Syn-Gem, or synthetic gemstone is a lower cost alternative to Tru-Stone. Once the price of Tru-Stone skyrocketed, I started looking for alternatives. I found this material as what I feel is a pretty good option at a much lower price. It is imported from China. It's a bit harder than the US brand and consequently a little more brittle, but turns pretty similar. I've turned several pens with it myself as you can see from the photos. I recommend using carbide tools though if you have them available. I cut these down from larger blocks myself, so they will have a haze on them when you receive them. However, they will still polish up nicely just like Tru-stone. Also, the sizes listed are minimum dimensions, most will be slightly over-sized.
Those that have turned Tru-stone may be very aware of things to keep in mind while turning. But just to reiterate, I have a few suggestions on turning these:
-Similar to Tru-Stone, these will heat up very fast when drilling. For the ones I've done, I did several small sets of cuts going about 3/4" deep in each pass allowing the material and bit to cool in between each. Too much heat will cause them to crack. Trust me, I tried to rush the first one and it cracked. So take your time.
-Ensure full coverage of glue on the tube to the inner wall of the blank. Gaps in coverage can create a weak spot when turning, especially when it gets down thin. I use a small brush to paint the epoxy on the inside of the blank hole and then on the tube itself.
-While in the turning process, (with the lathe off) periodically check the blank to see if it is overheating. If it is, let it cool and then continue. Excess heat can weaken the glue to the tube and cause a blow out.
-During the assembly process, make sure the kit parts are not excessively tight when pressing into the tubes. If they are, it's almost certain to cause the finished pen to crack upon assembly. The material has less "give" than acrylics, woods, and others, so it may require sanding down the parts or the inside of the tube a bit.
-Please feel free to email me with any questions you have. Thanks!