Traditional Rollerball

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Dehn0045

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This is a Traditional Rollerball from woodpenpro.com . It's a pretty inexpensive kit, runs about $7 but you can usually get 20% off, so under $6. To be honest I'm not sure why I spent 3 hours on it. Kinda like putting lipstick on a pig. I actually like the dimensions of the kit, it's super long and slim (length is 6.625" and diameter is 0.453"). But the cap clicks on with the little plastic piece that is installed near the barrel. It is almost certainly going to fail prematurely, and can't be repaired/replaced by a non penturner. It's similar to the rollester cap, but the rollester you can just send another cap and your in business. I think if the cap brass was pre-threaded on one end to accept threads from the lower barrel (similar to the sketch pencil kit), it could be an awesome kit because it would be maximum length, slender, and reliable - but I guess then it wouldn't be as cheap. The black section piece is also flimsy plastic. Anyway, you get what you pay for. Enough bashing my creation, lol. The wood is black locust burl, which I think came out nice.

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Dehn0045

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Beautiful finished pen. I'm sad that you went to effort to trash the kit? Why? Your pen is very nice.

You're right Mark, I probably should've started with the good rather than the bad. I do like the finished pen. It's the first time I've made this kit, so wasn't really aware of the flimsy cap mechanism and plastic section piece - it kinda bummed me out right at the end of the long journey. But I guess as they say, the journey is the destination. Thanks for the positive feedback!
 

Dehn0045

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Very nice !!! . I like that wood !!!

What finish did you use, please ?
Thanks Mal, it's CA, I only use BSI Thin applied with open cell foam (finish thickness is about 0.006"). The lower barrel is quite long and it took a lot of patience getting the barrel perfectly cylindrical after applying CA. Micromesh then Hut ultrashine polish.
 

magpens

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Thanks Mal, it's CA, I only use BSI Thin applied with open cell foam (finish thickness is about 0.006"). The lower barrel is quite long and it took a lot of patience getting the barrel perfectly cylindrical after applying CA. Micromesh then Hut ultrashine polish.

Thank you, Sam. . I sometimes use foam, sometimes a folded piece of blue shop towel, and sometimes a small poly "baggie". . And I don't notice much difference in the results. . One practice I have adopted, which seems to work quite well for me in getting a "close to" cylindrical result is the following. . I apply the BSI Thin CA on the lathe at a very low RPM .... about 60. . This very slow rotation is very important, IMHO.

I "drip" the thin CA from above the blank starting at the right end of the barrel (CA nozzle very close to the blank - almost touching and even touching sometimes; no difference in result).

As the CA "drips" I rapidly but lightly rub the underside of the barrel, with whatever I am using, parallel to the barrel axis. . I move the CA "drip" from one end of the barrel, along the length of the barrel at a rate so that there is about one drip every quarter-inch or so. . I never go back.

When I get to the other end of the barrel I terminate the drip by raising the CA, I give 3 or 4 rubs and that "layer" is done.

I wait about 20 seconds and then give the barrel about 3 misty shots of accelerator along the length.

I then wait about 30 seconds before rubbing the barrel to remove the excess accelerator. . The surface always feels quite smooth, not bumpy.

Then I repeat the whole process twice more and then LIGHTLY sand (180 grit) to remove the high spots of the CA. So we now have 3 layers.

I repeat that process 4 times (usually) ; there are now 12 layers of CA.

It is now time to deal with removing high spots of the CA and making the blank surface smooth and cylindrical by sanding with 180 grit.
While doing this sanding, the lathe is not under power .... I ROTATE by HAND so that I can give extra attention to any places requiring it.

Usually after 2 or 3 minutes of sanding I am quite satisfied with the smoothness and I then move up to 240 grit and repeat and then 320 grit.

At 320 grit, I spend a lot of time striving to smooth and remove all shiny places. . This usually goes quite well. . Always rotating by hand.

I then move up to 400 grit, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, ( sometimes 1500, 2000).

It is now time for Novus 3, Novus 2, and finally Meguiar's PlastX liquids. . I don't ever find it necessary to use MicroMesh.

I tell you all this in detail because you might be interested in trying my method and commenting on it.

It seems to work quite well for me. . I think the key to it is the actual "dripping" ... I think it makes efficient use of the CA ... and I think the CA goes on quite uniformly.

So, if you have any comments or questions I would be happy to try to address them.

If you do try my method, I would be happy for any feedback.

You might want to try on a few practice pieces ... it does take a few attempts to learn the coordinated movements of both hands, the left hand holding the "dripping" CA bottle, and the right hand doing the rubbing (fairly rapid and quite light) of the underside of the blank.

I am always open to suggestions for improvement as well as to feedback. . Thanks !!
 

Dehn0045

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@magpens thanks for the details! I'm always open to learning and improving. Unfortunately the min speed on my lathe is 500 rpm, I have my eye on getting a metal lathe some day but that won't happen for a while. So unfortunately I won't be able to recreate your method precisely.

I'm curious how thick your typical finish is? I usually turn my diameter to about 0.010" less than fitting diameter. So at the ends my finish is about 0.005" give or take, the middle is probably a little thicker.

I usually use a dripping method with open cell foam wiping the excess continuously for the first coat. This coat usually cures pretty fast for me. Then I apply a spray of BSI pump spray accelerator prior to each subsequent coat. Coats 2-4 are added by applying the CA to foam and then wiping on the blank (usually works for 10-15 seconds, watching out for it to get tacky. Work time varies a lot and depends on so many factors). Then I will usually have enough thickness to turn with a sharp skew with an extremely light scraping cut to remove all the high spots. If I'm lucky, I can remove 0.002 to 0.003 from the diameter and all of the shiny spots are gone (I have a perfect cylinder and can go to polish - starting at 3000 wet sanding, and then skip the first couple MM grits). If not then I add some coats as above and repeat. With this particular pen it took me 3 or 4 tries. Part of the issue was the blank had some high spots in the turning prior to CA due to the burl and variation in grain/hardness.
 

EricRN

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Great looking pen. I agree with you re the cap mechanism though. This appears to be the same kit as the conservative from turners warehouse, which I bought and similarly found to be a bit cheap feeling. I was initially very excited to have a thin rollerball option since I love working with the vintage acetate and casein, which is often very thin. But this kit doesn’t feel like it’s worthy of that material to me. I also dislike how the cap is unfinished such that the cut blank and brass tube are exposed.
 

Dehn0045

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@EricRN I agree on the unfinished end of the cap. I was thinking that the cap was left unfinished so that it was a friction fit (kind of like a slimline or some of the versions of the sierra), so I was a little surprised when I found the plastic click top. I guess it needs to be unfinished to accommodate the slim profile. With a little creativity I think it could be a decent starting point for some modifications - replace the section with matching (or contrasting) blank material and figure out how to make the cap threaded (modified upper barrel or a threaded bushing) - it could be a pretty classy and inexpensive kit.
 

EricRN

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@EricRN I agree on the unfinished end of the cap. I was thinking that the cap was left unfinished so that it was a friction fit (kind of like a slimline or some of the versions of the sierra), so I was a little surprised when I found the plastic click top. I guess it needs to be unfinished to accommodate the slim profile. With a little creativity I think it could be a decent starting point for some modifications - replace the section with matching (or contrasting) blank material and figure out how to make the cap threaded (modified upper barrel or a threaded bushing) - it could be a pretty classy and inexpensive kit.
Yeah, not a bad idea re the section.
 

magpens

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@Dehn0045

Further to our discussion of last evening ...

I think the only point I wanted to address, in order to answer your question, relates to the total thickness of the CA.
Like you, I turn the blank a few thou (I aim for 0.002") below the final target diam, and then count on the CA to bring it back up after sanding and polish.
I don't mind if my final diam is 0.003" or so above the hardware ... definitely not below.
I'd say that the finished CA thickness is close to 0.004" - 0.005" (but that's more of a guess than a measurement).
 

Dehn0045

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Thanks Mal. I know that my coats go on pretty thick, I can build almost 0.002 in a single coat. This does lead to some bumps that I could probably avoid with thinner coats. It sounds like you are doing lots of very thin coats. But I think my main issue is with concentricity of the blank prior to CA. Although I use TBC method for turning, my tools aren't the best (I try to keep them sharp, but they are cheap and lose their edge fast) and my lathe lacks rigidity (the tailstock has a little play, I try to lock it down as tight as I can). Combine these issues with the hard burl like black locust and I'm left with some peaks and valleys even when I do my best. I'm curious if you ever run into these types of concentricity issues on your metal lathe?
 

magpens

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@Dehn0045
"I'm curious if you ever run into these types of concentricity issues on your metal lathe? "

I do, actually. . The basic architecture of a metal lathe and a wood lathe are pretty much the same.
I notice some deviations from concentricity sometimes. . For me it seems to happen if I really tighten the lock on the tail stock center, so I avoid doing that. . If I then also take light cuts, things seem to work out better. . These Sieg-style mini lathes that sell for $500 or so (a few yrs ago) are pretty good, but if you push them to their limits some things go slightly awry. . I am overall pretty happy with mine but it IS 10+ years old and has been working pretty steadily. . It is still OK for what I do and I am happy to take light cuts and spend a bit more time.
 

Dehn0045

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@magpens I have considered an entry level mini lathe (like the 7X12 that runs about $700 these days), but I would really like something with a little more weight. I would really like to be able to make my own fixtures and such, but this typically requires a little more precision with larger workpieces than pens. At this point I am thinking that I will save up and go with something in the 10X20 class (Littlemachineshop has a newer model that is a Sieg SC4 base but with a BLDC, the Precision Matthews 1228 is probably as big/nice as I would would ever need but I'm not sure I can justify the added expense). I like the idea of a BLDC motor as one of my concerns is maintaining torgue at lower speeds.
 
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