Hybrid Pen Blanks
The first step in handcrafting hybrid pen blanks is stabilizing the natural material (burl wood, pine cones, skeletal cholla cactus, etc.) that will be combined with an acrylic resin to make a pen blank. Why stabilize it first? Stabilization helps natural material withstand changes in humidity and the process of being turned on a lathe. So, how does it work? During stabilization, the natural material is placed in a special vacuum chamber and submerged under a liquid resin. I like to use a heat cured product called Cactus Juice. A vacuum pump is used to evacuate the air in the chamber and the air trapped in the submerged material. After a surprisingly long time, the air bubbles stop coming from the material and it's left for a pleasing soak in the Cactus Juice. Once good and saturated, the material is baked in my trusty pizza oven at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This changes the Cactus Juice resin inside from liquid to solid.
Now, the stabilized material can be combined with a liquid acrylic resin in a mold. I like to use a two part resin product called Alumilite. It takes dye and powder enhancements well, turns easily with no chip out, and polishes up beautifully--all with little odor. The Alumilite resin is poured in the mold around the stabilized material with the goal being to fill all the tiny voids in the natural material. With little time to spare, the mold is carefully moved into a specialized chamber (pressure pot) where 60 pounds of pressure is applied to every square inch of surface area! This is about four times the normal sea level air pressure of 14.7 pounds per square inch! This tremendous pressure helps fill those little voids and squeezes any bubbles in the liquid resin so small they are no longer visible. After about 90 minutes, it's time to demold and reveal beautiful hybrid pen blanks!