With wood being a versatile material, furniture and other kitchen and household items or objects can be made from it, making it an important work material. Regardless of this benefit, there’s a major disadvantage — it ages, and in the process, rots, making it unusable.
Skilled craftsmen since time immemorial have sought ways to make wood durable through various means, one of them being wood stabilization.
Wood stabilization basically refers to processes that use vacuum and pressure to harden the structure of the wood. The idea behind wood stabilizing takes a piece of wood, injects it with resin, which creates strong, stable wood planks that are both safe and easy to turn. This also involves drying up moisture found in wood planks, then using a vacuum chamber to bone-dry the wood.
Benefits of Wood Stabilization
Wood stabilization has been identified to offer a ton of benefits to craftsmen everywhere. The idea behind this process is to add agents that are capable of hardening wood planks. Some of these benefits include:
- First, they offer more technical and decorative features than other wood types. During the course of stabilization, products that extend the operational use of these wooden surfaces and objects are added, in the process making wood planks more versatile and durable.
- Treated wood planks become much easier to work with more than any other wood plank.
- Wood stabilization is capable of minimizing shrinkage and expansion of wood.
- It increases the resistance of these wood pellets or planks to warping and cracking of any sort.
- Wood planks that have been stabilized do not easily absorb water (if at all), making them ideal for almost any object you plan on working on.
- Stabilization encourages faster and easier finishing when compared to non-stabilized wood.
- And when sanding, the grains in stabilized wood will not rise.
One last note: stabilized wood offers environmental benefits.
How to Stabilize Wood
Having highlighted some of the benefits of wood stabilization, it is time to dive into how you can stabilize wood yourself. To help you out, here we share a step-by-step guide on how you can go about this.
Step 1 — Gather All Essential Materials Beforehand
Regardless of what you’re trying to do, gathering all essential materials needed to get the task done is one of the very first steps you need to take, and wood stabilization is not any different. You need to identify and gather all of the essential materials you will need to complete this task. Here are the items you will most likely need:
You guessed right. This is the most important material you need for this task. While we already know that wood is an essential material, the type of wood can be a problem.
Although stabilizing works incredibly well on almost every wood, there are certain types that it does not work too well with — like wood planks that contain an ample amount of natural oil.
Dense wood blocks also do not allow stabilizing resins to pass through efficiently, making them a poor choice for stabilization.
I wouldn’t advise you to make use of anything that’s denser than regular, hard maple. The best wood planks you should use for stabilization are:
- American chestnuts
- Spalted Maple
There are only a few of these available to choose from and we recommend you get the Cactus Juice, which is basically a heated acrylic resin.
Another ideal resin is Stick-Fast.
Either way, be sure to research carefully as there are many different types of resin available with different purposes.
This is a necessary item required for wood stabilization. While there are tons of machines on the market, it is advised that you go for only the best. If you can, a two-stage vacuum pump is ideal.
Although settling for a vacuum pump that comes with an air compressor will work, the time needed for it to run efficiently will definitely wear out the compressor.
Also, do not settle for hand pump brakes you may see. They will not work for stabilizing wood.
Depending on your DIY skill set, you may decide to either buy one of these or build one yourself.
This is another essential item that you will need to heat your wood blocks before and after they have been soaked in resin. Before using your home toaster oven to heat wood blocks, it is important that you test for lead to ensure that no harmful or toxic chemicals are present.
If you do not own a toaster oven, this may be a good time to get one. The influx of dozens of these ovens on the market has drastically reduced the overall cost of owning one.
In addition to these essential items mentioned, one-gallon freezer bags may also be needed if you’re to conveniently carry out wood stabilizing effectively.
Step 2 — Prepare the Wood
Once you have successfully gathered all the essential items you need to complete this task, the next step to take is to prepare the wood for the main task at hand.
The very first step of preparing wood for placing in the vacuum chamber is cutting or breaking the wood plank into the exact shape you need it.
For example, it would be time and resource-consuming if you decide to stabilize a wood plank of about three feet when all you need to create an object or design is no more than one foot.
One quick trick you can implore when downsizing wood planks is to leave them a little bit oversized, this is to accommodate any little adjustment you may have to make in the future.
Once you have downsized the wood planks to the right shape or size you need them, the next preparatory step to take is to dry them.
Generally, if wood planks are to take in as much resin as possible, they need to be dry. Stabilizing a wet or moisture-filled wood will definitely fail. You need to dry up wood planks beforehand.
Drying wood planks or blocks is quite easy, especially if you own a toaster oven. All you need to do since you’ve already downsized your wood planks is to stick them into the oven at a temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
The thickness of the wood plank in question will determine how long you are to leave it in the oven. Ideally, you may decide to leave for as much as two to six hours. Once you notice that they are dried enough, get them out of the oven, stick them into a heat-resistant sealed bag, and leave them to cool off at room temperature.
Do not leave the heated planks outside to cool off, as they may absorb moisture out there. Put them in a sealed container and keep inside at room temperature.
Step 3 — Start Vacuuming
Your wood planks are dry and cool, right? If they are not, it is advised that you toss them back into the oven to dry them properly. Assuming your wood has completely cooled off, it’s now time to start stabilizing it.
To get started, you need two separate jars with lids. First, take out one of the jars and place your wood blocks in them. For the stabilization jar, you need to stop the wood from floating by using a wire to keep them towards the bottom of the jar.
Once that is done, you need to pour your selected resin into the jar in such a way that it almost fills. The other jar will serve as a reservoir. You need to fill it with resin, then screw the lids together.
As the reservoir, the second jar will serve two distinct purposes — first, it will keep the pump from sucking up much of the liquid through the open air space. Secondly, it will keep the stabilizing jar filled with more than enough resin to get the job done.
Once you’ve successfully set up the second jar, the next thing to do is to adjust the valve in such a way that the valve going into the vacuum chamber is open while that of the air space is closed. When you do this, it will get foamy. Not to worry, it’s a normal occurrence.
Let the pump run until you begin to see fewer bubbles, this could take about 30 minutes. As soon as the bubbles stop completely, it is time to turn off the pump.
Unlike your regular pump, you do not have to turn off the pump by simply tapping the switch button. To preserve your pump, you need to first turn on the air space valve that was turned off earlier on, once you begin to notice the air pump out of the machine, you can then turn it off.
Depending on how you go about it, vacuuming and stabilizing wood blocks may take as much as eight hours. During the course of this, it is important that no woodblock or plank is exposed to air.
Ensure that they are properly covered in resin throughout the course of this activity. If any part of the wood is exposed to air, you may have to repeat the vacuuming again.
Step 4 — Start baking!
Let’s assume you let your wood blocks soak in resin as needed and they were not exposed to air at all, you still need to cure them. How can you do this? First, you need to expose the resin-covered wood blocks to heat: about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
To heat, we’ll have to make use of the toaster oven once again.
The trick to efficiently baking wood blocks is to heat them appropriately at a temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit, taking them out at a temperature lesser than that will result in half baked wood blocks.
As mentioned earlier, thicker wood blocks will definitely take more time than thinner wood blocks. If you can, it is advised that you leave them in the oven the whole day. Once the wood blocks have been baked properly, it is time to take them out and allow them to cool off.
Step 5 — Done!
Assuming you followed all the steps discussed here and you’ve allowed the wood blocks to heat for as long as needed, you have successfully stabilized the wood. Once all that is done, you will need to clean off the excess resin on the wood blocks.
While your stabilized wood blocks look like regular wood blocks, they are treated wood blocks that are super durable and can be used to make many different objects, like chairs or decorations.
What Can You Use Stabilized Wood for?
Many people have asked this question before and after stabilizing wood. If you’ve asked that question, then you’ve come to the right place.
As mentioned at the onset, stabilized wood blocks are incredibly versatile, durable, and hard. This means that they can be used to make a ton of objects ranging from knife handles to bowls, dishes, artwork, and other amazing wooden projects.
Stabilized wood blocks are easy to decorate and are capable of receiving paint, making them an ideal wood for all your home decorations.
Stabilizing wood can be quite a difficult task for anyone. Time, precision, care, and patience are all needed to complete the task. In this piece, we’ve shared a step-by-step guide on how you can stabilize wood blocks from the comfort of your home.
Since you are heating wood blocks, it is advised that you put on protective gear to keep yourself safe throughout the entire process. Also, these steps mentioned here may differ if you decide to use different tools. However, if you downsize the wood blocks appropriately, dry them up, and cure them at the right temperature, you’re definitely getting stabilized wood blocks.