Wood Stabilization for Pen Turning

What is wood stabilizing? 

Wood stabilization means different things to different woodworkers.  In the case of pen turning, wood stabilization refers to reinforcing wood against inherent defects or weaknesses.  This may mean anything from filling cracks with epoxy, to impregnating the wood with resin. 

The basic principle of wood stabilizing is to take a piece of soft or punky wood and inject it with resin to create a stable, hardened wood blank that is safe to turn.  The resin displaces air pockets throughout the grain structure, creating a dense blank that is nearly impervious to moisture changes and can be polished to a high gloss. 

The stabilizing process

Dry wood (preferably lower than 10% moisture content) is placed in a container with the stabilizing solution. It is put under a vacuum and then high pressure to ensure that the solution completely penetrates the 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.

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.

The Cost

The cost of a piece of stabilized wood compared to a natural, untreated piece is usually about $10 more.  Since this is required for some of the most desirable specimens used in pen making, you will see that added cost reflected in the finished product’s price.

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