WoodChux Woodturning


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CA Glue As a finish



This type of finish can be applied to any small turnings. Finishing is the most exciting time for me.  It’s the moment when you finally get to see the true beauty in your hard work.  It is also a subject of great discrepancy.  There are virtually a limitless number of ways to finish your pen.  You can finish a pen any way that you choose.  However, you won't find a better finish then CA glue.  I have tried many finishes for pens over the years.  In my mind, a thick layer of CA glue is the best possible finish for a pen.  It is extremely durable, lasts forever, is water proof, and has a high sheen.


Supplies Needed:

1. Latex gloves

2. CA glue (Thin, Medium, Thick)

3. Aerosol accelerator

4. CA polish

5. Paper towels

6. Non-Stick bushings (optional but extremely helpful)

7. Polishing pads

8. Boiled linseed oil


The way I finish my pens is quick and easy.  Always wear latex gloves for this operation. The CA glue is very difficult to remove from your fingers.


The Process:

1. After the final sanding is complete, 400 grit minimum, quickly clean the surface with a paper towel to remove any sanding dust. 

2. Fold a paper towel repeatedly until you have a pad that is approximately 1/2” wide x 8” long as seen below. 


3. Turn the lathe speed to a very low setting, around 300 rpm.  Near one end of my paper towel pad, place 2-3 drops of Thin CA glue. 


4. Holding the pad under the pen barrel, quickly wipe a smooth layer onto the barrel(s) moving the pad up and down the long axis of the spinning barrel one time.  If the kit has 2 barrels, like the kit I am using, work with one barrel at a time.  After applying a layer to one barrel, I add more glue to a clean area of my pad and coat the second barrel.  When they both have a coat applied, lightly spray each barrel with the aerosol accelerator. This quickly cures the CA glue and allows you to immediately apply a second coat of CA glue.  Usually, two thin coats will be sufficient. 

5.Repeat this process with the medium CA glue (3 coats) then again with the thick CA glue (3 coats minimum).



 Part 2:

The second part to apply the CA finish is what I like to call a skim coat.  It does two very important things.  It fills small voids left by the first step, and aids in curing of the thicker layers.  Without this step, you would need to allow the CA glue to cure for a few hours before you continue with the pen.  I am impatient and like to complete my tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible.  So, by doing the skim coats, I am able to proceed with the pen immediately.

6. Make another paper towel pad like before using a new, clean paper towel. 

7. Add a line of boiled linseed oil on one side of your pad from end to end. 

8. Near the top of your pad, add 2 drops of thick CA glue directly on top of the BLO. 

9. Turn the lathe speed up as fast as you can, or feel comfortable with. 

10. Working with one barrel at a time, quickly rub the bottom of the barrel with the CA glue.  Keep moving the pad back and forth along the long axis of the barrel vigorously.  You will see the finish on the pen barrel go from shinny to cloudy.  Continue rubbing the barrel until the finish becomes shinny again.  

At this point you should smell the curing CA glue, and feel the paper towel getting hot.  This is one time in woodturning were heat is a good thing.  The heat aids in curing the CA glue.

11. Add a minimum of two skim coats in this fashion to each barrel of your pen.  This will result in a much smoother finish.  More importantly, the heat generated by this process helps to cure the thicker layers of the CA finish below.  The end result should look similar to these pen barrels below.


One important thing to consider before final sanding is ambient temperature.  I have found that if my shop is below 60 degrees, the CA glue finish takes much more time to cure.  In the winter months, I keep my shop temperature between 50 and 60 degrees when I am working.  During this time, after applying the CA finish, I will take my pen in the house to cure for a few days before sanding.  This allows adequate time for the first few layers of thick CA glue to cure.  I have tried sanding uncured CA glue finish.   The results of which are not pleasing.  The CA glue finish gets blotchy white spots.  The only way to fix this is to sand the finish off and start over.




My finishing process leaves a nice strong, thick coat of CA glue.  However, the majority of the time, it is rough, has ridges and valleys, and needs some work.  Simply sanding the surface can be a mistake if the CA glue is not cured completely.  The skimming coat mentioned above helps, but the key is heat.  So make sure the finish is cured.


12. Lightly cut the CA glue off the bushing using a parting tool.  Use a light touch here because you don’t want to ruin your bushings.  This will allow you to remove the pen barrel from the bushing.  If this is not done, you run the risk of tearing or cracking the CA glue that has cured on the bushing.  This can ruin the finish on the ends of the barrels by splitting off some of the CA finish.  I have found that it is best to do this parting before final sanding.  In doing so, the rough edges that may be produced with the parting tool can be sanded away.  Also, removing the CA glue off of the bushings allows you to see how thick your finish is, and therefore how much of it you can sand away.

13. To avoid step 12 and damaging your bushings and parting tool, you can use my Non-Stick bushings in the supplies section.

14. Next, we need to clean up the surface of the CA glue finish by sanding.  If I do a poor job of applying the CA finish, I will start sanding with a piece of 220 or 320 grit sandpaper with the lathe at a slow speed.  Never sand at high speeds and always use a dust mask to protect your lungs. 

15. I sand slowly and lightly with the sand paper stopping often to check my progress.  Here, I am looking for a uniform thickness of CA glue and shinny areas.  I don’t want any hills or valleys, just a flat surface.  Shinny areas mean that that the area is in a valley so the sand paper has not scratched it yet. I need to continue sanding with the lower grit until all the shinny areas are gone. Anymore sanding can quickly cut through your CA finish.  The pen barrel will be entirely dull.  The dull appearance means that the CA finish is entirely flat and uniform.  See the picture below.



16. When the finish is nice and flat, I move through the grits to 600 grit.  Again, I sand lightly and slowly.  I don’t want to cut the finish back through the CA finish.  I am only trying to remove the sanding marks left by the previous grit.  When I am satisfied with the finish, I move on to the plastic polishing pads below.


The pads I use are 2” squares that have the same grit on both sides.  The grits range from 1500 to 12,000.  I use water when sanding with these pads.  It helps to reduce heat and clear away the wasted material. 

17. I cover the bed of the lathe with some thick shop towels to keep the water from dripping onto the lathe.  I use a small bowl of warm water and dip each pad into the bowl before and after sanding. 

18. With the lathe speed in a slow range, I hold the wet pad under the barrel applying light pressure. I work through the first three grits making sure to thoroughly sand every inch of the pen. 

19. I wipe the pen with a clean paper towel while the lathe is still turning slowly.  Then I stop the lathe and check my work.  If the finish is smooth, scratch free, and defect free, I finish the sanding with the remaining 6 grits.  I don’t waste much time with the last 6 pads.  At this point, you are basically buffing the finish and that doesn’t require much time to complete.  After this stage, the pen begins to shin.  See the picture below. 


20. After sanding with the final plastic polishing pad, I wipe down the pen with a clean, dry paper towel. 

21. The final step in turning the pen and completing the finish is plastic polish.  I use a product called Stick Fast CA polish. 

22. With the lathe off, I fold up another paper towel into a 1” pad.  I place a few drops of the satin polish on one end of the pad. 

23. I slowly rotate the pen by hand to apply the polish to the entire surface of the pen.  The polish goes on quickly and easily.  I wait a few seconds for the polish to dry.  It will develop into a light whitish haze on the surface of the pen. 

24. Next, I turn the lathe speed up into the 2000 rpm range and buff the polish into the finish using the same area of the pad that I used to apply the polish.  Again, this process is very fast.  You will see a high degree of reflection in just a few seconds. 

25. At this point, I go to a clean section of the paper towel and clean off the excess polish. 

26. Next, I repeat the above steps with the gloss polish. When you stop the lathe, the finish will shine like glass.