Help grading wood for stabilizing...and what to do with the rest?

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Will stabilizing work on spalted wood with soft spots? How good does the figure need to be, and how free from inclusions, before it is good enough to send for stabilizing? Do you burn/throw away the stuff that doesn't quite make the grade, even if it is still figured, or is it still good for other projects? If you can use wood for things other than knife handles, how to you choose what gets cut into little blocks for handles, and what is left large for bigger projects?

Back in the winter of 2019 a silver maple with a lot of small burls came down near my parents' place and I have spent a couple of years mining the trunk for figured wood. The stuff I got early on is pretty sound, but the last load, collected early March and which was most of the burl, has spalted quite a lot. Mostly not spalt with black lines though :(. Anyway, I have been cutting some slabs into blocks with the intent of sending to K & G for stabilising and would like to get some extra opinions.

First thing, this picture shows a piece that I hand planed (good sharp A2 blade) and the fluffy white bits are where the wood has gone really soft and been pulled by the plane blade. Can such wood be stabilised and those soft areas filled, or are all such pieces good for nothing but stove wood?


Next, bark inclusions, is there ever an acceptable size, or number? I am not a maker of high end art, and most things are either kitchen of bushcraft tools. Quite a few pieces (often those that are the most solid) have small bark inclusions. This would be a high number, but the size is small.


When I first started cutting blocks I was tending to cut for yield, and it took a while to realise I needed to accept higher waste and to cut for quality. Between the better bits that I have since cut from the maple, and some bits of curly redwood, I have a 11"x8.75"x5.75" box full (about 35 blocks, varied from 1" square to 1.5x2, mostly 5" long but some smaller destined for stacked handles). I have quite a few pieces from the early cutting, and a lot of chunks and slabs of maple that I haven't cut, as well as some more redwood and some curly ash. I could put another such box together, I have some curly ash that might be good dyed and stabilized, but I don't want to send stuff that is too low a grade, and in my enthusiasm I don't want to cut up slabs that would be better saved for other projects.

I suspect that some of the larger slabs of maple do not have enough dense figure to make it good to cut them for knife handles. Maybe better to keep them large and cut them for bandsawn veneer to make keepsake boxes or some such other decorative wood project. Would quite like to hear thoughts on how folk choose what to cut for handles, and how much figure a block needs to be worth stabilising? Are you strong enough in resolve that you turn the 2nds into fire wood, or do you find another use for them?

These are the early cut blocks (call 'em 2nd quality) and some chunks that might yield a good block here and there, maybe...


Couple of the big bits that I think would be better kept for box making. Maybe bandsawn veneer. Not sure how to deal with the soft areas, as described earlier in the post. Tempting to hose the surface with cyanoacrylate, but maybe some super thin epoxy would be more economical and penetrate better? Anyone ever do wood work with spalted wood? Other than stabilizing, is there a way to finish it at home to toughen the surface...I know this isn't an ideal place to ask, but so many folk here have talents beyond knives I thought it worth a try!


Might as well show the stuff that I have already got ready to go.


And the remaining redwood, some of which will be held back for other decorative projects, but some could definitely go in a second box for stabilizing.


Thanks!

Chris
 

Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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I use CA to stiffen and fill the soft spots and eyes. Buckeye burl and redwood can become stunning from so-so looking pieces.

Stabilize as normal first.
Then when it gets back, use it like normal for handles. When you get the handle about 95% shaped, flood it with medium CA (wear rubber gloves). Wait about 60 seconds and start sanding. The sanding dust will pack into the voids and soft spots. Repeat several times. When 99% shaped, give it one last coat of thin CA and let it fully dry. Sand to the final grit and buff.
 

3fifty7

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Dec 24, 2016
Messages
2,852
Grade hard now.
Remember knife handles are relatively small so there better be a lot going on in a small area.
I’ve tossed many pieces with bark inclusions, stabilizing will not fill voids. That has to be done with thin epoxy or better yet a bunch of super glue/ca glue.
I’ve finished a few pieces of unstabalized spalted wood with TruOil. After enough coats it quits absorbing into the wood and begins to build on itself. It will give a high gloss hard shell finish, it doesn’t fully penetrate like professional stabilization but gives a fine top coat.
 

Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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357 is right about grading the wood hard. It is wasted money to keep and stabilize wood you will never use (or sell).

I cut up the wood into blocks of approximate handle size. I look them over and toss into two boxes - Firewood and Keepers. Then I take the keepers box and sort it into two boxes - Stabilize Now and Save for Later. I re-sort the NOW box again to take out the best of the batch. Depending on your budget and how many handles blocks you use, send off the best of the NOW lot (about 50 blocks for me, but maybe 10 for most folks) to K&G for stabilizing and dying. Set aside the rest of the NOW box for future stabilizing.
Once back from Ken and Brad and sanded down, spray them with clear fast drying lacquer. Then you can decide how much of the ones you held back to send for future stabilizing, how much to give to friends unstabilized, and how much to put in the firewood box.

Every year at the first cold night of winter we have our $1000 fire of the blocks culled out during the year.

TIPS:
The Save for Later box or the NOW ones not sent for clear stabilizing are often great for dying and stabilizing.

Storing the wood in storage bins is wise. It makes it cleaner as well as easier to find the various grades and types. Do yourself a favor and label the boxes on the front so you can see where the one you want is when stacked 20 high.
I use the multi-color stackable boxes from Costco, Sam's, etc., Amazon, Costco

1653573980030.png
 
Joined
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862
Great advice! Thank you.

I should probably mention that the cost of international shipping is the strong motivator for me not to send anything to K&G until I can absolutely max out the capacity of a USPS medium or large flat rate box. I have used the medium ones in the past and they hold around 30 blocks. The shipping back costs the same whether the box has 10 or 30 in it. Cost out is slightly better to send fewer, heavier, boxes rather than multiple light ones. Similar with $12 equivalent UK Customs handling fee upon arrival, it is charged per box.

I will get culling, maybe fill gaps created by scrapping the less perfect ones with better wood from the still uncut slabs.

Glad to have the tip about using the less good pieces for dying. I have always had just clear stabilizing and was thinking some dyed wood would be interesting. Nothing to bright, just some black and brown. Might look really interesting with the different hardnesses in the spalting maple.

Thanks

Chris
 

Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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Black and brown look very good. Also, green, red, and blue do well for kitchen knife handles.

When you get your dyed wood back your heart may skip a beat ... because it looks horrible. Fear not, once the surface is sanded away the color is different.
 

FredyCro

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Jan 11, 2019
Messages
1,143
Great advice! Thank you.

I should probably mention that the cost of international shipping is the strong motivator for me not to send anything to K&G until I can absolutely max out the capacity of a USPS medium or large flat rate box. I have used the medium ones in the past and they hold around 30 blocks. The shipping back costs the same whether the box has 10 or 30 in it. Cost out is slightly better to send fewer, heavier, boxes rather than multiple light ones. Similar with $12 equivalent UK Customs handling fee upon arrival, it is charged per box.

I will get culling, maybe fill gaps created by scrapping the less perfect ones with better wood from the still uncut slabs.

Glad to have the tip about using the less good pieces for dying. I have always had just clear stabilizing and was thinking some dyed wood would be interesting. Nothing to bright, just some black and brown. Might look really interesting with the different hardnesses in the spalting maple.

Thanks

Chris
Have you sent wood before from UK to K&G? I am afraid of tax when it comes back. What was the total cost with shipping there and back and K&G service?
 
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I have sent wood to K&G before, and to WSSI before that. At the time the shipping cost of sending the untreated wood was less than the cost of shipping the treated wood back! Such was the benefit of flat-rate-boxes!

The tax is just going to be VAT, 20%, and with the treatment, it is going to be less than if you simply bought the same quantity of blocks sourced and finished from the US. There should be no Duty due.

The last lot I sent was so long ago that I cannot remember the costs. We are talking something like 2010 or 2011 for the last such order. I don't expect I will get much change from £300 for 30 blocks there and back, but I haven't checked UK shipping yet and I could do with better estimates of weight. I am am going to do some more figuring before I send this box off, and I can do some weight checks.

They say they are taking 2-3 months to process, and based on the last USPS shipment I had from the US, it could take a further 6 weeks to travel back, I will keep a record of costs.

Despite that apparent high costs, if I bought wood treated in the UK, it would most likely be done with Cactus Juice. Some of the domestically treated wood has looked good but the sample piece of redwood I gave one such business was ruined. Even WSSI was unreliable penetration on the redwood. The K&G stuff hasn't been 100% good, but maybe 80-90%. Furthermore, per finished block from UK suppliers is between £25 and £40 (clear), so £10-£15 per block for my own wood going to and from K&G is a bargain ....if I don't count all the work I do to prep them. ;)
 

Cushing H.

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Yeah - ihave noticed that as my attention to figure increases, the quantity of wood waste goes up. Disheartening, but the results are better!

I second Stacy’s comment about color dyed wood for kitchen knives. I have used colored spalted maple (red, blue, green/turquoise), usually after asking the recipient if they had a favorite color. The results are actually quite nice. I’m actually running low, and right now wish I had some red dyed wood for a tomato knife I will be handling soon…
 

FredyCro

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Joined
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Messages
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I have sent wood to K&G before, and to WSSI before that. At the time the shipping cost of sending the untreated wood was less than the cost of shipping the treated wood back! Such was the benefit of flat-rate-boxes!

The tax is just going to be VAT, 20%, and with the treatment, it is going to be less than if you simply bought the same quantity of blocks sourced and finished from the US. There should be no Duty due.

The last lot I sent was so long ago that I cannot remember the costs. We are talking something like 2010 or 2011 for the last such order. I don't expect I will get much change from £300 for 30 blocks there and back, but I haven't checked UK shipping yet and I could do with better estimates of weight. I am am going to do some more figuring before I send this box off, and I can do some weight checks.

They say they are taking 2-3 months to process, and based on the last USPS shipment I had from the US, it could take a further 6 weeks to travel back, I will keep a record of costs.

Despite that apparent high costs, if I bought wood treated in the UK, it would most likely be done with Cactus Juice. Some of the domestically treated wood has looked good but the sample piece of redwood I gave one such business was ruined. Even WSSI was unreliable penetration on the redwood. The K&G stuff hasn't been 100% good, but maybe 80-90%. Furthermore, per finished block from UK suppliers is between £25 and £40 (clear), so £10-£15 per block for my own wood going to and from K&G is a bargain ....if I don't count all the work I do to prep them. ;)
Its about what I figured. Thanks for the response. Once I start selling, definitely good price. I see no way, how you would be able to offer a nice edc with stabilized wood for 100-150 USD if you were buying blocks at 30-40 USD.
 

Greenberg Woods

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Dec 27, 2013
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2,547
357 is right about grading the wood hard. It is wasted money to keep and stabilize wood you will never use (or sell).

I cut up the wood into blocks of approximate handle size. I look them over and toss into two boxes - Firewood and Keepers. Then I take the keepers box and sort it into two boxes - Stabilize Now and Save for Later. I re-sort the NOW box again to take out the best of the batch. Depending on your budget and how many handles blocks you use, send off the best of the NOW lot (about 50 blocks for me, but maybe 10 for most folks) to K&G for stabilizing and dying. Set aside the rest of the NOW box for future stabilizing.
Once back from Ken and Brad and sanded down, spray them with clear fast drying lacquer. Then you can decide how much of the ones you held back to send for future stabilizing, how much to give to friends unstabilized, and how much to put in the firewood box.

Every year at the first cold night of winter we have our $1000 fire of the blocks culled out during the year.

TIPS:
The Save for Later box or the NOW ones not sent for clear stabilizing are often great for dying and stabilizing.

Storing the wood in storage bins is wise. It makes it cleaner as well as easier to find the various grades and types. Do yourself a favor and label the boxes on the front so you can see where the one you want is when stacked 20 high.
I use the multi-color stackable boxes from Costco, Sam's, etc., Amazon, Costco

View attachment 1828505

Here is a man who has systematized his wood hoarding.

As I grew my business this was one of the really big issues I ran into early. How to deal with the low grade material you will get too "Later" and when later is.

I havnt found the best way to sell my ~mid grade later pieces. Maybe I can make a few bundles of those for discount stock. I have obsessively high standards for woods.
 
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