Paua abalone blank

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qquake

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Has anybody turned one of these blanks? Are they "chippy" like the money blanks? Those were a bear. I ended up using a carbide chisel, and 100 grit for final shaping. Any hints or tips? It's an expensive blank, if I ruined it I would cry. A friend of mine is getting married, and this is what she chose for her wedding pen. Is it laser engraveable after it's turned?

 
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magpens

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I would say it is not laser engraveable after it is turned (or at anytime). . But I have never tried.

Turning these causes me no trouble. . I use carbide tool on a metal-working lathe, taking cuts of up to 5 thou thickness (very small by a wood-turner's reckoning but that is normal for me with an "acrylic" blank of any kind, and not unreasonably slow.). . Have experienced NO chipping.

It makes a very beautiful pen, very suitable for a wedding. . Good luck !
 

magpens

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Why do you say it's not engraveable?
My first reaction. . I have no experience so I should not have said anything.
I guess you can engrave a pen that includes a clear "acrylic" cast "overcoat", but I don't recall seeing one.
When I think of engraving a pen, it is a fairly plain wood pen that comes to mind.
A wedding pen is a very special pen and I can understand your thinking of engraving it.
But from an aesthetic point of view, it seems to me that the textual engraving might just "clash" a little bit with the abalone patterning and subtle segmentation (abalone strip lines). . Just my uninformed thinking, perhaps.
 

jttheclockman

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I believe Ron uses Alumilite but could be wrong for the first time. :) He lists his blanks as polyester resin so not sure.
 
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jttheclockman

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How is Alumilite to turn? All it says on the website is, "As with all polyester resins, sharp tools are a must."
The only alumilite I have turned was blanks I got from someone. Had no problem. But then again I have not found a blank I could not turn. You find out right away if it is chippy and then go to carbide. Those blanks are very thick to start so that they will take some to get down to pen size. Light cuts, sharp tools are a must with any blank.
 

qquake

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My first reaction. . I have no experience so I should not have said anything. I guess you can engrave a pen that includes a clear "acrylic" cast "overcoat", but I don't recall seeing one. When I think of engraving a pen, it is a fairly plain wood pen that comes to mind. A wedding pen is a very special pen and I can understand your thinking of engraving it. But from an aesthetic point of view, it seems to me that the textual engraving might just "clash" a little bit with the abalone patterning and subtle segmentation (abalone strip lines). . Just my uninformed thinking, perhaps.
The engraver I use will fill the engraving if desired. I've done it before with wedding pens.
 

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JohnU

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I think alumilite and PR are the two smoothest resins to turn without being real brittle or overly hard like others out there. In any turning, use sharp tools. I turn them both with carbide and HS steel with no problems. Alumilite turns well. You will probably want to put a ca finish over it because it doesn’t shine as well finished like PR. Also, it doesn’t sand real well and gums the paper up pretty quick so you will want to turn it pretty close to finished size.
 

magpens

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I don't think that abalone blank is cast in Alumilite, but I could be wrong.

Alumilite is a "turner's dream". . I have no hesitation in recommending Alumilite to you or anyone. . I LOVE it and have done lots of it.
It does not shine up as well as some other materials but it does polish up fairly well to a pretty good shine.
In my experience, it is NOT at all "chippy".
 
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greenacres2

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I've done a few of those shells, definitely Alumilite. And definitely easy to turn, for me the easiest man-made material i've used. Now...if i'd not turned Alumilite before, i'd probably find a few $4 to $7 Alumilite blanks and get a feel for it before i tried it--good to build a finishing technique. Sharp tools not because the material is particularly hard or brittle, but to get a better start on the finish. You'll want a good polished finished to show the abalone. On Tim McKenzie's Diamond cast blanks Tim suggests a thin coat of CA as a finish to show the diamond luster. On the Paua abalone, i just to a crystaline finish without any CA. Novus 1-2-3 is my final polish.
earl
 

Jolly Red

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Play it safe and turn the cutoff of the blank the same as your pen. Then try engraving the cutoff. You will find out real quick what will happen.
P.S. Let us know how it turns out.
Tom
 

JohnU

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I don’t think engraving it would be the issue. Seeing the engraving clearly with all of the character behind it might be the problem.
I think Ron’s abalone blanks are PR not Alumilite. Either way they turn very nicely.
 

jttheclockman

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I too do not believe there would be any problem engraving. Just need a dark color like black maybe as an infill to make it stand out. Maybe gold.
 

greenacres2

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I don’t think engraving it would be the issue. Seeing the engraving clearly with all of the character behind it might be the problem.
I think Ron’s abalone blanks are PR not Alumilite. Either way they turn very nicely.
Thanks John--i was thinking the other way, and apologize for misinforming. Definitely easy to turn--as are the blanks i've gotten from your stables!!
earl
 

Curly

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I might be the only one but I think laser engraving may not work. I thing the laser light will pass through the clear resin until it hits the shell. That would burn underneath the resin but with the smoke and gasses having nowhere to go would make a mess. I have no proof this would happen, just a speculation on my part.
 

rsieracki

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I've made several of them, i like carbide and i generally turn them on my metal lathe till they are close to size then pop them on my wood lathe and taper the edges with my skew then polish and assemble.... those fantastic feather blanks and opal fx are pretty fantastic also;)
 

ed4copies

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We replied to the email, but I will also say a little here.

When asked this type of question, I have a problem. I don't know the experience of the turner. Can't tell you how many times I have gotten a call saying a blank was defective because it "blew up". Blanks that I can turn easily!! The next words are often, "I've made thousands of pens, so it wasn't me!!" On further questioning, the experience with resins is limited!!

Was anyone else turning the blank???? I don't mean to be glib, but the tool caught the blank and ruined it and you were directing the tool, so who else should we blame for the failure??

I agree with the statement above--turn a few alumilite or polyresin blanks first!! Get a feel for the cutting and become confident that you CAN do it!!

A picture (that moves) is worth a ton of words, so view this:


Regarding lasering the final pen, I would recommend against it, unless you have a local source that has done this many times before. Laser the pen box!! If it is ruined, it's not expensive and you don't have a lot of time invested in making it!!

Always remember we make pens for fun!!!! When it fails it is NOT fun!!! So, do whatever is possible to avoid failures. Practice with "inexpensive" similar products before doing a paua blank. If you are successful in the practice sessions, you will end up with a few colorful, resin pens!! (Not a BAD result!!!!)


So, with all that in mind, for ME--turning the paua blanks is a cinch!! They make a beautiful pen!! I have a FANTASTIC time!! IT IS FUN!!!!
But I have 25 years of turning plastic behind me. (1995) And hundreds of blown up pen blanks while I learned.

Your mileage may vary.;););)

Ed
 

qquake

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Thank you for the reply, Ed. I've been turning pens since 1999, and have turned literally hundreds of acrylic pens, of various materials. I'm fairly confident in my ability to turn the paua blank. Confident enough, that I ordered one today. Don't worry, if something bad happens (knock on wood!), I won't blame you or the blank. I've turned two clear blanks, over the years, and both acted like inlace acrylester, which I hate to turn. But between the carbide chisel and 100 grit skew, I got them turned. I'm hoping the paua isn't as bad, but I'm prepared, just in case.

As for engraving, I use a trophy shop that has years of experience with laser engraving acrylics. Once the pen is finished, I will talk to them and see what they think. If worse comes to worse, I can always have the wood stand engraved. My biggest concerns are with the thickness of the acrylic once the blank is turned, and like Curly said, the laser burning the shell through the clear plastic. What exactly is the clear material, anyway?
 

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ed4copies

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To Jim and everyone else who reads this!!

Turning "hot" polyester resin is difficult for everyone I have ever talked with, for the first few blanks. RhinoPlastic is a great teacher--it is cheap and offers a "middle of the road" (not hot, but not real tool friendly) polyresin. Once you get comfortable turning it, a new range of blanks opens.

ExoticBlanks does not sell Inlace Acrylester (the 'hottest") because it is very challenging to turn. However, I know several professional penmakers who swear by the product--the colors are fantastic and, once you are comfortable with it, you can make MORE pens, FASTER. Having done this, I will say the downside is that the finished pens are brittle too--drop them, they may break!! I turned MANY, and had a couple come back.

I have asked Ron to stop by this thread and let us know whether his blanks are polyresin or alumilite--even in turning it, I can't tell. But I want to give you an honest answer.

For ME, all plastics are fun--even the most difficult, chippy blanks offer a challenge which I enjoy. Recently, I find the negative rake carbide cutters make even the most chippy into a pretty simple turn. Personally, I keep using HSS cause I'm stubborn!!

Sometimes, I still "blow one up". But not Ron's or John's blanks--usually Chinese "specialty blanks". (I get to try a lot of stuff that is not on the market). I still have FUN!! Cheaper than golf!! (I lost a half dozen balls in a normal round)
 

ed4copies

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What exactly is "negative rake"? I've been hearing that a lot lately.

Quoted from Easy Wood Tools website:


"Negative Rake
Try resin or acrylic with confidence--our negative rake cutters are a game changer! They create smooth, safe, continuous cuts and make turning man made materials and super hard woods safer and easier.
Negative Rake.jpg


With the explosion of man made materials in the turning world, some found them difficult to work with using traditional steel tools. They catch easily, which can be dangerous and scary, especially to newbies.

In our constant effort to improve your turning experience, we were the first to create a negative rake carbide cutter. Rake is the angle of a tool relative to its cutting surface, and most turning tools have a zero (or neutral) rake. These tips have a negative rake, so the face of the cutting tool slopes away from the cutting edge. The geometry makes a cut less aggressive, therefore safer; the negative rake angle virtually eliminates chatter and chipping. It's physics: a negative rake simply can't catch."


I personally have had no trouble with acrylics, so I avoided using these tools. Recently I was turning a Chinese polyresin with some difficulty, so I thought I would try the negative rake cutter. Within 2 minutes, I was sold on it's advantages. It really WAS EASIER and worked without catching or chipping the blank.

I still use HSS most of the time--but this cutter works (to my surprise!!)
Ed
 

brownsfn2

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Hi Guys. I am so sorry for my delayed response. I have been so swamped at work lately and usually My IAP time is done in between meetings. (Don't tell my boss). :)

I use Polyester Resin to cast the Abalone Blanks. I use a minimal amount of MEKP as the catalyst and it makes the resin less "chippy". Of course I can get it to chip badly if I push too hard on the tool or go way too fast. It should be a smooth experience though. I find that my blanks turn a lot like Alumilite and if you are familiar with turning Alumilite you will know that they make beautiful long ribbons and don't chip out too often.

I have not laser engraved any of my blanks yet but I do know of at lease one person that has tried it before. Typically you will need a filler to fill in or color the engraving as it will be hard to see once you are done. If you are not an expert with the engraver or do not have a lot of extra blanks around of the same type to test with then I would not recommend trying it. As Ed said (he is a wise man!) you should look at engraving a nice box. It will be much less risky.

One other area you might consider where things could go wrong is the pressing together of the parts. Make sure when you press the pen together that the fit is not too tight. Meaning that there might be paint or glue inside the tube that could cause expansion and the shell to separate from the resin at the ends. If I think that a fit of the parts is just way too tight I will sand the inside of the brass tube until the fit is firm but and be pressed together with my fingers. I then use an epoxy or loctite to glue the pieces in so they are solid.

I hope all that helps. Again I am sorry for the delay. I am going to be away for a couple of weeks and then things should settle down.

If you decide to get one and turn it please feel free to send me a PM and let me know how it went good or bad. I would love some feedback. Good luck and thanks for the interest in my blanks! Have a great weekend!
 

KenB259

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As someone who programs 6000 watt lasers for a living, I can see two problems you may encounter while trying to laser “engrave” , these blanks, believe it or not the correct term would actually be “laser marking”. Anyways the first problem is that some plastics actually will just absorb the laser beam. That’s why you will see lasers pretty much encased in polycarbonate, as a safety measure against errant laser beams. The second thing lasers don’t handle well is reflective material, not too big a deal with newer fiber lasers, but a huge deal with CO2 lasers as the beams follows a path directed by 7, or so, mirrors. Don’t know if any of this applies to the mini tabletop lasers so ymmv.


Sent from my iPad using Penturners.org mobile app
 
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qquake

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Like I said, I have my engraving done by a local trophy shop. I'm sure they have more than a "mini tabletop laser". I've never had a problem with them engraving acrylics in the past, but this is the first clear one I want engraved. After the pen is done, I'll take it in and see what they say about it.
 

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