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I have a couple of burls I've harvested from some trees on my family's property that will make nice turnings and knife scales. There are probably some voids in there and the wood is probably a little soft or prone to cracking if I try to machine it.

Commercial wood stabilization systems are pretty dang expensive. We've had a couple questions on what stabilization is and stabilizing green wood (that one not really related to my question), but no questions on how to do it cheaply.

Is there a more homebrew (read: cheap) way to stabilize wood? I'm talking about the system where you submerge the piece in resin, draw a vacuum, and bake the piece to set the resin.

I already have a toaster oven that would work for baking the pieces, and I assume the resin is an unavoidable cost. What I'm missing is the vacuum chamber.

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    Maybe you missed this slick setup. It looks like what you're looking for. Don't know what kind of vacuum apparatus is required, but it looks like fun. – Ast Pace Dec 3 '15 at 1:51
  • Link doesn't work for me. – keshlam Dec 3 '15 at 5:49
  • Note that for voids in the surface it's entirely reasonable to fill them with tinted epoxy. I've also seen some slather-on-and-let-dry mixtures for stabilizing rotting house trim before rebuilding with epoxy putty, but I suspect they aren't sufficiently transparent. – keshlam Dec 3 '15 at 5:53
  • I guess what I'm really looking for is a cheap vacuum chamber alternative, when it really comes down to it. – grfrazee Dec 3 '15 at 14:54
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    The double-wall approach -- which may be as simple as putting the jar in a plywood enclosure -- sounds simple and cheap. Glass is strong stuff when stressed evenly and not scratched. And using the Harbor Freight cheapo vacuum pump makes the whole thing cheap enough that I'm finding it hard not to give it a try. – keshlam Mar 16 '16 at 21:43
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When you're stabilizing wood, you're essentially displacing the water and air pockets within the grain structure with a harder material. There are many methods to do this and some work better than others. Overall, they all exploit the porous sponge-like nature of wood to wick in a liquid that will harden into the air pockets.

If you're looking for some kind of cheap, homemade alternative to expensive resins, you may want to try good old wood glue thinned out with water and vinegar. Also, you may want to try out thinned hide glue. Wood generally wicks in liquid through the end grain. Make sure you leave a nice freshly exposed end grain surface.

The following article discusses some alternatives for commercial resins:

http://dcknives.blogspot.com/p/wood-stabilization.html

He mentions that many are acrylics dissolved in acetone. You may want to also experiment with thinned clear acrylic paint or even thinned shellac.

There are several factors that effect the success, including the wood used. You're best bet is to experiment with different recipes.

| improve this answer | |
  • Your first link is the same as OP's original "pretty dang expensive" link, i.e. exactly what he is trying to avoid. – Ast Pace Mar 23 '16 at 4:35
  • Thanks. I'll edit it. I only included it to document the procedures for others who may be more clueless if they stumble on this link. – user148298 Mar 23 '16 at 14:52

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