Prep work for applying CA glue to polymer clay pens

Getting the right hardware

You need to apply CA with a lathe or other spin-creating tool (see my articles on cordless and lock-on drills for lathe alternatives). And since your barrels will be spinning, you will need a threaded rod and nuts to keep them held firmly and moving around with the drill.

If you don’t have something like a PolyClay Mandrel or some knurled round coupling nuts or similar threaded low-profile nuts, I’d recommend using extra bushings to separate the nuts from where you will be applying CA glue, as you want your hand to be able to move smoothly from end to end.

Choosing your CA glue and accelerator

The random glue you have in your drawer or just bought from Hobby Lobby will probably cause cracking problems for you and be frustrating. Start by choosing a CA glue that will work well with pens: CA Glue Basics

Bushings

As a polymer clay pen-maker, you need bushings for a few reasons:

  • They help you sand and finish your pen barrels to the correct height to work with the rest of the pen
  • They keep your pen barrels separated from each other, when you have two (which is very useful when applying CA glue)
  • They keep your pen barrels separate from your drill so you don’t get CA glue on more expensive components
  • They keep your pen barrels separate the nuts you’re using to tighten everything on your mandrel, so you can move your hands freely back and forth while applying the CA.

Woodturners need multiple sets of bushings, due to their stronger cutting tools, but as a poly clay artist you will likely need only one set for each type of pen kit unless you are using extra bushings for separating barrels when baking or on your mandrel.

If you are using CA glue, I think it’s useful to have an extra set or two of slimline bushings to keep space between your barrels and your drill and nuts.

Preparing your bushings

If you are using regular CA glue, then the best bushings are non-stick bushings (which I believe are made from HDPE). You can order them off Amazon or get them from wherever you are getting your pen supplies.

You will likely need only one set of four.

If you are using odorless, it’s a bit trickier, since it sticks to HDPE. In that case I use a trick I learned from Toni Street’s page on finishing pens: Rub some paste wax on the bushings first, though it took some experimenting to figure out a good technique.

For a paste wax, I’ve used both P21S 12700W Carnauba Wax and Renaissance Wax and not noticed a significant difference.

I apply the paste wax liberally to each of the bushings and the coupling nuts, including the ends, give it a chance to dry, and then buff it out.

Prepare your workspace

CA glue will stick to anything it touches, and if it’s natural fibers, it will emit heat and potentially a lung-irritating smoke.

I keep some acetone around (e.g. nail polish remover with acetone) for clean up, but mostly try to avoid having to clean up.

I use wax paper (e.g. deli sheets) sliced into small squares to apply the CA glue rather than paper towel, which can react with the CA glue and create heat/smoke/fire (though you will see lots of woodturners using paper towels, and I’ve used them too. Just be aware of the risk if you do.)

I use polyethylene to protect surfaces: whether it’s a polyethylene disposable glove that I put used wax paper on, or a polyethylene sheet on my lap to protect my jeans, it’s worth a bit of work up front.

For more tips and examples of what to buy, see my article on protecting yourself and surfaces from CA, as well as the article about the risk of chemical burns when CA comes into contact with natural materials like cotton and wool (jeans, t-shirts, paper towels, etc.)

Apply the glue

Follow your favorite YouTube video, or the article I wrote on finishing your pen with CA glue.

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