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wood stabilization for turning blanks?

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Forum topic by Gary Fixler posted 03-14-2009 06:37 PM 22229 views 3 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Gary Fixler

1000 posts in 2126 days


03-14-2009 06:37 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wood rotted wood stabilizing stabilization question

I did a lot of research last night on stabilizing wood. I should note up front that I’m not interested in sending it out to be professionally stabilized, nor in buying the many available blanks out there. I’m a process nut, and just love trying out new techniques, even more so than creating finished products, and the more esoteric, the better ;)

After 2 years living at this rental home in LA, I’ve finally noticed near its corner a submerged stump:

underground stump

The pieces were all bug eaten (tons of bugs under them) and pulled free easily.

rotted pieces of underground stump

The bugs and dry rot have made them quite light:

rotted pieces of underground stump

I recently posted a tree in my Tree ID series (silver birch), and noted that it had been cut in half at some point. I finally emailed my landlady, who’s owned this place since 1994, and asked when and why that was done. She didn’t remember, citing something in ‘94 about trimming roof-damaging trees, but said it may also have been the ‘knuckleheads’ who rented this place before me, who were foolish enough to plant a large coral tree in a tight space between the house and septic tank. Of course, it had to be removed. The first Tree ID series post I made was on the awesome Coral tree, and I’ve been anxious to get my hands on some wood from one, despite its stated softness. This was my chance! But alas, it was all rotted.

That’s when I thought about the stabilized burl blanks I’ve seen at Rockler, and wondered about the process. I wanted something liquid that would penetrate everywhere, and figured I’d probably need a vacuum to pull the air out and draw the liquid in. Research last night indicates this is true. Sparky Paessler over in a thread at Sawmill Creek (sorry to link to the competition, Martin! :) has some images of his home setup using a vacuum pump, mason jar (some have used 1gal. pickle jars), shutoff valve, and thinned polyurethane. I’ve found there, and around the net talk of using other mixtures as the infiltrant as well. His finished burl blanks and pens came out looking rock solid.

Someone mentioned the Pump-N-Seal, which pulls about 27 inches of water reliably for only $30, so that might be an inexpensive option, along with a jar and the stabilizer, just to get me started. I’d love to try each of the infiltrants I’ve seen mentioned, to gain solid empirical evidence for myself, which I’ll post here of course.

Anyone here tried this stuff and want to talk tips and techniques? I’m wondering many things, like if I should resaw first, then stabilize the little pieces in a small jar, or if I should try to stabilize the whole thing so it resaws better, or maybe a mix of the two – get it smaller, stabilize those pieces, then saw to final dimensions to remove the exposed edges that won’t seal as well. What of the bugs? My officemate at work suggested a 5gal. bucket with a lid (and small hole), and throwing the pieces and some dry ice in there to smoke them out with the CO2. My mom suggested bleach in a bucket. I was also thinking of a trash bag and fogger, outside of course. or cutting the pieces tiny, putting them in ziplocs, and sticking those in the freezer (my least favorite). Thoughts? I’m also thinking that for bigger holes, I may need to seal and air dry a few times, until the vacuum doesn’t draw out any more bubbles. I’m also considering taking sawdust from resawing up the pieces and mixing it into the stabilizer for added stability and color matching. So many variables!

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator


20 replies so far

View interpim's profile

interpim

1133 posts in 2202 days


#1 posted 03-14-2009 06:54 PM

I don’t know anything about this, but I would be interested in seeing the results

-- San Diego, CA

View Karson's profile

Karson

34911 posts in 3144 days


#2 posted 03-14-2009 07:06 PM

I’ve got the vacuum pump and I regularly pull down to -25 lbs in my vacuum bag. Does your review state that you put the put the wood into the mason jar and then put in your mixture and then pull the vacuum in the glass jar.

I don’t know how much vacuum you could pull in a mason jar before collapsing it. But it would be interesting to get a freon tank and cut a hole in the side, weld on a steel plate that is removable and put your mix in the freon talk. I’ve used them as a vacuum reservoir.

But how about this. A plastic pipe that you could fit a wide mouth jar in and then seal off the plastic pipe and hook it up to the vacuum pump. That way the glass jar wouldn’t collapse, but it could hold any chemicals that might dissolve the plastic pipe. A toilet plate on the plastic pipe with a clear lid would allow you to see inside and see if your bubbles are coming out of the wood.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

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Gary Fixler

1000 posts in 2126 days


#3 posted 03-14-2009 11:05 PM

interpim – I’ll keep posting progress as/if I make any

Karson – Cool! I hadn’t thought of the vacuum bags. I assume you do that for veneers. That would be another good reason to splurge on a vacuum pump. The people online seem to have no problem pulling about 25 inches of water from mason jars. I don’t know what that is in PSI, but even a nice little manual pump has a gauge that only goes to 30”. I guess they’re pretty tough little containers. 1gal. pickle jars, too. I’d definitely be suited up and wearing eye protection when around that setup.

I’ve seen one guy who did what you said – has a hose into a pickle jar lid, and a mason jar sitting in the bottom of it with the solution and small piece(s) of wood in the mason jar only. Seemed to work for him. I imagine it’s not entirely safe, as there’s always the chance of a flawed jar, or one with an air bubble you don’t see, and even the pro jar science sites also sell metal cages for added safety against implosions in their pro bell jars.

Vacuum bell jars and similar seem to be going the way of the dodo. Edmund Scientific doesn’t supply more than 1, and it’s polycarbonate – not meant for harsh chemicals, which some of the infiltrants I want to try probably include. Several jars on Amazon are no longer available. Even Ebay is really low on offerings. I really like your idea of a simple cylinder with a strong, clear top. I’ve seen that setup before, now that you mention it, for other vacuum setups, unrelated to wood stabilization. I can probably afford a clear polycarbonate cylinder, and thick polycarbonate plate for the top, if I can find them. If not, I really like your simple pipe and jar plan. In fact, I think I like it more, as I could later remove the top plate and pipe and have a clear jar to look through. What’s a toilet plate?

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

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Karson

34911 posts in 3144 days


#4 posted 03-14-2009 11:16 PM

Gary: I guess they are called toilet flanges They are attached to plastic pipe with the normal plastic solvent.

They would have holes on the top for bolts to hold down some clear acrylic as the top. You could just use closed cell foam tape when using it as a vacuum, but if you wanted to pressurize it you’d need some bolts to hold the seal.

Full vacuum is 14 lbs per square inch so a 1 ft square surface is around 2000 lbs. It’s like an elephant foot pressing on it. The thick 4: pipe I’ve used from HD hold my vacuum supply great, but I’d hate to use just a mason jar. That why bell jars are so expensive.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

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Karson

34911 posts in 3144 days


#5 posted 03-14-2009 11:36 PM

Gary: In my research today it looks like Loctite Resinol 90C is the stuff to use. It was made for industrial use many years ago to repair engine blocks and castings that leaked air. They immerse the parts in this stuff and then bake it to cure it and the leaks go away. The 90C label states that you cure it at 90 deg C. It has brought down the number of defective parts.

It’s assumed that this is the product that is used by the professional wood stabilizers like MSSI. But they don’t say that in their web pages. You can buy it on eBay for 125.00 a gal and 35.00 a quart. From Loctite I’ve seen quotes of $1200.00 for 4 gal. Where the eBay seller would sell it for $500.00 for 4 gal. Maybe cheaper if you bought more. Some of the knife makers state that they use it a lot, for knife skins. And use Aniline Dyes to dye the wood as you stabalize it of before stabalizing it.

If we stored the used stuff in our mason jar we wouldn’t contimate the original container. They say the best storage is 2 to 8 deg C or around 35 to 46 deg F

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1000 posts in 2126 days


#6 posted 03-14-2009 11:51 PM

Karson, thanks for all this great info! I’ll likely pick up a quart of Resinol to give it a go. I do love empirical data, especially when it’s my own. Then I trust it the most! Meanwhile, I think it’ll be quicker to get the parts for the chamber, and I can start some research with the crap wood sealer from Home Depot (Minwax) that some people claim to have had some success with. Then I can try the acrylic stuff, polyurethane, and others people have mentioned online, as well as Resinol when it arrives.

I have a good set of chunks of that coral tree stump, so I can do a nicely scientific test on many small 1×1 or 2×2 chunks in some short length, probably 4”-6”. I think I’ll resaw first in this case, which will open up a lot of the chambers, allow me to shake and pick bugs out, and then I can also sort pieces into matched piles, so I can do more accurate comparisons with like pieces across each kind of chemistry.

This is kind of exciting :)

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1000 posts in 2126 days


#7 posted 03-15-2009 12:48 AM

Karson, thanks for all this great info! I’ll likely pick up a quart of Resinol to give it a go. I do love empirical data, especially when it’s my own. Then I trust it the most! Meanwhile, I think it’ll be quicker to get the parts for the chamber, and I can start some research with the crap wood sealer from Home Depot (Minwax) that some people claim to have had some success with. Then I can try the acrylic stuff, polyurethane, and others people have mentioned online, as well as Resinol when it arrives.

I have a good set of chunks of that coral tree stump, so I can do a nicely scientific test on many small 1×1 or 2×2 chunks in some short length, probably 4”-6”. I think I’ll resaw first in this case, which will open up a lot of the chambers, allow me to shake and pick bugs out, and then I can also sort pieces into matched piles, so I can do more accurate comparisons with like pieces across each kind of chemistry.

This is kind of exciting :)

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile

jeffthewoodwacker

603 posts in 2548 days


#8 posted 03-15-2009 01:37 AM

You can stabilize your blanks by flowing thin or medium CA glue on them. Another alternative is build a vacuum chamber. Do not use glass!!!! If you use glass please have the number for 911 on speed dial – standard glass jars will not hold up under constant vacuum. You can build a cheap vacuum chamber from plywood. Also look around at Harbor Freight – they sometimes have metal canisters with lock down lids that you can drill out for vacuum fittings. I get 20-24 pounds on a regular basis. If you use the vacuum chamber you can either soak the material with CA glue or a 50-50 mixture of Titebond II glue and water. When I turn soapstone I will coat it liberally with the titebond II glue and water mixture and put it in the vacuum chamber. If needed I will do a second application. Google vacuum chambers and you will get a lot of information.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View Sawdust2's profile

Sawdust2

1467 posts in 2832 days


#9 posted 03-15-2009 04:25 PM

Hmmm. If you could find an old pressure cooker (I hated anything my mother cooked in a pressure cooker)
that might be a good alternative.

The folks on Sawmill Creek don’t seem to have a problem using Mason jars. If you are worried about an implosion wouldn’t it be sufficient to just stick the jar in a 5 gal container and set a lid on it?

I have some stabilized burl from Arizona Silhouette and it has an odor that I can’t identify. Anybody have any of his stuff and can identify what he uses as a stabilizer?

I’m really enjoying this thread.

Lee

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View Sawdust2's profile

Sawdust2

1467 posts in 2832 days


#10 posted 12-08-2009 06:27 AM

OK
I’ve got the pressure pot somewhat useable. See repost on pressure pot.
Because pen blanks are small, 5/8×5/8×5, I plan to just put them in a pan that easily fits inside the 2.5 gal pressure pot. Will just have to take my own empirical notes as to the time involved.
I can make a rack that will hold 3 pans to do production work.

If the pressure idea fails the pot also has an opening for the paint that could be adapted to hold a vacuum hose and try that.

Gary, it has been a while. Did you have any success?

Lee

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View Karson's profile

Karson

34911 posts in 3144 days


#11 posted 01-15-2010 07:37 AM

I ran across this article.

http://content.penturners.org/articles/2004/polyurethane1.pdf

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Sawdust2's profile

Sawdust2

1467 posts in 2832 days


#12 posted 01-15-2010 02:29 PM

I got some pentracryl. Not sure is it really helped.
I used it with bodark (osage orange), box elder and some other not remembered blanks.
The box elder came out punky and useless.
The bodark came out with the spalting emphasized. I had cut it to size for some pen blanks but have not yet turned it.
That is one of this weekends projects
(I got a Beall Pen Wizard last week and the bits came yesterday so that is a major project.)
I had put them in the pot at 40 psi and left the AC running for about 4 h ours (because of the slow leak).
Still playing around.
Just haven’t had time to update folks.

Lee

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View Karson's profile

Karson

34911 posts in 3144 days


#13 posted 01-21-2010 04:07 AM

It looks like Resinol 90C is no longer being sold on eBay. I’m guessing that Locltite closed down that output. They want it sold to only their customers.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Kelly's profile

Kelly

245 posts in 1688 days


#14 posted 06-23-2010 08:13 AM

I know little about plastic pipe, but some of it will tolerate some impressive pressures. As such, it seems one could use some plastic pipe in the category of schedule 40 or 80 with a glued cap on the bottom. The shop I work in is plumbed with 1/2” for the 100 psi compressor lines that are, now, nearly thirty years old.

I pick up used nebulizers from garage sales. If you pop the top, disconnect the hose from the output and reconnect it to the input, you have a lightweight vacuum pump. I built a large vacuum system, using Corian and 1/2” plexi I had laying around, for the wife’s kitchen operations and powered with one of these and it works fine for bag sealing. I don’t know if it has enough boost for this, but for two bucks….....

View Padre's profile

Padre

930 posts in 2233 days


#15 posted 06-05-2011 05:24 PM

Methinks Woodman might work for Woodstabilization.com. You might want to check out this post on the IAP before you leap.

-- Chip -----------http://www.penmanchip.com-----------------Micah 6:8

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