Black Swamp Wood Turning

Custom creations from our hands to yours.

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Alumilite Pigments.

Posted by Drew Croy on May 5, 2016 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

I got a shipment from Alumilite yesterday and it contained some black resin plus their super pack of pigments. I didn't read through the instructions because, well, I'm a guy and I know what I'm doing. :D

When I was messing with the black pigment I managed to get a speck sized bit on my hand, when I tried to wipeit off it started spreading across my entire hand.  1 single speck of pigment.

Needless to say, this is some super concentrated stuff.  The neons look very interesting!  I'll post pictures when I get some blanks done. 


Resin Saver molds

Posted by Drew Croy on May 3, 2016 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I'm sure that if you have looked into casting your own acrylic blanks you have a lot of questions about molds and you've probably even seen the rubber molds named "Resin Saver".  Let me start by saying that they do EXACTLY what the name implies, they save you resin but they also do a couple other things.

I don't always like a thin pen, even if I'm using a thin kit.  I vary the size by my mood and what I feel like doing. These blanks leave you very little margin for creativity. They use the absolute least amount of resin they can use and still give you something to turn.  For instance, the 7mm kit you can get on and off the lathe in about 10 minutes.  Not a lot of waste but not a lot of room to be creative either.

If you've been doing acrylics you want to save resin but you also probably have had to deal with those dreaded air bubbles screwing up your nice blank.  It will look PERFECT and then there is always 1 bubble that ruins the piece for you.  If you're not skillful with CA and filling holes you just wasted a considerable amount of your time, not to mention your frustration factor.

With that said, NEVER, EVER, EVER use a resin saver mold inside a vacuum chamber. Seems like a good idea to get all the bubbles out but what you don't consider is what your vacuum chamber actually does.  It will pull the resin INSIDE your brass tubes.  Yep, even though your resin saver mold has nice little rubber stops to hold your tube in the middle of the mold NOTHING escapes a vacuum and it will pull resin right inside the tube.  Trust me on this one and just don't do it.  I had one hell of a mess to clean up.

Well, that about does it for today.  I've been using a modified pickle jar for my degassing and stabilization but I think it's about time to turn to a more professional system.  It arrives later this week, stay tuned!


Time flies!

Posted by Drew Croy on April 14, 2016 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Since it's been warming up in the last few days Jayden and I have had time to get out in the shop and work on some pours. The acrylics are coming out better and better but we're still having a bit of trouble mastering the metal lathe. It seems there is a lot more to metal lathes than there is with wood lathes.  Actually other than the name and the fact that they both spin in a circle they have very little in common at all.

Over the next few days I'm going to try really hard to get some photos uploaded.  It's been forever since I've done anything with the webpage but since we have several more people making pens now I want to have this resource availble to them. 

Stay tuned, lots to come this Summer!

Stabilization Vs Casting

Posted by Drew Croy on January 2, 2014 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)

I think a lot of time people get confused with the terms stabilization and casting. They are two very different things, both take time and both cost money to do correctly.

1) Stabilization is the process of taking soft wood or wood with soft defects like spalting or worm tracks and making it hard enough to turn on a lathe.

2) Casting is using a compound to replace lost pieces of the wood.  Simply casting a piece of "worthless wood" will not make it hard enough to turn on a lathe.  It's likely that the compound will stick to the outside of the blank and never make penetration into the wood.

To really make the wood worthy of your next masterpiece you need to do both.

1) Use a vacuum chamber and a stabilizing agent to stabilize the wood.  Done correctly this will take at least 8 hours but when the wood comes out it will be twice the hardness of the weakest part. 

2) Cast that newly stabilized wood to replace any lost pieces of the wood. The compound (resin) you use can be colored or clear, your choice but this will fill out the blank to the proper dimensions for turning.  Most casting is done under pressure of 40-75lbs over a period of 8 hours.

3) Cure the piece according to the directions for the particular compounds you are using.

Now you're ready. See?  Thats a lot of work for one piece of wood.  Now you should understand why they cost so much to buy. It's extreamly time consuming and not really worth it to do one piece at a time. 

This year I will be trying to perfect both processes. Wish me luck !

Retooling and revamping.

Posted by Drew Croy on January 1, 2014 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

After about 4 days of research and watching hundreds ov videos on youtube I've decided to rethink my stabilization and casting set ups.

While I will keep my pressure pot set up the same I'm going to switch away from polyester resin and retool for alumilite.  The simple reason for this this is that alumilite is much easier to work with.  The alumilite will also hold up to prolonged use and passes a 15 foot drop test where PR is good for about 2 feet.

The price is pretty much the same but alumilite seems to be the better resin.

I'm going to invest in a vacuum chamber this year and start playing around with "Worthless Wood" to perfect the blanks that I would really want to use.  I figure if it can meet my strict standards it can meet anyones!

Stay tuned I believe this will be a huge year for Black Swamp Wood Turning!

Christmas presents

Posted by Drew Croy on December 7, 2013 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I think i've got all of the Christmas orders caught up.  Took me a little time to get used to the cold this Winter but after revamping the shop furnace I was snug as a bug in a rug.

We are not going to do any more acrylic pours this Winter, too hard to stabilize with the fluctuating tempretures but we are still taking orders for existing blanks and also wood products are always available.

Happy Holidays!

Plexi and Acetone

Posted by Drew Croy on April 9, 2011 at 11:29 AM Comments comments (6)

I've been reading a lot on the different pen turners forums about using dissolved Plexiglas in an acetone solution to stabilize rotten or punky wood.  Today I set out to test the theory.

Over to my local plastics shop who sells scrap for 2.50 a pound.  you got to be careful to get Plexiglas not lex on or melimaine as they will not break down in the acetone.  Picked up 4 pounds.

Off to the hardware store and fetched a gallon of acetone (18.00) that stuff is expensive.. I hope this works.  Also got a clean paint can with a lid and a couple stir sticks.

Got about 1/2 a pound soaking now.  I'll let you know how it turns out.


Posted by Drew Croy on March 16, 2011 at 11:29 AM Comments comments (0)

I've had many e-mails about making a video of a pen being built from start to finish.  I'm going to talk to my lovely wife about helping me put one together.  Since no one wants to wait for a 25 minute video to download I'll get started on it as soon as I find some good compression software or figure out how to time lapse the boring parts of the video to try and keep it under 10 minutes.

Maybe I'll start a mini-series.  Instead of one long video maybe I'll make 5-6 short ones detailing the process.  It would be easier to reference that way too.

I dunno yet... we'll see.

Prayers to Skyler

Posted by Drew Croy on March 16, 2011 at 11:26 AM Comments comments (0)

Recently one of my garage tinkering buddies was involved in a very serious accident. 

Skyler, the friend who helped me make and refine my polyester resin process is in critical consition at St. Elizabetths in Youngstown Ohio after an accident involving his semi.

Please extend your thoughts and prayers to Skyler and his family during this tough time.  I will keep you all updated as information comes in.

Another Addict is Born

Posted by Drew Croy on February 20, 2011 at 12:02 PM Comments comments (2)

So I get a call from my buddy Leroy who tells me his wife went and picked him up a lathe the other day.  He needed to know where to get started.  After 20-30 minutes on the telephone I had him pointed in the right direction and he was headed to WoodCraft the next morning to pick up supplies. 

He called me from WoodCraft and told me they didn't have any mandrels, luckily I had an extra one sitting around the shop since I always seem to bend one or two a month.  So we got him all squared away.

I had really forgotten how many steps there are to making a nice pen.  Since I had most of the equipment (except the lathe) before I got into it I had taken for granted things like a chop saw, a drill press, table sander and stuff like that.  We eventually found Leroy another pen mill he could start with (luckily again that I'm a horrible hoarder and had a couple extra of those around too).  He cut his blanks on the chop and then contracted my son to drill all the center holes after I told him he works CHEAP.  I tell ya what, that boy will drill center holes all day long for 2 bucks... Chinese labor has nothing on my kid.

So I sent him home with his bag of blanks all cut and drilled and 15 fancy pen kits in various colors.  I bet it doesn't even take him a week before he's back to the shop for more.  It's like CRACK I tell ya!

I got the WoodChuck Pen Pro in the mail the other day. I'd say it's pretty much everything they say it is.  There is a bit of a learning curve to it, but once you get it you can start sanding right around 320-400grit.  You don't need to start with anything more coarse.  That thing just CHEWS through blanks, it even worked well on some Corian.

Supposed to get cold again this week so I'll be kept out of the shop for awhile, but Spring is coming and I can't wait to fire up the PR factory again and see what kind of creations we can come up with.

In closing I'd like to welcome my buddy Leroy to the wonderful world of pen turning and I hope to be able to see some of his work posted here soon.