How can you tell if wood has been stabilized?

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by J. Keeton, Jan 1, 2019.

  1. J. Keeton

    J. Keeton Basic Member Basic Member

    841
    Nov 15, 2005
    Hey guys, I have some old pieces of labeled wood that were given to me in 2006 by an acquaintance who was a knife-maker. They've been sitting in a barn since then. My parents recently found them and said "do you want these?" (hah!)

    These pieces include:
    • Gum
    • Box Elder
    • HackBerry
    • Cherry
    • and a large unknown block!

    I found an old forum post that said Cherry, Gum, and Box Elder need to be stabilized. Not sure about HackBerry.

    Is there a way to visually tell if the gentleman who gave them to me had bought them stabilized?

    Thanks,
    J. Keeton

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  2. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    They don't look stabilized, but it is hard to tell without much closer and clearer photos.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
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  3. Greenberg Woods

    Greenberg Woods Wood Fanatic and Rosewood Addict

    Dec 27, 2013
    THe large brown piece is either Brazillian rosewood or cocobolo. Sand a small piece of it, if it smells spicy it is cocobolo, if it smells rosey it is brazillian.

    Sand a piece of wood you think might be stabilized. Most stabilized wood dust is very light in color, almost light. It also has a distinctive slightly sweet smell to it.
     
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  4. J. Keeton

    J. Keeton Basic Member Basic Member

    841
    Nov 15, 2005
    Awesome, Thanks for the help! Extremely helpful. I'll get to testing!
     
  5. mete

    mete

    Jun 10, 2003
    What other stabilizers are used besides acrylic .If it's just been sanded different stabilizers will have different smells
     
  6. Ken H>

    Ken H>

    Dec 31, 2011
    One say to check wood is to see how it floats in water. A well stabilized wood will either sink, or float with just the top barely clear of water. If the wood floats high in water, it's not been stabilized. Of the woods listed by OP, the Box Elder is the only one that will almost sink, the Gum, Cherry, and Hackberry will float with over half of wood out of water unless it's been stabilized.

    The blocks labeled Gum, Cherry, and Hackberry look like they're spalted, and if so I'll bet they've been stabilized.
     
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  7. Spalted

    Spalted My name is Britt Askew I like making knives Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 9, 2010
    One way for me is to hit the wood on the buffer a little bit - stabilized wood will buff shiny quick
     
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  8. J. Keeton

    J. Keeton Basic Member Basic Member

    841
    Nov 15, 2005
    Cool tip! Thanks Ken
     
  9. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    I agree, the simplest way is to sand a place to 400 grit and hit on a buffer with white polish. Stabilized will shine like glass ( almost). Some natural wood may shine, but not as much.
     
  10. J. Keeton

    J. Keeton Basic Member Basic Member

    841
    Nov 15, 2005
    The Gum and Hackberry sunk like rocks. The Cherry and Box Elder floated, but with 95% of the block under water.
     
  11. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    That sound like stabilized wood.
     
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  12. dirc

    dirc

    Jan 31, 2018

    Epoxy thinned down is often used, (it's also a common part of g10 etc)
    It's really easy to tell if it's fresh, the smell is hard to get rid of... but all epoxy is not the same, not by a long shot, more chemicals involved than in steel formulas; )

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epoxy
    (so many variants it's not really fair to call all 'epoxy')
    this is one reason I dislike stabilized wood... and would rather use a strong natural closed grain hardwood, like ironwoods

    epoxy certainly can be strong, but I'm really just sick of all forms of plastic
     
  13. Greenberg Woods

    Greenberg Woods Wood Fanatic and Rosewood Addict

    Dec 27, 2013
    I cant think of any stabilizers who use an epoxy based stabilint. A key property is that it can be injected into the wood and then hardened, epoxy is mixed with a harder so you are battling the clock.

    all stabilizing companies I know use either use an acrylic that is forced in under pressure and heat cured, or a poly-ethelythene polymer dissolved in strong solvent, but this often causes wood colors to run so blocks stabilized in this way are almost always dyed.
     
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  14. Ken H>

    Ken H>

    Dec 31, 2011
    Yep, I agree with Stacy - Gum and Hackberry are stabilized with the box elder being natural (doesn't need stabilizing)..... say 99.9% assured? Ben has Boxelder listed as "another soft wood that is often stabilized" - Ben is MUCH more qualified to comment on the need of BoxElder to be stabilized than I am. The blocks of (edit to remove Boxelder) Grey Box Burl I have do not seem to be stabilized, but are very dense and hard and float like your block does, about 95% (or more) under water. What I have isn't truly BoxElder like Ben has, but is Grey Box Burl. Sorry I had it all wrong - my memory just isn't so good.

    Ken H>
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2019
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  15. dirc

    dirc

    Jan 31, 2018
    the stabilizing of wood usually uses MMA https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methyl_methacrylate
    which gets sucked into the wood under vacuum, then cured at a bit over 200F

    I treat all of these organo-esther-plastics as plastics, and epoxy's part of the family imho .. I'm guilty of just heaping all of those different esther type chemical polymer plastics together.
    ...

    I've seen it where actual epoxy is injected into larger voids in burls etc, after the wood has absorbed a MMA bath (which doesn't fill voids)
     
  16. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    All my box elder burl gets stabilized. I would not think of it as a dense wood. It is very lovely when stabilized. It is also one of the few woods that does well with the double-dying process.

    I have never seen wood stabilized with epoxy, only MMA. The colorful stuff you see lately with filled pockets and edges of burl caps is filled after stabilizing. I think most of it is done with alumilite, like Masecraft uses.
     
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  17. Willie71

    Willie71 Warren J. Krywko. Part Time Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    Some confusion results from the similar names of boxwood (very dense and hard) and box elder, aka Manitoba maple. I have box elder growing all around me, and it isn’t much harder than poplar. It’s softer than walnut.
     
  18. Ken H>

    Ken H>

    Dec 31, 2011
    Sorry folks, I just checked by box of wood and the "Boxelder" I was referring to is NOT Boxelder, but Grey Box Burl. It is a heavy dense wood is from southeastern Australia. "The burls grow on medium sized trees in the Eucalyptus family. The density generally ranges from .83 up to 1.1" - that's why what I have isn't stabilized, but is nothing like BoxElder. I stand firmly corrected.

    Ken H>
     
  19. DanH45

    DanH45

    246
    Feb 12, 2015
    ^^^ Sounds similar to iron bark?
     

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