Trouble with CA

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mbeedy2

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Jul 7, 2021
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Lydia SC
Does the brand of CA matter when finishing a pen? The last couple I have finished with CA, the finish has been spotted or felt gritty even after micro pads.

Suggestions and input would be greatly appreciated
 
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Bats

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Oct 12, 2020
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Early on I settled on the Bob Smith/BSI CA glues because they were affordable and I could buy them in larger bottles than most of the alternatives, so I haven't experimented with nearly the range of brands as some of the people who'll be replying to you shortly, but I've definitely had unpredictable experiences on the occasions I've tried to finish with things like the store-brand tubes of generic "super glue", which seemed to cure unevenly or unreliably.

If you use activator/accelerator, the different brands can have different characteristics, too (I'm partial to the Stick Fast aerosol, because it delivers a finer mist than the others I've tried, but I've seen some people complain that it gives them a white or hazy finish).

That said, I don't think anything I've tried has resulted in a gritty feeling after sanding (although I do seem to remember someone telling a story about their micromesh pads breaking down and leaving grit on/embeded in their blanks - possibly after being used with alcohol?). I'm not clear on you mean by "spotted", though... is it something that would show up in a picture?
 

egnald

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Jun 9, 2017
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Columbus, Nebraska, USA
I think the brand does matter. I started out with a generic hardware store CA and almost all of my pens developed a cloudy appearance in the finish. I switched to the Stick Fast family of products, their thin and medium CA for Wood Finish (rather than their CA Glue) and the Stick Fast spray activator. So far it has been working great for me, but others have had problems. Most recently the brand with the most accolades for success and ease of use has been the GluBoost brand of products. - Dave
 

mbeedy2

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Jul 7, 2021
Messages
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Location
Lydia SC
Early on I settled on the Bob Smith/BSI CA glues because they were affordable and I could buy them in larger bottles than most of the alternatives, so I haven't experimented with nearly the range of brands as some of the people who'll be replying to you shortly, but I've definitely had unpredictable experiences on the occasions I've tried to finish with things like the store-brand tubes of generic "super glue", which seemed to cure unevenly or unreliably.

If you use activator/accelerator, the different brands can have different characteristics, too (I'm partial to the Stick Fast aerosol, because it delivers a finer mist than the others I've tried, but I've seen some people complain that it gives them a white or hazy finish).

That said, I don't think anything I've tried has resulted in a gritty feeling after sanding (although I do seem to remember someone telling a story about their micromesh pads breaking down and leaving grit on/embeded in their blanks - possibly after being used with alcohol?). I'm not clear on you mean by "spotted", though... is it something that would show up in a picture?
The micro mesh pads may be part of the issue with the gritty. I will switch to another set of pads to see if that helps with that issue. Thanks!

When I say "spotty" there are speckles of little white-ish dots in places on the pen. I don't have a picture to show because when it happened earlier today, I sanded away all the CA to start again (which I haven't done yet.)

Most of the time, I do not use accelerator, but will from time to time. I just got in some new CA (thin and thick) but didn't order accelerator in this brand, but have a different brand I got from Penn State. I have heard that you shouldn't mix the different brands (which I have done, but not on these last couple of pens.)

For finishing, is thin, medium, or thick the best choice (or a combination)?

Thanks for the input! I will see if changing the mesh pads gets rid of the gritty feel.
 

jttheclockman

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NJ, USA.
As with most what is the best questions you will get many answers because these are products we found to work for each of us. Methods and use can large parts in determining if they work for you. Again methods of application and use of thins and meds and the amount of coats play a huge role. So if looking for suggestions than mine is Satelite City Hot stuff both thin and med. Started with it 15 years ago and still use it. Rarely I will use their accelorator but do not mix brands is the advice on that. Good luck.
 

Joebobber

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Sep 24, 2018
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Erie, North Dakota
I think the brand matters, as does the type of activator you use. For me the aerosol activator produces a better result than the pump bottles. I like Stick Fast.
 

Bats

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W. Nowhere, CT
When I say "spotty" there are speckles of little white-ish dots in places on the pen. I don't have a picture to show because when it happened earlier today, I sanded away all the CA to start again (which I haven't done yet.)
I would hazard a guess that those aren't spots in the finish, so much as spots where there isn't a finish (or, more accurately, where the finish isn't uniform), and your sanding dust is getting trapped in them. I've had this happen a lot with coarse-grained woods, and it ends up either taking more coats of CA, or building up a few coats of CA, sanding back to the bare wood (but just barely - the goal is to get to a point where everything's perfectly smooth, it's just easier to eyeball when you hit wood) and then coating for real.

I have heard that you shouldn't mix the different brands (which I have done, but not on these last couple of pens.)
I've heard the same thing, but I'm so sure I believe it - and certainly not in all cases. There may well be some combinations that don't play nice together, but my regular routine mixed Stick Fast activator with BSI CA for quite a while, and I think I was also mixing 2P-10 activator with Stick Fast CA for a little while without any disasters. I've run into more problems caused by activators with too coarse a droplet size (pumps especially, but I've had some very spattery aerosols, too - I think the 2P-10 was one of them), which seems to cause the CA to set too quickly or unevenly at cause hazing/bubbling/crazing.

For finishing, is thin, medium, or thick the best choice (or a combination)?
That's a hard one to answer, since there are a wide variety of CA application techniques, and some will work better with one thickness than another, while others use a combination. Thin and medium are definitely more commonly used than thick.


My technique of the moment (which isn't mine by a long shot, but I'm not sure who deserves the credit, so I'll pretend it's mine - don't tell!) looks something like this:

- Fold a paper town over three times, so you get a strip about an inch wide.

- Wear thin latex/nitrile gloves or finger cots on your index finger & thumb.

- Run a little bead of boiled linseed oil across the end of the paper towel (I keep some in a dropper bottle for this)

- Run a matching bead of thin CA (which, like the BLO, won't actually form a bead - so just pretend) across the BLO.

- With the lathe running around 2500rpm, rub the paper towel (the stinky yellow end, in case you lose track) quickly & repeatedly back and forth across the blank, applying light pressure, until the CA cures (your eyes might start burning, your finger might start burning, or you might just notice the paper towel has gotten stiff). The reflections off the finish should be bright and sharp - if they're foggy, you need to keep rubbing. In my experience this is better done on one blank at a time, even if you've got two on a mandrel, but YMMV.

- Cut the end off the paper towel, and repeat as needed.

I've found that this method leaves a very smooth finish and lets me skip a lot of the sanding flat that my prior technique required - sometimes I can even skip sanding completely and go straight to Novus plastic polish #3 and #2. The drawback is that it doesn't lay down a very thick coat, so filling a very coarse or open grain can be a problem, and if you do have to sand it's very easy to cut through the the wood. It's also not great if you realize you've over-turned your blank by a few thou and want to make it up with a thick finish.

I've also tried the same technique with medium CA. It doesn't seem to build any faster (although it may fill the grain quicker), and it takes significantly longer (minutes instead of seconds) to cure, but it does work.
 

leehljp

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Tunica, MS,
I have tried and used several brands over the years without any problems - except for one batch of Stickfast. Several reported along that time (3 - 4 years ago). It would finish well then a few days later develop a crinkle patter of cracks.

Early on, I had the white spots and discussions of individual's finishes with white spots have appeared on this forum several times a year going back to the beginning of this forum. It is mostly an individual technique problem that is overcome with experience. Weather (humidity) and temperature (mostly cooler) play a minor role. As mentioned, for many with white spots, accelerator plays a role too.
 

turnit2020

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Jun 5, 2020
Messages
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Marietta, GA
I used Stickfast for several years. Its was OK. Recently switched to Mercury. They have flex in all viscosities and it is great for finishes. Shelf life with Mercury is longer than what I found with Stickfast. Just my opinion.
Turncrazy43
 

penicillin

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Feb 27, 2019
Messages
625
I believe that which CA brand you choose matters, and that you should use the same brand of accelerator/activator as the CA.

I have had mixed results with StickFast CA as a finish. I stopped using StickFast because of unpleasant failures with it. If I can't get consistently good results, then I don't like it. I switched to GluBoost and every pen I finished after that came out very well.

How do you know whether CA finish quality improvement comes from better CA or more practice and experience? I can't answer that.

Bottom Line:
Speaking only for myself, I believe that CA choice is a factor. I will continue to use GluBoost for finishes because it yields consistent, high quality results.
 

Bats

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Oct 12, 2020
Messages
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W. Nowhere, CT
I have tried and used several brands over the years without any problems - except for one batch of Stickfast. Several reported along that time (3 - 4 years ago). It would finish well then a few days later develop a crinkle patter of cracks.
I think I got bitten by that one too (since I know I was still using Stick Fast at the time), except it took a over a year for the cracks to develop on a pen I gave my father.
 

mmayo

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Jan 12, 2013
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Tehachapi, CA
I have used stickfast without issues like cracking. That said I use EZ Bond exclusively now and still do not have issues. As to longevity of the bottled glue, mine is almost always used before it can go bad. I have some bottles of thick that I use for adhering shave brushes and bottle stoppers, it is old, looks and acts great so even then older stuff works.

Consistently doing the same thing and just changing one parameter to get better results is the ticket. I use

4 coats of thin 5 cps EZBOND
Spray lightly with stickfast can
1 coat of thin (pen finish) 50 cps EZBOND
Spray lightly with stickfast can
Repeat 10 times
Let cure for at least an hour
Sand with 400 grit
Buff with the first two wheels on the Beale buff
Admire a perfect finish

I expect and get great results every time using this method
 

mbeedy2

Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2021
Messages
15
Location
Lydia SC
I have used stickfast without issues like cracking. That said I use EZ Bond exclusively now and still do not have issues. As to longevity of the bottled glue, mine is almost always used before it can go bad. I have some bottles of thick that I use for adhering shave brushes and bottle stoppers, it is old, looks and acts great so even then older stuff works.

Consistently doing the same thing and just changing one parameter to get better results is the ticket. I use

4 coats of thin 5 cps EZBOND
Spray lightly with stickfast can
1 coat of thin (pen finish) 50 cps EZBOND
Spray lightly with stickfast can
Repeat 10 times
Let cure for at least an hour
Sand with 400 grit
Buff with the first two wheels on the Beale buff
Admire a perfect finish

I expect and get great results every time using this method
Looks like it is time to order the Beale wheel!!

Thanks!
 

mmayo

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Joined
Jan 12, 2013
Messages
2,021
Location
Tehachapi, CA
More proof, same technique.
 

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