It’s in Disguise!

Had a chance at part two – to finish off the Mont Blanc camo pen.  This is the top, with the initial turning completed and ready for finishing.  Although the difference in diameters at either end looks quite severe, it is nowhere near as pronounced when the pen is assembled.  So with Paul Kelly cranking out of the stereo about making gravy, I started working on the finish.

Finishing the Acrylic

Running the lathe near flat out (it is after all a very small diameter, so the edge speed is pretty low even at maximum RPM), it is important not to allow the temperature to rise.  Acrylic will melt very easily, and timber has a tendency to blow out.  You can often get away with it with timber, but it is better practice to keep the temp down.

When working with acrylic, the acrylic sanding pads work extremely well, and have the benefit of being used wet, so they are good for keeping the workpiece cool.  If the water runs out/evaporates off, the temperature can spike very quickly, so constant vigilance is the order of the day.

Acrylic Polishing Pads

The pads are colour coded (and again I’m getting that wiggly red line telling me that I’m wrong spelling it that way)

The pads are colour coded, so you can easily identify each grit and work up through them – do not be tempted to skip any, otherwise you are almost guaranteed to have scratches in the finish.  The other thing is to make sure the workpiece, and the abrasive are flushed regularly (or in the case of the workpiece, at least carefully wiped down), particularly when dealing with the large grits.  If any have become dislodged, they can cause significant scars in the finish.

Scoring the Shoulder Width

This pen design has a sleeve that fits on the top half of the pen, so a shoulder needed to be cut.  It was meant to be 7/32″, which means nothing to me – I’m sure it should but I can’t picture what it is.  So with the FastCap calculator, it converted to 5.55mm.  Setting the digital caliper to this, I then used the inside diameter points to become a set of accurate dividers, and to then score the line.

Forming the Shoulder

Using a parting tool as a scraper, it formed a sharp shoulder ready for the sleeve. I originally bought the shoulder down to the diameter of the bush, but it turns out it was not very accurate.  At least it was too large, so I was able to still work down to the right diameter.  It did result in me having to test the fit almost a dozen times, but when it got there, the fit was perfect – no glue required. Slow and steady – if you are in a rush, or impatient, pen turning is a chore rather than meditative, or whatever you get out of it. Again, the digital caliper worked very well, allowing the sleeve internal diameter to be accurately measured, and compared to the forming shoulder.

Top Assembled

Using the new pen assembly press, it all went together very easily.  The press worked well, but it has way too much flex in the base. Not hard to fix – I will simply attach it at a number of points to a heavy, straight (probably wooden) base.  Other than that (which is an easy fix), having a dedicated pen assembly press is a definite bonus.  And a lot more convenient than setting up a SuperJaws which is how I’ve done it in the past.  A bit more of an appropriate sized tool for the job too!

Polishing Pads

Polishing the lower half – the pen is currently turning (3000 RPM) – the flash of the camera has mostly frozen the pen.  Again, working through the grits to get the required finish.  I started with 180 grit sandpaper (dry) to compensate for some irregularities in the surface caused by my less-than-perfect turning abilities.  This sends the acrylic an astonishingly opaque white, but have faith, it all comes right fi you diligently work through the grits of the acrylic finishing pads, with plenty of water to keep the surface cool and clean.

Pen Supplies

Just before I finish, this (for those who haven’t seen it) is my pen turning box – full of different pen kits, some of the tools of the trade, bushes, etc.  It is double sided, so lots of interesting bits n pieces in there.  Found a couple of kits that I forgot I had, so more to try out in the near future.

The Finished Pen

The resulting pen – I haven’t made a decent pen-photographing setup, but I think it comes across ok here anyway.  Has a very nice feel, not as heavy as some (I discovered I like heavy pens after making some Sierras and EBs (Elegant Beauty)), but still closer to what I like than the slimlines, which just seem too thin and too light to me these days.

And the camo makes for a very interesting design as well.

Start of a pen

I was hoping to have a full set of photos of this pen construction – the first time I’ve tried making a BT-401 (a version of the Mont-Blanc pen style) from Carbatec in preparation for the demo day I’m putting on 31 July (last Saturday of the month) at Carbatec, Melbourne (10am-12pm)  Thought I’d better actually try making one or two before the day!

Pen Vice

I started by choosing a blank, in this case an acrylic camo pen blank I bought at the Brisbane Wood Show.  Using the pen vice I recently got from Carbatec, this was the first time I used it for an actual pen rather than playing with it, and it worked perfectly – it is a very well-made pen vice, and for the first time I didn’t have to think about whether the blank was actually vertical.  It may not be essential for making pens, but it is nice having a tool dedicated to a specific task – it removes any small stresses that otherwise result from compromise.  The one thing I still need to acquire here (other than a drill press with less run-out!) is a drill bit that is more suitable, and closer in diameter to the brass insert.  At the moment the bit is 0.25mm oversized, and I feel it results in a fit that is a little looser than I’d like.

I also don’t think the standard bit works as well dealing with the waste material, especially acrylic.  If the waste isn’t cleared efficiently, and the bit doesn’t cut as well as it should there is a potential for the operation getting hotter than is necessary, and I personally believe that overheating the blank at this point results in more failures during the turning and finishing stages than any other step.  Too much heat weakens the blank, whether it is acrylic (which already suffers badly from heat), or timber which dries and/or develops microcracks when overheated.  You don’t realise it at this step, but pay the price near the end when the blank is turned down to final (thin wall) dimensions.

Now you see it..... soon you won't!

Mounted on the lathe with the correct bushes and started turning down the first blank.  I will be very curious to see it actually works – first time with any new pen design is always a little uncertain. I got most of the first half of the pen turned, then the demands of having an under 5 year-old in the household called me away, so I haven’t managed to progress the pen any further at this stage.  The camo blank looks to be working well too – more of a vietnam era jungle green than a modern camo, but that is fine too.  This came from one of the 1m long blanks I bought in Brisbane – very little waste so far!

More to come as the pen is finished.

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