Making blanks with craft sticks (tongue depressors)

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jrich7970

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So I saw an interesting video where some guy made some interesting blanks, and nice pens with craft sticks (essentially large popsicle sticks, or tongue depressors. He stained them, and got some very interesting patterns when he turned them. He just used regular old Titebond to glue them together. I was wondering if a) if you guys think this is sufficient, and b) do you think this pen would "hold up"? From what I gather, these sticks are made from birch, and aren't exactly the strongest things around.

I don't have any way to reinforce these. I was wondering if I used epoxy or CA to glue them together.

The reason I'm doing this is to make a pen for my daughter who is going into med school, and I want to make a pen with her school colors. I think it will be easier to match colors with stain rather than rely on colors of available woods. I'll also get a caduceus clip instead of the standard straight clip...get it? Caduceus...Med school?

Anyway, sure, I know I'll have to experiment, but it would help if you guys had any thoughts.

Thanks,

Jeff
 
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Kenny Durrant

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I personally think Titebond, CA or epoxy would work. The key is heat will break all glue down so the trick is drilling the blank. Go slow and clear the bit often. I also use the same sticks to tape to the blank to reenforce it when drilling. Once the tube is glued in place the brass will make it durable as far as the pen goes.
 

jttheclockman

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Jeff, they do sell spectraply pen blanks and you can get just about any colors. Just about all pen dealers sell these type blanks. You may have to search for your colors though. https://www.etsy.com/listing/720480...2663&msclkid=f77210a4c3d11d054fc04e5c28e44409

If you decide to go with the popsicle thing, remember you have to use dyes that are strong like trans tint dyes to get full penetration of color. Need to let dry and no I would not use CA or titebond to glue them together. I would use an epoxy such as JB Clearweld. The reason I say this when you dye the wood you are sealing the pores of the wood and glue will have a harder time getting in there. This is my opinion. Good luck.
 

jrich7970

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Jeff, they do sell spectraply pen blanks and you can get just about any colors. Just about all pen dealers sell these type blanks. You may have to search for your colors though. https://www.etsy.com/listing/720480...2663&msclkid=f77210a4c3d11d054fc04e5c28e44409

If you decide to go with the popsicle thing, remember you have to use dyes that are strong like trans tint dyes to get full penetration of color. Need to let dry and no I would not use CA or titebond to glue them together. I would use an epoxy such as JB Clearweld. The reason I say this when you dye the wood you are sealing the pores of the wood and glue will have a harder time getting in there. This is my opinion. Good luck.

I'll consider the epoxy. As for the dyes...I'm OK with the dye *NOT* penetrating the wood fully. Because I will get (I hope), an interesting white (from the birch where the dye has not seeped through), yellow and red (from the dye).

Regardless, when I finish these things (I'll try various ways, straight, diagonal, etc), I'll post pics. And maybe I'll try trans tint dyes too. Not sure how expensive the epoxy and the dyes are, but the sticks are pretty inexpensive. So, the only thing I have to "lose" is time. And I have plenty of that. She's not going into school for another month.

Thanks for the advice!

Jeff
 

jttheclockman

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I'll consider the epoxy. As for the dyes...I'm OK with the dye *NOT* penetrating the wood fully. Because I will get (I hope), an interesting white (from the birch where the dye has not seeped through), yellow and red (from the dye).

Regardless, when I finish these things (I'll try various ways, straight, diagonal, etc), I'll post pics. And maybe I'll try trans tint dyes too. Not sure how expensive the epoxy and the dyes are, but the sticks are pretty inexpensive. So, the only thing I have to "lose" is time. And I have plenty of that. She's not going into school for another month.

Thanks for the advice!

Jeff

Well Jeff just gave you my thoughts because you asked. Seems like you have a plan already so good luck and lets see the final pen. :)
 

jrich7970

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I wonder if regular old "Rit" dye would work. It says, cotton, wood, nylon, and more, on the bottle. And I will have it under a few layers of CA after I turn it. So it won't *wear* away. I suppose light could diminish the color over time though. But my tye-dye t-shirts still have color after repeated washings. :)
 

jrich7970

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jttheclockman

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I wonder if regular old "Rit" dye would work. It says, cotton, wood, nylon, and more, on the bottle. And I will have it under a few layers of CA after I turn it. So it won't *wear* away. I suppose light could diminish the color over time though. But my tye-dye t-shirts still have color after repeated washings. :)
I have used rit dyes and mix with denatured alcohol for coloring woods for birdhouse ornaments I make over the years and works well but then again I dye after the wood has been turned so it does not need to penetrate so deep. I have tried dying toothpicks and have had zero good results. But have come across a hint from someone here and I never got back to that project.
 

jrich7970

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I have used rit dyes and mix with denatured alcohol for coloring woods for birdhouse ornaments I make over the years and works well but then again I dye after the wood has been turned so it does not need to penetrate so deep. I have tried dying toothpicks and have had zero good results. But have come across a hint from someone here and I never got back to that project.

Cool. Again, inexpensive. So I can afford to mess up. My only issue is time.

Looking forward to trying this!
 

jrich7970

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I have used rit dyes and mix with denatured alcohol for coloring woods for birdhouse ornaments I make over the years and works well but then again I dye after the wood has been turned so it does not need to penetrate so deep. I have tried dying toothpicks and have had zero good results. But have come across a hint from someone here and I never got back to that project.

So what does the alcohol do for the dye?
 

JohnU

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It penetrates into the wood and evaporates leaving the dye in the wood. You would not want to put water on your blank and expect it to hold its shape or put a finish over it any time soon.
 

jttheclockman

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John is correct. When you use water you expand the wood or at times raise the grain. When you try to avoid this then use DNA.
 
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20 years ago I was needing a pen in blue/orange colors for our daughters college graduation. Not finding anything in the appropriate colors. I resorted to a glue up of dyed tongue depressors. The tongue depressors were sorted to eliminate obvious defects, placed in a quart jar using Trans Tint liquid dye diluted with alcohol, then used a vacuum sealer to draw the air out and the dye in. Don't recall how long the tongue depressors were allowed to remain under vacuum. I believe several hours. Periodically I'd run the vacuum sealer to further infuse the dye. Results were good (acceptable), not great. Still some had stubborn light colored streaks. A good percentage warped, cupped, twisted. Regardless I proceeded to do a glue up with the best pieces after the pens dried for a few days after sorting for appearance. 24 hours clamping time after glue up using Tight Bond 2. Light cuts, sharp tools. CA finish. Had so many surplus depressors that I made a pen stand with some of the surplus, complete with pen funnels. Had her name laser engraved upon it. 20-years later it's still working, no cracks.
 

Bob in SF

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Jeff - I like the Jacquard silk dyes - beautiful colors - steam fix in a parchment packet in a vegetable steamer or fix without steaming using Jacquard Dye-set Concentrate.

Check out the colors:

Congrats to your daughter - long but worthy adventure.

Have fun - Bob
 

jrich7970

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Well....that didn't go well. Blank cracked while turning. At that point, the mandrel had nothing anchoring it down on the tail end (I was using a mandrel saver), and it bent the mandrel. I bent it back by hand, but I'm not sure it's straight. I tried to make sure it was with a square, and it looked OK, but when I put it into the lathe and turned it by hand, it looked like it was moving. But, again, there was nothing anchoring it down on the tail. I'll find out I guess, next time I try to turn something, which might be tomorrow. Also, I purchased some yellowheart and bloodwood to make another set of blanks. The craft stick experiment didn't go too well.

Sure, I can buy another mandrel, but it takes so damn long to get things delivered. Which is also why I can't turn a blank today....I have no tubes or any other pen kits. I think I need to invest in spare parts of everything just in case stuff like this happens again, and I'm sure it will.
 

jttheclockman

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Well....that didn't go well. Blank cracked while turning. At that point, the mandrel had nothing anchoring it down on the tail end (I was using a mandrel saver), and it bent the mandrel. I bent it back by hand, but I'm not sure it's straight. I tried to make sure it was with a square, and it looked OK, but when I put it into the lathe and turned it by hand, it looked like it was moving. But, again, there was nothing anchoring it down on the tail. I'll find out I guess, next time I try to turn something, which might be tomorrow. Also, I purchased some yellowheart and bloodwood to make another set of blanks. The craft stick experiment didn't go too well.

Sure, I can buy another mandrel, but it takes so damn long to get things delivered. Which is also why I can't turn a blank today....I have no tubes or any other pen kits. I think I need to invest in spare parts of everything just in case stuff like this happens again, and I'm sure it will.
You learn real quick to at least order extra tubes for kits you like to use most. I try to with any kit I order. Cheap insurance. Why did the blank crack?? What glue did you use?? Did you round over the edges before turning or did it crack from drilling for tube. Mabe a photo will help us understand what went wrong. Maybe we can suggest something for the next attempt. You can always turn between centers and not need mandrels.
 

jrich7970

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You learn real quick to at least order extra tubes for kits you like to use most. I try to with any kit I order. Cheap insurance. Why did the blank crack?? What glue did you use?? Did you round over the edges before turning or did it crack from drilling for tube. Mabe a photo will help us understand what went wrong. Maybe we can suggest something for the next attempt. You can always turn between centers and not need mandrels.

I eschewed your advice on the adhesive, since I haven't received my epoxy yet, and this was just a "trial", I used Titebond....well, either I didn't use enough, or didn't clamp it long enough or, it just won't work (although I've seen people on YouTube use it). It flat out cracked right along one of the sticks.

It was also "not turning well". My tools are pretty sharp, and it had lots of rough edges. Presumably it would have sanded up OK. I did NOT round over the edges before turning. I'll send a pic if I can find it, I tossed it in the trash.

I hear you on the extra parts.

My next question though...I bought bloodwood and yellowheart that I plan on gluing together (YES, with the epoxy), but I worry about the yellowheart getting tainted from the dust from the bloodwood. I saw somewhere someone said something about a sanding sealer. But I dont really understand how I could practically use that while in the process of turning. Or, perhaps, you use that *after* turning, while sanding?
 

jttheclockman

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That is too bad on the popsicle stick project but do not give up on it. Try other things and you find something that works. To answer your question about wood cross contamination from sanding dust, I find the best way to beat that is forgo the sanding all together and I like to just finish the blank with a sharp skew. No need for sandpaper because you will top with Ca or another finish anyway. If you are good with a skew you get a smooth blank. You can use other tools too to get that look. There are people here that use thin Ca as they are turning to both seal the woods when sanding and also keep from breaking. Here you need to apply every so often as you either turn away the wood or sand it away. You do not rub it in just drip it on with lathe off and make one pass with a paper towel. Little goes a long way. Never used sanding sealer but CA is basically the same thing. Good luck. You can look in my album and see many examples of different colored woods used together and never a cross contamination of dust colors.
 

jrich7970

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That is too bad on the popsicle stick project but do not give up on it. Try other things and you find something that works. To answer your question about wood cross contamination from sanding dust, I find the best way to beat that is forgo the sanding all together and I like to just finish the blank with a sharp skew. No need for sandpaper because you will top with Ca or another finish anyway. If you are good with a skew you get a smooth blank. You can use other tools too to get that look. There are people here that use thin Ca as they are turning to both seal the woods when sanding and also keep from breaking. Here you need to apply every so often as you either turn away the wood or sand it away. You do not rub it in just drip it on with lathe off and make one pass with a paper towel. Little goes a long way. Never used sanding sealer but CA is basically the same thing. Good luck. You can look in my album and see many examples of different colored woods used together and never a cross contamination of dust colors.

Well...I don't have a skew. All I have is some carbide tipped chisels, one rounded square, circle, and a point.

I'll look at your album. And I'll probably have questions next week when my wood arrives.
 

jttheclockman

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Well...I don't have a skew. All I have is some carbide tipped chisels, one rounded square, circle, and a point.

I'll look at your album. And I'll probably have questions next week when my wood arrives.
you can very easily use a carbide cutter as a skew. Good luck.
 

jrich7970

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So, I've read some reviews on Rockler regarding some multi-wood blanks blowing out or breaking during turning. Quite a few of them actually. Maybe their blanks suck or something, or, it's just a general problem.

I am assuming if I make my blanks with wood and epoxy, a decent epoxy I'll be OK. I've given up on the popsicle stick idea because what I did end up with didn't turn out like I wanted anyway.
 
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