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Sunday, April 7, 2013

One Step Forward......

I have an opinion of wood working in general. If you're not constantly learning something new, then you're doing something wrong. I think that's what I'm enjoying so much about this wood turning. It always seems to be one step forward and two steps back in the learning process. I am consistently unhappy with the pens I've been turning. If I get to where I'm almost happy with the results, I add something new to the scenario to keep the learning curve high. That's the way I like it.
So anyway, I haven't been able to do nearly as much as I'd like in the shop during the past week. I just haven't been up to it. So I fiddle around as much as I can, and this post is simply the learning I've been doing lately.
This first pen is my latest attempt at a Celtic cross. It still isn't right, but I am getting closer. I understand the process now. The largest problem I'm having is gluing. I have been trying different glues and am having mixed results. I read online that a lot of people use quick setting glues and that is great. For me though, I think I need to move backwards and go back to a slower setting glue, like maybe Titebond II. I may go back with the quicker setting stuff later, but for now I think having more time to fiddle with the piece before everything is set will work better for me.
This pen was not a total waste though. My wife loves it. It is made of purple heart with box elder. So I let her have it. Who am I kidding? She can have anything she wants.
My other problem is what I worked on mostly this week though. I've been using a concoction recipe of finishes that produced some nice results, but I'm also looking for something more durable on these pens. The obvious solution, based on everything I've read, is CA glue. So I was determined to learn to consistently apply a CA glue finish.
The above pen turned out ok, but not great by a long shot. If you look closely just below the middle band, you'll see some ghosting effect. I think several things caused that on this particular pen. For one thing, I am trying several different thicknesses of glue. This one was my experiment with medium consistency glue. I have since learned that I have much better luck using the thinnest glue and applying multiple extremely thin coats instead of heavier coats. It's much like painting.
Anytime I learn something new, I try it on scrap wood before trying another actual pen. So after practicing on scrap, I moved on to my next pen where my next problem became apparent.
This pen is made of ziricote. It is a beautiful wood. I actually probably shouldn't have even been using this particular wood for something that I know I haven't gotten perfected yet, but I couldn't help myself. You see, a good friend sent this wood to me. In a box of a lot of other blanks, I had twelve blanks of this beautiful wood. Ever since I first laid eyes on it, I just have been itching to see what it looked like finished.
Working with thinner coats of glue, I was real happy with the finish on this pen. I was quite pleased with myself. Then I removed the pen blanks from the lathe and wasn't so happy anymore. Sometimes, I have a problem with the bushings sticking to the blanks when using a CA glue finish. If you look closely above the center band on this pen, you'll notice a chip. The bushings usually pop right off, but this is what sometimes happens in the process. It chips that glass like finish.
 
So after putting some thought into a solution, I came up with this. I took the tube from a pen I had messed up on. I used a tubing cutter and sliced it into three pieces. Then, after turning the pen blanks, I removed them from the mandrel and placed these thinner spacers on each end and in between the blanks. My thinking was that, with these being thinner, even if it chipped the finish it would be hidden on the ends by hardware instead of being visible on the sides.
I would love to tell you how great this brilliant idea worked. Unfortunately, I did not take something else into account when I came up with it.
The thin pieces of tubing allowed a tiny bit of glue to seep far enough between them and the blanks that it basically glued the blanks to the mandrel shaft. I won't even start to tell the story of what it took to get them off. It took about two hours and several ideas to get that little task accomplished without damaging the shaft. Luckily, I did not damage the shaft or the blanks. The short pieces of tubing went immediately into the garbage though, along with my great idea.
I told you I saved the blanks.
This is another piece of ziricote. I love how different pieces of this wood have completely unique appearances. It's hard to believe that this blank and the one from the previous pen looked identical before turning them.
So I turned to my best friend for a solution, Google. I read through a lot of ideas for not gluing the bushings to the pen blanks before I came across one that I thought would work and was simple enough to do consistently. The idea was to put wax on the bushings.
This is a cocobolo pen. The wax idea worked. I am getting more and more confident on my CA glue finish. Actually, I must admit that others I have talked to were right. Once you start to get the hang of this type of finish, it is easier, quicker, and looked better than any other finish I have tried. I still need practice of course, but this is my new pen finish of choice.
That brings me to my next problem.
If you look real close at this pen, it has a new problem, and it is something I am noticing more and more. It is just above the center band. Don't ask me how most of my problems happen at the center band, right where they're most visible. Things just have been working out that way for me. If you look just above the band on this pen though, you may notice it has a tiny gap. That is from the blank not being square to the tube when I started.
They make a tool to square the blanks to the tube called a barrel trimmer. I just don't like it. I have tried it. It didn't work good. I sharpened it. It still didn't work good. I think part of the problem is that I like hard woods. I have noticed that it works flawlessly on softer woods. When I try it on hard woods though, like cocobolo or purple heart, I always get chip out that looks worse than the gap. I need a better way. 
So I have a new brilliant idea to combat this problem. I hope to work on that soon and will show you my solution, whether it works good or not. The worst that can happen is I learn something new, and isn't that what it's all about?

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