Saturday, 8 December 2012

One Last Pen Post (Unless I Think of Something Else)

Ok, this is supposed to be a woodworking blog, and I know that making pens out of acrylic resins isn't really woodworking, but I'm having fun so humour me.I do have a couple more things I want to talk about before I move on to other stuff.

One of those things is this pen and the process used to make it.

The normal method of making a pen is to start with a blank, either purchased or home made, and drill a hole through it.  Then you glue in the tubes of the pen, square the ends, and turn the blank to the size and shape that fits the hardware.  Finally you assemble the components and if all goes as planned you have a working pen.

The process for this one was a little different.  Rather than making the blank in a traditional rectangular shape, I used of part A and Part B of the Amazing Mold Putty and shaped it around a large felt marker.  The bottom (right) end is left open.

Next I made a base from more of the mold putty and before it cured I stuck a straw in the centre...

and placed the first piece of the mold, now cured, over top.  I did my best to keep the straw in the centre.  Fortunately there is room for error.

Once the base is cured (about 5 - 10 minutes) you can pull out the straw and slide the brass tube from the pen kit over it.  The straws I used were just a little too small for the 7mm brass tube so I wrapped them with scotch tape to make a snug fit.  The pen kit I used came from Lee Valley.

Did I mention that you need two molds for these pens? You do... Unless you don't want the top and bottom to be from the same batch of resin.  Then you don't.  But if you want the top and bottom to colour match make 2 molds.  Let's  move on.

Anyway, slide the brass tubes over the straws so that the end of the tube is just above the bottom of the mold when you put the straw back in.

This is the set up I used to make the pen blanks.  It consists of part A & B of the five minute casting resin, yellow and black dye, two mixing cups and two stir sticks.  I start by filling one of the molds I made with water.  I then pour the water into one of the mixing cups and mark the level on the outside of the cup.  Then I transfer the water to the other cup and mark it again.  This way I will make enough resin to fill both molds.  After drying everything off I can fill one of the cups up to the mark with Part A and add one small drop of the yellow dye, stirring until you have an even colour.  Fill the other cup to the mark with Part B and add it to Part A.  Now you have little time to waste.  The mixture will turn cloudy.  Stir until it clears up.  Quickly add a drop of black dye and swirl it through the mixture so you still have distinct lines in the mix and pour the mix into both molds.  You will probably have to hold the straws upright in the molds for a couple of minutes.

The resin will harden in five to ten minutes, depending on the room temperature.  At this point you can remove the straws and pop the blanks out of the molds.  You wind up with the brass tube in the blank, no drilling or gluing required.

From here on it's pen turning as usual.  Except that, as a wood turner, I found it a little freaky to look down after I finished and see, not a pile of wood shavings, but this strangely coloured pile of plastic shavings.

This did, however, give me the inspiration for my next pen.  I gathered up that pile of shavings and snuck it into the house (I would never be allowed to bring wood shavings into the house) in a plastic bag.  Then I pulled out a mold for making regular pen blanks, green dye, and Parts A & B of the 24 hour clear resin.  I mixed up a batch of green tinted resin and poured in about half of it into the mold.  Next I packed in a bunch of the shavings.  More resin, more shavings, until I got I got a funny looking something like this.

It almost looks like it was left in the fridge for too long.  From here on though it is, once again, pen turning as usual.  Here are a couple of shots of the result.

I have only scratched the surface of what is possible with these casting resins.  I'm going to leave you with a video of a presentation my wife, Lee, gave to the Saskatchewan Woodworkers Guild on working with this stuff.  I have a bunch more pens to make before Christmas.

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