Finishing A Production Run of Stylus Pens

I just completed a production run of 28 stylus pens, well; it started as 30 but then disaster struck in the assembly phase on two of them.  As I frequently say, it isn’t complete until it is fully assembled!  Stylus pens are not really pens in the sense of a writing instrument like we are used to, but they are the pens of the 21st century since they are used to type on touch screen devices in lieu of your fingers.  My fingers are sometimes too big and get in the way of accuracy, so this really helps me out and I find that since most people have touch screens in their lives today that it makes a popular item.  There are also stylus pens that do have an ink end as well, but that wasn’t what I was asked to make in this run.

I have discussed in detail the process for making a pen in a previous post, and for the most part this process isn’t any different just on a more massive scale which does introduce some differences.

Wood Selection

I broke the project up into steps and then performed the same step for every blank, just as if I was working on a factory production line, except of course I have to do all the steps!  So, first I selected my blanks, choosing to focus on a mix of unusual African and Australian woods.  The woods are, from left to right: tambootie, amazakoue, box cedar, iroko, black acacia, Rhodesian teak, silky oak, Transvaal beech, salinga, panga panga, jacaranda, avodire, syringe, makore, and finally, Nigerian satinwood.

Drill Chuck

After selection, I cut every blank to size, drilled every blank, and glued every blank.  The only part of those steps that might vary from what I have written before is that I used a specialized pen blank drilling chuck that is available from Penn State Industries.  It mounts on the head stock of the lathe and ensures a center drill like nothing else can do.  It is a little time consuming to set up each blank and move the tailstock to make such a long bore, about 4 inches in this case, but the accuracy is worth it to me.

Once glued I put it aside for a few days and went out of town so that I wouldn’t burn out on the process of making so many of one thing, which is not my usual turning style.  Then I turned each blank to size over the course of several turning sessions.  I set each blank in a homemade peg board so that I could keep track of the different kinds of woods being used.  Some gift recipients I find like to know what wood they have received.  Finally I was ready to move into the finishing phase.

Finishing the Pens

Previously, I have used one or two step finishes on pens that were wax and/or shellac based and I was fine with those results, even if they were not as glossy as I might have liked.  Then, I finally got up the nerve to use a cyanoacrylate finish system and found that it was a great deal easier than I had feared.  Each pen receives up to 6 coats, sometimes more, of the cyanoacrylate with a spray of accelerator in between each coat.  Then, I use Abranet for the first three sandings, followed by MicroMesh sanding system for the next SEVEN sandings, meaning that along with on average six coats of finish, I then have a TEN step sanding process followed by the final step which is a plastic polish, making it a MINIMUM of ELEVEN steps to finish one blank!  But I think the shiny and very durable finish which will stand up to desks, purses and briefcases for years without scratch or dent is ultimately worth it.

Other than the drilling chuck and the nifty new finish I don’t think I have anything to add to the previous post, but the photo was so pretty I sort of had to create a post to go along with it!