Looking for buffing advice

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Radu

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Feb 21, 2022
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Hi,

This is my first post here. I'm new to pen turning, having done about 10 so far. They have gotten better, and I really like the shine I put using CA. I buffed and polished on the lathe using Macguiar Ultimate Compound and Ultimate Polish (I have some from some river tables I made).
IMG_20220326_224937857.jpg


However, as many others, I hate the smell. I've purchased Aussie Oil based on reviews, and used it on a couple of pens with Olive wood. It came out pretty shinny, though not as much as CA. I tried buffing and polishing as I do with CA, and all the shine immediately went away. I had to apply more coats of Aussie to get it back.

My question is how to buff the Aussie. I purchased the Penn States polishing system, but I'm not sure I want to use it. I worry the wax will wear off quickly and leave the surface worse than if I hadn't applied it at all.
IMG_20220314_123009656 (1).jpg

I also have Odie's Oil and Wax, which I've used on tables, and it's nice, but I've not heard of people using it on pens. Any thoughts on whether using wax is necessary on Aussie Oil, and or it would cause the pens to look worse in the long term? I imagine most of the pens I make will end up with family and people who don't do any maintenance on them.
 
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monophoto

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Radu

Many pen makers prefer a CA finish because it is tough and long lasting, can be applied fairly quickly, and because it can be buffed to a high gloss.

However, there are also folks like you who don't like the smell and messiness of CA.

The problem with a plain oil finish on pens is that it penetrates into the surface of the wood, but doesn't leave a protective film over the surface. As a results, oil finishes aren't ideal for things like pens that are meant to be handled. And while oil finishes can be buffed, they won't be nearly as shiny as a hard, film-finish like CA. On the other hand, a pen finished in oil will retain the feel of the underlying wood - something that you can't get with CA. Some people prefer that.

An alternative to CA that provides essentially the same physical protection as CA, and that can be buffed to a high gloss, is polyurethane. Unfortunately, polyurethane finishes require more time to apply. But polyurethane was originally developed for finishing floors where is is constantly walked on, so it potentially is even tougher than CA.

Solvent-based polyurethane finishes can be applied by wiping or dipping. Wiping is probably more popular, and there are products (wipe-on poly, for example) that are ideally suited for this application. But several (4-6) coats are required, with 4-8 hours between coatings for curing. Dipping is much faster, but its messy - you have to build a rig to dip pens in containers of polyurethane, and then squeegee them off to prevent finish from pooling on the surface. Another form of application is the 'rotisserie method' - a heavy coat of poly is applied using a brush with the turned item slowly rotating on the lathe or on a dedicated slow-speed finishing machine, and then the item is allowed to continue to rotate for several hours while the finish cures. The idea is that the constant motion of rotation causes the finish to level itself rather than pooling or forming drips. Usually 3-4 coats are sufficient to build a fairly thick coat that can be buffed to a very high gloss.

Another option is water-bourne polyurethane. This can be faster to apply because it cures much faster, but it is almost colorless which means that it may not be ideal for use with lighter colored timbers.

Finally, waxing is a great way to put a 'show finish' on an item, but that finish won't last long if the item is handled. So waxes really aren't ideal for pens.
 

jrista

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I hate the smell of CA as well, and...CA hates me! :p It causes a fairly severe respiratory reaction in me. I think its an issue that came out of progressive exposure (when I didn't know I was getting exposed most of the time), and I think anyone can potentially develop the same issues I have, based on my research.

Because CA is so dangerous to me, I switched to Dr's Woodshop Pens Plus. So, Pens Plus is a friction polish, with an oil base (walnut oil...but, a very clear, neutral colored oil, not the brown or amber colored walnut oils you can often find, like Mahoneys), shellac, DNA, aaaand: synthetic microcrystalline wax! The last bit is the magic ingredient. This finish is the only one I've found, over the last...oh, 7-8 months if trying, that seems to give me the same glass-like finish as I could get with CA:

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The microcrystalline was, and proper application technique, are key to getting this shine. The wax is the same synthetic was used in this:


This is a finish that you do not want to "build up" like CA. Instead, I have found it works best as a thin finish on top of the wood. It seems to work best when the wood is first finished with the pure Dr's Woodshop Walnut Oil, which is a nearly perfectly clear (very slight yellowish tint) oil. You can apply the oil as initial coats, or even wet-sand the blank with the walnut oil. BEST to sand up to the highest grit you can...your blank should shine with a satin shine on its own before the finish is applied for best results. A high heat friction polish (burn your finger for a few seconds kind of hot), and you should get an exceptional shiny finish:

EV1KgwW.jpg



Regarding durability. My opinion is, when applied and handled properly, Pens Plus is the next best thing to CA. It is NOT a hard coat...however, it doesn't scratch like a hard coat either. You can get scratches, but they are more like dents, gouges, not the kind of scratching you get with plastics or any resin blank. The key to maintaining the reflectivity and making sure the finish cures properly, is to not touch it with your fingers (or anything really) until its properly dried. I use a simple tool (I made a few wood tools from simple dowel with some washers sandwiched between nuts on one end as a stop, but a screwdriver will work as well) to remove the blanks from the lathe after finishing. I then drop them on a simple rack of dowels glued into a piece of wood, where I let them dry. I don't touch them for hours...to make sure they are fully cured, I leave em for 8 hours (or overnight). Once cured, the finish is resilient, pretty darn durable, should never exhibit scratching like any normal plastic surface, but may over time pick up dents or gouges. Personally, I prefer the way Pens Plus finished pens age, over how CA ages...there is going to be aging either way, but there is a certain aesthetic to how an aged finish looks and I think Pens Plus nails it.
 

NGLJ

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I am interested in this because I have kind of given up on CA. No question it gives the best and most durable finish but it can get quite expensive and is not nice to use as has been stated. Right now I am trying EEE Ultra Shine Polish (friction polish) after sanding to 600 grit. Then Shellawax Liquid (high-melt-temperature waxes with a modified shellac base) which gives a reasonably shiny finish but nothing like CA. I finish off with a hard wax finishing polish. I have shown the result of both CA and my current approach to my wife and others and interestingly not everybody picked the CA finish for appearance. It was about 50/50. When I asked about the reason for the choices those favoring CA said "it doesn't look natural". Personally, if I could go with CA I would choose that but... So I am still looking!
 

Joebobber

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If you are going to buff, you should use a sealer of some type to fill in any open pores. Then buff. You will get a much better finish that way. Even a coat of or 2 of thin ca and even it out. But I am referring to the tripoli/white diamond/ carnuba buffing
 

Radu

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Feb 21, 2022
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Thanks everybody for the suggestions. I work out of a Maker space, since I don't have my own shop. That makes it difficult to leave things to cure over an extended period of time.

I have considered PenPlus, and there was a thread a while back asking for a comparison with Aussie Oil. Unfortunately, I didn't see an answer there. Aussie Oil is a misnomer, it is an oil and a shellawax mix, so there is some hard wax component, giving it some durability. I was just wondering if I should wax on top of that.

Based on the suggestions I see here, it seems I should give PenPlus a try and forget about buffing and waxing with tripoli/white diamond/carnuba. I saw some videos from Dr Woodshop where he was recommending using Microcrystalline wax on top of PenPlus. I'm not going to a pen show and I care more about long term durability.
 

jttheclockman

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Louie said it all in his post. Oils will not produce a shine for long periods of time because they are absorbed in woods. If you want a durable finish it has to be a hard shell top coat such as CA, Poly, Lacquers and shellacs. Any of these combinations with all these fancy names is just that a combination with a top coat. You could make your own. They do make no smell CA so that is an option too. Yes it is more costly but maybe the thing that helps you. A small price to pay. Be judicial with it and it can go a long way.
 

jrista

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I have considered PenPlus, and there was a thread a while back asking for a comparison with Aussie Oil. Unfortunately, I didn't see an answer there. Aussie Oil is a misnomer, it is an oil and a shellawax mix, so there is some hard wax component, giving it some durability. I was just wondering if I should wax on top of that.

I saw that shellawax listed a wax component. I've looked high and low to figure out what wax, exactly, and could never find anything. Not all wax is created equal, though... The synthetic microcrystalline wax in Pens Plus is the magic ingredient. I've screwed around with finishing pens with different kinds of waxes. There is a REMARKABLE difference with the microcrystalline wax...it is substantially clearer, shinier, than any other wax I've played with. With buffing, using either beeswax or carnauba, the finish is maybe a satin sheen, but never glass-like shiny.

Remember, this microcrystalline wax is the same stuff as in Renaissance Wax. There is a reason that wax is revered so much! The basic science behind it is wax crystal size, shape and regularity. Carnauba, for example, has larger crystals, and more irregular crystals. The Cosmolloid 80H synthetic wax in Pens Plus and RenWax has small, regular, and more round crystals. This is what allows it to take on such a clear and reflective look in the end.

Based on the suggestions I see here, it seems I should give PenPlus a try and forget about buffing and waxing with tripoli/white diamond/carnuba. I saw some videos from Dr Woodshop where he was recommending using Microcrystalline wax on top of PenPlus. I'm not going to a pen show and I care more about long term durability.

So, I'm not sure what he was recommending, but I suspect it wasn't Pens Plus. You do not need to use any separate microcrystalline wax with Pens Plus, because its already in Pens Plus. That's what Pens Plus is, Cosmolloid 80H microcrystalline wax mixed with a friction polish made out of ultra blonde shellac, pure clear walnut oil and DNA. When applied right, the result is a hardwax finish that is crystal clear, no need for any additional finishes (i.e. no need for additional microcrystalline wax, its already there), no buffing, etc.

The only thing that is really required with Pens Plus is the smoothest sanded surface you can get. Sanding to 5000 standard grit (or say 1 micron Zona paper) so the wood shines on its own, will give you the best result you can get with Pens Plus. Finishing with a coat or two of the pure walnut oil can help limit how much of the Pens Plus is absorbed into the wood, and I do that as a matter of course these days as well (if the pens plus itself is allowed to soak into the wood, you get dull spots, and that can be tough to work out, often resulting in too much finish which lead to a sticky finish). Once you apply pens plus properly, and it shines with the right gloss, you're done, no need to do anything else. You already have the best finish you can get. ;)
 

TDahl

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Here is a link to a video on building a squeegee jig Louie (Monophoto) had mentioned above:

 

monophoto

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If you want a durable finish it has to be a hard shell top coat such as CA, Poly, Lacquers and shellacs.
While I generally agree with this statement, I will take issue of including shellac as an ideal finish for pens. I know many people use it, but it will degrade over time from oils from the users hands.

Several people have mentioned friction polish as an option - it does form a protective coating that can be buffed to a gloss, and you can build the thickness of that coating with multiple applications, and it can be applied quickly. Most friction polishes are based on shellac and are essentially a modification of the old technique called French Polishing. But you can buy or make friction polishes that are based on lacquer rather than shellac, and a lacquer based finish will stand up to handling far better than a shellac based finish.

Capt Eddie's Shine Juice is a very common form of shellac-based friction polish, but it can be made with lacquer following the same basic formula - one-third lacquer, one-third lacquer thinner, and one-third oil (BLO, walnut oil or Tung oil are the most common choices).

One thing to be aware of when applying hard finishes - multiple applications of CA or poly result in multiple layers of the coating, and the more layers you apply, the thicker the overall coating will be. Shellac and lacquer are a little different in that successive applications don't actually apply additional layers of finish. Instead, the solvent in the finish softens the previously applied finish such that succcessive applications are actually bonded into and become part of a single coating that gradually builds with additional applications of finish. As a result, it may take more applications to build a desired thickness with shellac or lacquer than it would with CA or poly. May not be a big difference, but this does suggest that more applications may be required to achieve the desired final result.
 

jttheclockman

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As I agree with Louie about using shellac as an ideal top coat for pens but my point was that it is a top coat and that is what is needed for protection of pens to be durable. What product is most durable is a debatable discussion. There are different types of shellac as well as different mixtures which can be made to compensate for applications. The nonuse of CA and the use of friction polishes is the opposite spectrum of top coating. Many products out there to get that finish you want. Here is a nice article that can help with top coats and what is available. Good luck.

https://www.finepowertools.com/woodworking/varnish-vs-lacquer-vs-polyurethane-vs-shellac/
 

Radu

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Feb 21, 2022
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Thanks again everybody, for the thoughtful advice. It seems there are quite a number of things to other finishes to try out. I'll give PenPlus and lacquer a shot, and perhaps gluboost. As an aside, I've reached out to PSI, and they suggested not to use anything on top of Aussie Oil/Wax.
 
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