Stabilized Wood Information
What is stabilized wood?
Stabilizing is a process of infusing the pores and grain structure of wood with one of several different chemicals. This basically turns the wood into an epoxied wood-plastic, while retaining 100% of its original wood qualities. Stabilized wood has been impregnated with a chemical stabilizing solution, usually a clear acrylic or resin base. Once the “acrylic” has worked into the wood (or any other medium you’re working with), the stabilized material can then be turned like any other piece of wood. The pressurized injection forces it into all the crevices and spaces within the wood, as well, replacing every water cell of the wood with epoxy. Cutting, shaping, lathing, and sanding will be similar to working with a dense hardwood. The purpose of stabilizing wood is to make it more durable and less prone to warping or cracking than natural, untreated wood. Untreated wood, over time and atmospheric pressure, will shrink, expand, swell, absorb water, darken, crack, check, warp, and do many other nasty things. Stabilized wood will stay just as it was on the new knife (or other “stabilized” wood craft such as duck call, pen blank, bottle stopper, etc.)
The stabilizing process.
Dry wood (preferably lower than 10% moisture content) is placed in a vacuum container with the stabilizing solution. A vacuum pump then “sucks” all of the solution into the cells of the wood. Once in the chamber, specific colors and dye can be added to the liquid solution to penetrate into the wood. It is put under intense vacuum and then high pressure to ensure that the solution completely penetrates the pieces of wood. After the wood has been completely infused with the stabilizing solution it is heat cured. This curing process turns the liquid stabilizing solution into a solid.
What to expect from stabilized wood
Properly stabilized wood is more durable and much less likely to develop problems in the future. Stabilized wood is also easier to get a good finish because the stabilizing process tends to fill some open pores and evens up the hardness of the wood.
Different woods will respond differently to the stabilizing process. Some woods such as Maple, Ash and Box Elder will have a significant weight gain from stabilizing often more than doubling in weight. Other woods such as Redwood, Oak and Walnut will have a lesser weight gain and may end up not quite as heavy. When stabilized, these woods are still much harder and more durable than the natural untreated wood.
Working with Stabilized Wood
Working with stabilized wood is a lot like using natural, non-treated woods. It can be worked using the same tools and abrasives as with natural woods. The stabilizing process will even up the hardness of the wood as well as fill in a portion of the open pores in the wood. This makes the wood easier to sand and get an even finish that will often times show off the grain patterns and figure in the wood better than the results obtained using the same procedures with natural wood.
Not all stabilized woods will be the same hardness. Some types of wood will not attain the same hardness as others. While the hardness and durability are improved by the stabilizing, care should be taken when working with them. Examples would be some “Spalted” or “Punky” woods (basically, rotted wood that has been stabilized to be useful as a pen blank, duck/goose call, knife handle, etc).
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