Seashell blanks are very challenging, but the results are pretty spectacular! As I mention in the video, the seashells are extremely hard and abrasive. Cutting with standard tools just doesn’t work that well, but in the end we managed to get through the project with a couple of really beautiful pens.
Tools, Materials, and Equipment Used
- Alumilite Clear Resin
- Alumilite Dyes
- PearlEx Powders
- Seashells: From the Gulf Coast in Texas
- HDPE Molds
- CA Technologies Pressure Pot
- Tommy G Tools Carbide Tools
Safety is a big concern when working with seashells. Cutting them can be somewhat dangerous, so be very careful when cutting, drilling, and turning. Also the dust from the seashells is extremely hazardous to your health, so make sure to wear a respirator when cutting, turning, and sanding the blanks.
I had to do some filling around the end of the blanks because the drill bit wandered. I first applied thin CA glue, then added some 5 minute epoxy fill the gap.
After eeking my way through the cutting and drilling, the turning went surprisingly well. I definitely would not even try using standard turning gouges made with high speed steel. Go straight for the carbide and take very light cuts with them. I only got a couple minor chips in the shells and most of those were turned away on the subsequent cuts.
I did do some filling with CA glue on a couple spots, but they were minor fills. To fill chips, I first apply some thin CA glue to seal up the bottom of the gap. I then come back with gel CA glue to fill in the low spots. Once that is finished, I give the CA glue time to cure up and sand any excess back.
Based on the recommendation of other turners who have made seashell blanks, I decided to sand down the corners and take off quite a bit of material before turning. Sanding the material was by far the easiest way to work with these blanks, so I decided to take quite a bit of material off the blanks with the disc sander. I think that helped out a ton. I also finished shaping the blanks with sandpaper rather than tempt fate putting the final shaping on the blank with the carbide tools. This worked great, and ensured that I didn’t end up with a blow out in the end.
Once I had shaped the blank, I just went through my normal polishing schedule to bring the shine out of the blanks. Check out my video on polishing Alumilite blanks to see my simple 6 step method for a scratch free finish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hGf8qCdCag