TIPS & TRICKS OF TURNING

BLANK PREPARATION: DRILLING, GLUING, TURNING, & FINISHING

  • When drilling your blanks, if you have trouble with the bottom end of the blank "blowing out" as you drill through the end, here’s a suggestion: Cut your blanks longer than needed for your tube (more than the customary 1/16" to 1/4"), then drill the blank. Return to the band saw and cut off the excess blank material before gluing in the tube. Barrel trim as usual.
  • Certain acrylic blanks are more transparent than others especially lighter colors or blanks with light colored swirls. When you turn these blanks, you run the risk of having the brass tube show through the pen blank when it’s at its finished diameter. You may wish to paint your brass tubes white or black depending on your acrylic blank color before gluing them in. We recommend using Rustoleum™ paint.
  • Sharpen your turning tools frequently especially with acrylics and hardwoods. As a guideline, sharpening your tool once during a pen turning should be sufficient although some pen turners sharpen their tools more than once when turning one acrylic pen blank.
  • When correctly turning acrylic material, you should produce cuts of acrylic "ribbons" that curl away from the blank as the lathe spins. If you seem to be “shredding" or chunking out little pieces of acrylic, sharpen your turning tool again to ensure a clean cut while turning.
  • As you turn your blank to the diameter of the bushing set, you want to turn right up to the bushings but not into the bushings. Over time, however, bushings do become worn and may need to be replaced. It’s time to replace your bushing set when you literally feel the blank sitting lower than the trim pieces of your pen when assembled.
  • Use plastic gloves when applying CA glue to your pen tubes to avoid getting the glue on your fingers and hands. Cover your work area in a kitchen plastic wrap as CA glue will not dry on this plastic film. This will protect your work surface, and your blanks won’t stick to the surface as your tubes dry. Always be in a well-ventilated area when using CA glue as it has a powerful odor and may cause throat and eye irritation. Remember to use all safety precautions recommended by the manufacturers.
  • If you choose to use a CA glue finish on a wood blank, be cautious of heat build-up with the CA glue, your application rag or cloth, and your lathe speed. This combination can actually be dangerous as it can cause smoke and even fire! Watch how and where you dispose of your polishing cloths when applying the CA glue finish.
  • Acrylics sometimes require just sanding through the Micro-mesh ultra-fine sandpapers, and no plastic finishing polish is necessary. Micro-mesh sanding can be done wet or dry although wet sanding works nicely with acrylic materials to give a clear, shiny finish.

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