Best Pen Finishes

Aug 1, 2014 by

The best pen finishes in this industry vary on the material you’re using and, in the case of wood finishes, what your preference is. Do you like your wooden pens to look and feel like wood? Or would you rather sacrifice the look and feel for a lifelong, glass-like finish? I’ll address all common materials and preferences in this post.

CA finish on a Bocote wood pen


Best Pen Finishes for Wooden Pens

As I mentioned above, finishes for wood pens aren’t as straightforward as plastic and stone pens – you have options based on your preferences:

If you like the look/feel of wood: Your best option is an oil/wax/shellac based finish. This comes at a price though – your pen will have a nice, glossy finish when it’s on the lathe, but that will wear off in time. I don’t know of any finishing process that preserves the look and feel of wood but also holds its sheen long after it’s off the lathe.

For many people (especially wood enthusiasts), that’s an acceptable trade-off, and in that case Doctor’s Woodshop’s product line will probably give you the best finish on your pens.

Doctor's Woodshop product line

If you prefer high, long-lasting gloss: Your best option is a CA glue finish. Don’t wince if you’ve tried it before and it hasn’t worked out – it takes practice and experimentation. Nothing lasts longer or holds its sheen for the lifetime of the pen on wood like a CA glue finish. They’re tricky – absolutely – but if you want to be the best pen turner possible, it’s an essential skill to learn.

If you’ve never executed a CA glue finish successfully in the past, the CA Wood Finish Starter Kit¬†pictured below is very helpful (it comes with very helpful instructions). I’ve also created a step-by-step tutorial for applying a CA finish here, which also serves as a good introduction to CA finishes.

CA Wood Finish Starter Kit


Best Pen Finishes for Plastic and Stone Pens

Plastic and stone pens don’t need much to hold a long-lasting, glass-like finish. Typically just sanding these materials all of the way down to a super-fine grit sandpaper (like 12,000) will produce an incredible sheen that should last the lifetime of the pen.

If you want to step it up a notch make your pens sparkle just a little bit more, One-Step Plastic Polish is extremely easy to apply and adds a nice sparkle that will last the life of the pen. Just make sure to let it dry before you touch it or remove it from the lathe.


That About Sums It Up – Happy Finishing

If you have any specific questions about the best pen finishes for the material you’re working with, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page. I reply to all comments personally and would be happy to help any way that I can.

Also, if you know of a wood finish that preserves the look/feel of the wood but also holds its sheen for life, please let me know about that too! It’s something I’ve been on the lookout for for years.

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1 Comment

  1. Bill

    What is best for acrylic and stabilized wood

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