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I just finished my second pen and I have the method of turning and assemblying the pens but I am struggling with the finishing. What I have done so far is sand several times from 220 - 600 grit paper, then I use several coats of liquid CA glue to form a plastic coat. After the CA glue I use several coats of plastic gloss for a final finish. I have only been turning exotic wood pens and I don't seem to get the high gloss finish I want. Should I be using sand paper up to 2000+ grit? Am I skipping a critical step? What methods have you found successful?

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I'll run a pen/pencil up to 12000 grit. You also might try some friction polish like shellawax or Mylands …the combination of shellac and wax brings on a really high gloss…and you can apply it in as many layers as you want…I use the CA first for durability…then go over it with friction polish - If you plan on turning alot of pens you will find that you might want to buy good shellac and polish in bulk. I mix my own polish now using shellac and renissance polish or some other fine waxes (you can see the many types of shellac at www.shellac.net) - You can also friction on some wipe on high gloss poly for a really high gloss…there are many ways to get a good layer….If I get a pen looking too dull - Ill put some polish on it and buff it up on my bealle system or put a buff wheel on my proxxon rotary tool….(this is when you have assembled…of course you can dissasemble and put back on the mandrel) I find that a rotary can get good gloss in all the nooks this way. The best way to find what works for you is to experiment….I have even tried some tints, dyes and other finish products to pop the grains out…
 

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You have a couple issues going on. First off you are using exotic woods and they have a tendency to be oily woods so this can have a negative effect on your finish. Taking the initial sanding to get the pen ready for finish and using 600 grit is OK and will get you there. But here is where you need to step up the finish techniques. You need to wipe the blank down with acetone before applying any finish to get rid of the oils. Make sure this has evaoprated well before moving on. Next you need to seal the pen and to do that I like to use thin CA glue. I put the first coat on and then let dry and now this has soaked in.Take a look and seee if it feels smooth. If so hit again with the thin layer. Now it should be ready for your top coats. For this I like to use med CA and do at least 3 to 4 layers. If you choose to stay with the thin you will have to do 6 to 8 coats. This is what gives the blank the depth. If all coats go on smooth then no need for sanding between any coats but if there is a scre up you need to sand smooth and make sure you wipe the blank of all its dust before more coats are added. DO NOT use acetone because it will melt the CA. After all coats are on and you are happy then you need to apply an acrylic wax or auto wax but I do not like to do this until the next day. You want the CA to cure just like any other finish. You could also use a plastic polish of some sort. That will give you the deep shine you are after if all steps are followed. Remeber no ruch in putting a finish on if you want it to look like a pro.
 

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Thanks for all the suggestions. What I think I am going to do is utilize some micro sanding blocks to get to ultra smooth, then give it a coat of acetone to remove oils, then use the CA glue (I think I just rushed it this time), then after several coats (6-7) I will give it a day then use the plastic polish. Thanks for all the help and I will give it a try tonight and this weekend and see how it turns out.

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
After looking closely at the pen I just finished last night I am noticing some grooves all the way around it. I think that this is caused by the aggressive sanding. Will the micro sanding take care of this and give a smoother finish in the light?

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I would say the grooves are from the method you used to apply the CA. How do you apply the CA????? Micromesh will not take out deep seated grooves. You need to get yourself some automotive sandpaper which can get you to 2000 grit. Use that with water and try sanding but everytime you sand you are removing layers of finish. So be aware of this. I would get it back to what you feel looks good and add a few more layers of CA and then follow the last steps. Whenever sanding a blank on a lathe you never sand in one spot. You continually move the sandpaper, micromesh, polishing rag or whatever back and forth. See the more I talk the more things come up that you will eventually learn but probably learn the hard way. If you are sanding light colored woods or open grained woods you do not want to sand the bushing and get metal black dust in the grain or on the light colored woods. I like to tape over the bushings when doing this. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
The grooves are not deep they just seem to be on the finish. When I applied the CA glue I used a rag to put it on and ran it back and forth until the blank looked wet. Now that I think about it the small "grooves" might be because after a few coats of the CA I had to run some 600 grit paper because the finish was not even. I am going to try a few different methods tonight and see if this improves it.
 
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