First, how do I know when my tools need sharpening. I am not making as quick of progress taking my blanks down as I did when I was going through the cocobolo blanks that came with my intro kit. I am also noticing some louder kind of screeching sounds (particularly on the stabilized blank I just worked on), and the shavings are getting a little warm after working for a bit. However, my tools still feel pretty sharp to the touch. Could it be because the new blanks are more difficult to work with than the cocobolo or does it sound like I need to sharpen?
Second, can anyone recommend a good but not too invasive dust mask. I have been using the basic four pack from the hardware store, but I could tell it wasn't completely protecting me from the dust as well as I would hope. I am assuming there are some health risks from the shavings and sanding dust when turning pens.
Finally, finishing has been a bit of a challenge for me. This could be a post in itself but I'll just do it here and try to keep it short. I am currently using shellwax and I can get a nice smooth finish, but I can't get it to gloss up very much. On the Gatsby I made last night I put on five or six coats and applied a fair amount of pressure until I could feel easily the warmth through the paper towel. I still could only get what I would consider a satin finish. Should I be pre-treating the blank with something before the shellwax? Could I be applying too much pressure or buffing for too long? I have also tried the CA method but I just ended up with a mess. Either the glue would turn a whitish color and I would have to sand it off, or the glue would kick and grab the paper towel from my hands. I just want to find a way to get a nice durable and glossy finish. Until then the shellwax finish is acceptable, but not optimal.
Thanks for any help anyone can give me here.
First, I sharpen my tools just before every pen I turn. It only takes a few seconds if you do it often, and it ensures a good edge every time. If you're getting weird noises, you need a sharpen. I haven't used any woods that sound different. I've used cocobolo, olive wood, black palm, paduk, and a long list of others, though not as long as some of the others here. There is a chatter you'll get sometimes, but you'll learn that sound pretty quick. Good sharp tools are a must when turning.
Second, I would recommend something like this one from that big blue box store
. Just keep in mind that I work in oil refineries and chemical plants so what you consider invasive and what I consider invasive could be totally different. That particular mask is also just the first one I saw of that type. I don't know if those cartridges are the right ones for what you're doing.
Third, CA gives a beautiful glossy finish. I've never been able to dry sand it with results that I'd be anywhere near happy with. I have to wet sand it. I use MicroMesh sanding pads to wet sand up to 12000 grit. It leaves a good clean swirl free shine that's permanent as far as I can tell. I don't like the nasty fumes associated with it, and the fact that it makes the pens feel more like acrylic than wood. I recently purchased another product at the recommendation of another turner on the forums, but have yet to get it so I can't tell you if I like it or not.
I can tell you that I've used the same pen, finished with CA, at work for the last few months and the finish looks as good as it did the day I put it on. That pen has been in my shirt pocket through some of the nastiest confined spaces out there and made it out without issues. I'm an API 510 inspector if that helps to know what I do.