Part 5 making a pen series. Sand and finish the body.

Part 5 making a pen series. Sand and finish the body.

In the last bog post we got the blanks on the lathe, turned them down to size and squared them up with the tubes. Now you should have an idea of what the finished pen will look like. So now we move on to sanding, I know what you’re probably thinking that sanding is boring, and I would agree but there’s more to it than you think you know.

Sanding determines how the pen will feel to the owner. The shape plays a vital part, but the feel also means the feel of the transitions between different parts of the pen. Sanding also removes the tool marks and imperfections in the wood and prepares the wood for the finish.

I do all my sanding while it’s still on the lathe. First you must turn down the speed of the lathe, if you don’t turn down the speed you’ll burn the wood and that wont come off. I do my sanding at about 240rpm, but you can go slower. I usually start at about 180 grit paper and work on those transition areas where the blank meets the bushings. Now while you’re sanding on the lathe while it’s turning the sand paper is leaving little scratches around the diameter of the blank, to remove them you turn the lathe off and hand sand with the grain. You sand with the grain with each grit paper you use.

I go through the grits, cleaning of the blanks between each grit, until I finish with 600 grit paper. Then I clean the blanks and turn the lathe up to around 500-700rpm. Time to burnish the wood, burnishing is done by rubbing two pieces of wood together. The heat from the friction rubs away soft, dried cell walls and exposes the harder cells. Burnishing can be done with wood shavings or with a paper bag. The rougher the paper the better. The way it’s done is with the lathe running, move the tool rest first, you grab the spinning blanks with the paper bag in your hand and squeeze while moving it back and forth. What you’re looking for is heat from friction, once it gets to hot to hang on to you’re done. The blank should look somewhat shiny and be warm to the touch.

Now on to finish. I could spend a lot of time discussing finishes and their application but to save time we’ll go with a friction polish finish for our pen. It’s both simple and fast to apply, but the gloss will fade over time leaving a more natural look to the wood.

Before the finish goes on to the wood make sure the wood is clean of any dust that got on it during sanding and burnishing. You can do this with a dab of denatured alcohol on a paper towel, then let it dry for a few minutes. There are a lot of different friction polish finishes on the market. Each with their own application instructions. For our purposes here I’ll use a generic description that covers most of the finishes.

Shake the finish container and apply your first coat with the lathe off. Turn the lathe on slow speed and work the finish into the piece with a back-and-forth motion while applying pressure. Turn up the lathe speed as you go creating friction. Apply additional coats using the same method until your satisfied with the appearance letting the piece cool between coats. Wala you’ve finished the pen.

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