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Woodcraft of Harrisburg

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3831 Union Deposit Road
Harrisburg, PA 17109

Hours of Operation

sunday 12PM - 5PM
monday 9AM - 7PM
tuesday 9AM - 5PM
wednesday 9AM - 5PM
thursday 9AM - 7PM
friday 9AM - 7PM
saturday 9AM - 6PM

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Finishing a Pen

After turning a pen, there are several options for finishing. I start by sanding up through 600 grit, giving me a nice, smooth surface. Then I use acetone or denatured alcohol to clean the blank and to remove all dust. I now have three main choices: friction polish, buffing, and cyanoacrylate (CA) glue.

The simplest finish is friction polish, such as Doctor’s Woodshop or Mylands. Using a paper towel or cotton rag, put on a very small amount of polish and apply at a slow speed, about 600 to 1000 RPMs. The finish will be cured by the heat generated by holding the towel between the finger and thumb against the blank. Keep moving back and forth to ensure an even coat. I apply two to four coats to get a high gloss finish, but one that can wear off over a long period of use.

A popular buffing system is the Beall which uses Tripoli and white diamond compounds and carnauba wax. The system can install on a lathe and has three buffing wheels, one for each compound or wax. Buffing through each wheel will give a nice and durable finish. To avoid cross contamination, it is very important to clean the pen after each wheel before using the next one.


Friction polishes and CA glues

By far the most popular and durable finish is CA glue. Many, including myself, have found it difficult to perfect, but after some trial and error CA glue gives a very hard, glossy, and durable finish. Since CA is an adhesive, I replace the metal bushings with nonstick ones so they don’t stick to the blank. As with friction polish, apply the CA glue with the lathe turning slow. Cotton reacts with CA, so it’s important to use a paper towel when applying. Put a couple drops on the towel, then hold it under the blank and quickly move it back and forth. After a few seconds the glue will start to dry, so remove the towel and continue to let the lathe spin. Being an impatient person, I use CA accelerator. With a sideways motion, spray two or three times about twelve inches away from the blank. I usually apply between five and ten coats.

To give a smooth, glossy look to the CA finish, I use wet Micro-Mesh pads to remove any scratches. I spend more time on the lower grits, but typically use each pad for five to ten seconds. I complete the process with two or three coats of a plastic polish like Hut. This is also the same process for finishing acrylic or epoxy blanks. Since these blanks are already hard, the object is to remove all scratches before applying the plastic polish for a glossy finish.

Now that I have a great finish, it’s a simple matter to follow the instructions to assemble my pen and to enjoy my work.

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