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From The Shop, 12/2 - 12/8

Finishes. Not a sexy topic unless you're really into fine woodworking, but it's something I'd like to briefly go over with regard to our pens, as we feel our finishes are a big part of what sets our products apart. The central aim of our finishing philosophy is to enhance and preserve both the look and feel of the amazing woods we utilize. Toward this end, we offer four basic finish types:

1 - Natural. As the name implies, the wood is left natural with no coatings applied. Some woods, such as Rosewoods, Ebony, and Olivewood, are fine-grained and contain a lot of natural oils. They therefore have a natural resistance to staining and discoloration. A good number of our ballpoint and rollerball writing instruments crafted from these woods are shaped on the lathe and sanded through to 1200 grit, then burnished with 0000 steel wool. The result is a very smooth and warm, organic feeling pen that just feels good in the hand. 

2 - Natural With Shellac. Not all applications work well for a natural finish, such as a fountain pen for whos surfaces might routinely be exposed to liquid inks. In cases such as this, even when using the naturally stain resistance woods listed above, we will add a final step of sealing by layering shellac as the final finish of the writing instrument. Shellac is a natural, hypoallergenic and food safe finish used by humankind for literally thousands of years. The result is a smooth, warm, high gloss finish that retains a very organic feel.

3 - Clear Coat. As we look at writing instruments made from more open grain, porous woods, we must consider properly sealing and protecting so the product will look new decades from the day it's brought home. We utilize three different clear coat finishes based on requirements and the desired results. Polyurethane, Lacquer, and Cyanoacrylate (CA). Of these finishes, Polyurethane will result in the warmest, most natural feel, followed by Lacquer then CA which will feel almost like an acrylic finish. On the other hand, CA will provide the deepest looking, "high definition" finish that will make the figuring in wood seem three dimensional. It will also bring out the most chatoyance in wood. For woods that have texture to them, such as Oak, we prefer to retain that natural texture by using Poly or Lacquer. For most other situations, especially on very figured woods, our clear coat of choice is CA.

4 - Old World. We've done extensive research on old fountain and dip pens that date back to as far back as the 1700s. Yet, as old as they are, and as much as they were used, these amazing creations still look almost new. What type of materials and processes did the craftsman of old use? Answering this, and discovering how to replicate such finishes, became my obsession! The result is what we call our "Old World Finish". We use the same natural materials and laborious processes that have been utilized and handed down for centuries. Such a finish, as we do it, requires no less than two natural oil blends, three shellac blends, a rubbing compound, and several natural waxes. Many layers are applied, with ample sanding and compounding in between. The cure time between coats is often not less than 24 hours. Ultimately, it takes 30 to 35 days to finish each pen! The result is a finish that gives the depth and three-dimensionality of CA while retaining a warm, natural, organic feel. It will also last like no other finish, being easily replenishable over the decades by using a good quality floor wax. 

No matter which finish your pen winds up with, know that we put a lot of thought and care into the beauty and durability of each one. All are backed by our lifetime wear guarantee. Because of the laborious nature of our Old World finish, it is primarily used only for our Private Reserve writing instruments. That said, any pen in our inventory can be special ordered with it for an additional upcharge. Just don't forget the 30+ day turn around time.

I hope you all found this helpful!

- David


3 comments

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  • Dude! I love this blog! Such in depth processes. Fuel for the mind.

    Josh Kinney

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