really high end fountain pen (Emperor) with a $100.00 nib, dressed in 1930's black Bakelite. The cracks are still there in the cases. If you care to disassemble the pens, you can do some segmenting work, by parting off the cracked ends, and add a complimenting wood or some other material with an accent ring between the two pieces. OR, use the left over pieces of the same material you have, with an accent ring. Good luck!

Ouch! A $100 nib, and the Bakelite...that must have been a painful pen to lose...

Parting off the cracked parts and going for a segmented look is an interesting idea. I'll have to give that some thought.

The only way I have successfully taken that kind apart (with the plastic threaded insert) was to break the blank off first.
fixing the cracks will probably always show And more may develop.
personally I would replace the blank. If with a similar material sand the tubes to make a slip fit and use locktight red on assembly.
if you want to try and fix them - there is a saying in the visual arts “if you cant hide it, make it obvious”. You could open the cracks with a dremel and then fill with your choice of resin + filler. Ive seen crushed turquoise used before.

Yeah! I was thinking about that...using an obvious filler in the cracks. I have some gold mica pigment that I've been considering. I think, just like cracks in wood, it might work if I filled the crack with mica, then used one of my super thin CA glue applicator tubes to seal with CA. The cracks are a bit wider today, so I think I could indeed fit in the mica powder properly. If that fails for some reason, I could always do the part and segment approach Chuck recommended.
 

jrista

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Colorado
Greetings from Nebraska. That is really too bad. Cracks are a bugger to deal with. I can't think of anything you can do to make them less noticeable - and even more important to make sure they don't continue to propagate. Fortunately whenever this has happened to one of my pens I have been able to disassemble it without damaging anything.

I have never had anything crack while it was still on the bushings. They always seem to show up for me when I am pressing the parts together. Now, if I have a hard, brittle, or prone to cracking material, I take the following steps to try to mitigate the chance of cracking.

First, I use epoxy to glue the tubes in and twist and such when I am inserting them to make sure that all of the surfaces between the tube and the blank get glue.

Then, before I press parts together I make sure that the parts don't fit too tight into the tube. I use a chainsaw file to open up the tube a little if it feels like the parts will be too tight. Brass is somewhat malleable so it can stretch when the parts are pressed in. This causes pressure and stress on the blank which can cause cracking, especially if the turned walls of the blank are very thin. I also use a swab to smear a little wax on the inside of the tube before I press the parts in. (I don't know if it does anything for sure, but my thinking is that it provides a small degree of lubrication to help the parts slide together a little easier).

I hope someone on the forum has had experience in making repairs that can help you come up with a solution. From what I can see in the picture it is otherwise a very attractive pen.

Regards,
Dave

That is an interesting point you make about the parts fitting well into the tubes. I'm always worried they won't be snug enough...but, I wonder if this time around, that was in fact the problem...the parts pushed the blank out, and caused the cracks...

I'll have to give the wax tip a try, too. There is always a point, it seems, when assembling, that the parts get stuck, and require more force to get them moving again. That was the case with this kit. In the end, the pen parts and blank came together smoothly, and the cracks didn't show up right away...but, honestly this seems more plausible than just cooling. These blanks turn down somewhat thick with this kit, and they never got hotter than "Warm" to the touch.

Well, I think I'm going to try using some of the gold mica inlay I have, with very careful application of CA, and see how that comes out. If its a bust, then I'll fall back on making it segmented in some way.
 

jrista

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Ive got to ask, where is the antique looking journal from?
wax should help, I use nose oil!
great pen!
Thanks. :) I really want to fix it! It came out so well. First pen I turned that hasn't had vibration problems during turning, so I was able to turn the blank down to just the right size.

Journals come from here:

 

TonyL

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Mar 9, 2014
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Georgia
That has happened to me in indoor temperatures (66 to 75). For me, it usually occurs during assembly. I now insert the more hardware slowly, but there is no guarantee it will not happen (or happen later) . I guess the brass expands as the h/w is inserted.

Beautiful pen and combination though. I do not know how to repair. I would disassemble; at least the components can be used again.
 

Chasper

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That looks like a Triton or Jr Statesman. No way to fix it, but it can be disassembled. I've done it several times with only a moderate amount of swearing in the process. If a pen doesn't sell after a year or so of trying I disassemble and reuse the parts. Tritons are the toughest to disassemble.

Remove the nib unit and finial from the pen section. Use a thin transfer punch (about 1/8-3/16) to knock out one of the threaded components.
1. Hold it in your hand and put some pressure on the side of the punch so the other end catches on the small lip of the threaded part. Use a hammer to tap it our. You will need to tap a few time then turn it half a rotation and tap more. Repeat several times. Try hitting it harder and harder to find the limit to the max you can hit it without slipping off the lip.
2. When you get the first threaded part out the second one is easy because you can use a transfer punch that is almost as large at the tube.
3. For the cap use the biggest punch that will fit all the way to the part that is holding the clip in place. It will come out easy but you may knock the gold ornament off the clip holder. It can be pressed back in place.
4. Now comes the hard part, the black plastic insert and the metal parts that make up the center band. Use the largest punch you can fit into the tube. You can drive the black plastic piece out is you hit it over and over, harder and harder. Hold it tight in your fist and hit the punch hard with a heavy hammer. After you pound it 200-300 times and do a considerable amount of swearing you should be able to get it out.
 

jrista

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I think there may be a chance to fix it. I have these ultra fine CA glue applicators...the tip should just fit into the cracks. I am hoping I can be careful enough to get some mica powder in there, and just enough CA. I can then try to sand and polish it down again.

That looks like a Triton or Jr Statesman. No way to fix it, but it can be disassembled. I've done it several times with only a moderate amount of swearing in the process. If a pen doesn't sell after a year or so of trying I disassemble and reuse the parts. Tritons are the toughest to disassemble.

Remove the nib unit and finial from the pen section. Use a thin transfer punch (about 1/8-3/16) to knock out one of the threaded components.
1. Hold it in your hand and put some pressure on the side of the punch so the other end catches on the small lip of the threaded part. Use a hammer to tap it our. You will need to tap a few time then turn it half a rotation and tap more. Repeat several times. Try hitting it harder and harder to find the limit to the max you can hit it without slipping off the lip.
2. When you get the first threaded part out the second one is easy because you can use a transfer punch that is almost as large at the tube.
3. For the cap use the biggest punch that will fit all the way to the part that is holding the clip in place. It will come out easy but you may knock the gold ornament off the clip holder. It can be pressed back in place.
4. Now comes the hard part, the black plastic insert and the metal parts that make up the center band. Use the largest punch you can fit into the tube. You can drive the black plastic piece out is you hit it over and over, harder and harder. Hold it tight in your fist and hit the punch hard with a heavy hammer. After you pound it 200-300 times and do a considerable amount of swearing you should be able to get it out.

It's definitely a Triton. I like that kit. I wonder if the black plastic insert was the reason the cap cracked. That insert is pretty tight, and you have to push the whole thing into the tube. I wonder if that put enough pressure on the tube to crack the blank. The blank on the cap is thick...over a millimeter.

If I can't get the cracks filled in with something, I'll disassemble and try again. I like the kit, its very nice for the price (which seems to be a bit cheaper ATM than when I first bought it...I bought a while back.)
 

its_virgil

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The nib is not a loss. The blank is. A repaired cracked barrel or cap is still a cracked barrel or cap. Disassemble and repair the barrel and cap and use the pen as a personal pen. Or disassemble and start over. I know this is not what you wanted to hear but you should not repair and sell the pen. Just my opinion.
Do a good turn daily!
Don
 

jrista

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Colorado
Well, I took the disassembly route. After checking my ultra fine CA glue applicators, even they were not small enough to get into the cracks. Just a bit too large.

Whoever said it was the pen parts that pushed out the blank and caused the cracks was right. After disassembly, at first, I couldn't even find any of the cracks. It took some very close scrutinizing to find the one in the pen body, and then I was only able to see about a millimeter from the edge of the blank in...the rest of the crack was invisible. I couldn't even find the one in the cap until I put the pen part in that end a little ways, then the crack appeared very slightly again.

So, its definitely a pen part problem... I'm now wondering how much of the brass I could take off, to avoid the issue...and still have a sufficient compression fit. Or...should I just try to thin out the brass as much as I can, and then just glue the parts in (I kind of hate that idea...but, maybe its better...)
 

PatrickR

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If you can make them apparent, do so and fill the crack with thin CA, remove the part so that the crack closes, allow the CA to cure (24hrs) then re-polish.
I would sand the tubes enough to get a slip fit and then use Locktite (red), not glue. You can still disassemble it later but may have to apply heat first.
with all that said, do not be surprised if it does not crack again/more in the future.
 

jrista

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Well, the cap is toast. So that's it for this set of blanks and tubes. Will have to start over with a new set of tube, it seems.
 

egnald

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If you glued the tubes in with CA you should be able to re-claim them by soaking them in a jar of acetone and it will eventually dissolve the CA. I don’t know if acetone will dissolve epoxy though. Dave
 

jrista

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If you glued the tubes in with CA you should be able to re-claim them by soaking them in a jar of acetone and it will eventually dissolve the CA. I don’t know if acetone will dissolve epoxy though. Dave
I usually do use epoxy. I apparently glue my blanks really well, because it was a lengthy chore getting all the blank parts off the tube, so I could then get the tube off the pen parts. At least I know my pens should never have any tube separation problems or anything like that...
 
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