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How To Finish Various Wood Projects

Posted by Jason Jones on

Like any good wood turner (at least I hope that’s what I am!), I’m constantly browsing the internet seeing what others are doing for finishings (for their pens/pencils, bowls, stoppers, what have you). I’ve tried a lot of different styles since I first started turning and below is what I like to do for different things. It’s just what works for me. Other turners I know do things completely differently (some don’t use CA finish, for example, and some use a ton more than I do). Find what works for YOU and do your best to perfect/change it the best you can.

Any questions on this? Put it in the comments.
Feel like you know how I can do things better? Put it in the comments 

Wood Pens/Pencils

I’ve gone thru a bunch of different iterations of how wood pens and pencils should be finished over the years. This is what’s working for me right now

  • After my pen/pencil is done with being carved, I sand from 150, to 240, to 320, to 400, then 600. I use a lot of 150, because I leave my final shaping for this grit.
  • With each grit I sand with the lathe on til I don’t see any mountains or valleys and it’s all smooth. Then I turn the lathe off and sand horizontally with the paper on my finger, turning the lathe slowly. This gets out any scratches from the the vertical sanding.
  • After sanding to 600, I clean it with some denatured alcohol on a paper towel to get any of the grime off.
  • Then I get out my micromesh and starting at 1500, I wet sand up to 12000. I wet down each grit with a bowl of water and lightly sand it on the lathe, keeping it wet at all times. I dry with a paper towl between each grit.
  • After I’m up to 12000, I dry one final time and then put some boild linseed oil (BLO) on a paper towel and (doing one section at a time), run it over the wood. After a few seconds I take the paper towel off and put 3 drops of thin CA glue over the area on my towel where the BLO was and lightly run that over the wood. You want to go quickly back and forth over the wood to ensure you don’t get any clumps. If you do, you’ll need to start all the way back over with the sanding.
  • Repeat the BLO/CA on the other piece of wood, and then repeat for a total of 4 coats. I used to 3, then decided to start doing 4. I know some woodworkers who do 10. All up to you.
Olivewood pen

Olive wood and Gold Slimline Pen

Acrylic Pens/Pencils

  • I carve my acrylics as fast as I’m comfortable turning on my lathe, so for sanding/finishing we want to go as slow as we can on the lathe. If you don’t have a variable speed lathe (like me), open the housing and move your belt to slow things down. Acrylic is a plastic so if you don’t you’re liable to melt them.
  • Sand the acrylics using the same process as above (dry sand to 600, wet sand with micromesh to 12000). Just be careful that you don’t overheat the blank.
  • Once that is done, I like to use the Hut Plastic Polish to buff the pens: https://www.woodcraft.com/products/hut-ultra-gloss-plastic-polish
  • If you have a buffing wheel, great, use that. If you don’t, use this process, which is what I use.
  • Put a nickel size of the polish on to a soft cotton cloth and with the lathe turned off rub it into the acrylic, turning the lathe by hand. Once it’s fully covered, turn the lathe on and buff the blank with the cloth (the spot that has the polish on it). Hold it there for about 30-60 seconds. I typically do this for a slow count of 60.
  • Repeat for the other side of the blank, and then repeat for both so that you’ve got a total of 2 coats.
Acrylic mechanical pencil

Vibrant metallic acrylic pencil

Bottle Stoppers

I’ve tried a whole lot of various finishes on my wood bottle stoppers. The one I’m using now is the one I like the best.

  • Sand using the same process as the wood pens (dry to 600, wet with mm to 12000).
  • I like to use the General Finishes “Wood Turner’s Finish” next. https://www.woodcraft.com/products/general-finishes-wood-turners-finish-8oz
  • What I do is use a soft, clean cloth and apply a liberal amount to the cloth, then I rub it on the wood with the lathe off. Make sure you cover all the wood.
  • After that, turn the lathe on and put a little bit more on your cloth and just give it a quick shine.
  • Give it 30 minutes to dry, then repeat. I like to give it a feel to see if it still feels smooth. Usually on the first few coats you might have to re-sand with the 12000 micromesh (wet) to get it smooth again.
  • Repeat for a total of 10 coats.
  • It will then need about a week to completely cure, but you should have a nice shiny stopper.
  • If you’re doing an acrylic stopper, use the same process as for the acrylic pens.
bloodwood bottle stopper

Bloodwood bottle stopper

acrylic bottle stopper

Acrylic Bottle Stopper in jungle moss

Magnetic Cap Catchers

For the magnetic bottle openers/cap catchers, I go simple, cause I know these are going to get beat up a little bit.

  • I usually just do a couple liberal coats of boiled linseed oil. Apply with a soft cloth to the entire unit, wait five minutes and then wipe it off. Give it a few hours to dry, and then repeat for a couple coats.
  • If you want it super shiny, apply a spray laquer.
purpleheart magnetic bottle opener

Purpleheart Cast Iron Bottle Opener & Cap Catcher

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