Recommendation? Professional vrs. Home Stabilization

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Trey9123, Jul 1, 2020.

  1. Trey9123

    Trey9123

    13
    Jul 1, 2020
    I'm a pretty avid woodworker, but just getting into knives. Specifically, I have been rehandeling vintage knives and tools. So far, I have just been ordering scales from ebay, but I have tons of wood cutoffs from over the years, and this seems like the perfect small project for all those cutoffs. I have been reading this forum a lot, specifically on how to stabilize wood for use in handles. It looks like you can get a vacuum chamber, pump, and gallon of Cactus Juice for about $250. I have also learned that there are companies that do it professionally. My question is, how much better results do you get from professional stabilization vers doing it yourself in your shop? It seems like if you can get pretty good results from home it will pay off in the long run. Let me know your thought.
     
  2. A.McPherson

    A.McPherson KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 27, 2012
    There are literally TONS of this exact thread.

    Basically there are two trains of thought: some stabilization is better than nothing, and only pro jobs are good enough.

    Personally, I that the only reasons to do stabilization at home are: cause you want to, and cause you wanna stabilize weird things (pine cones, cholla cactus, a stack of playing cards etc.)

    Pros do it better, for cheaper than you can do it, if you consider your time at all.
     
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  3. weo

    weo KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 21, 2014
  4. Trey9123

    Trey9123

    13
    Jul 1, 2020
    Got it, sorry.
     
  5. weo

    weo KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 21, 2014
    Nothing to be sorry about. I apologize for making you think you were being scolded.:oops:
     
  6. Cushing H.

    Cushing H. Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 3, 2019
    Trey - please ... no apologies. This is just a topic where many people have strong opinions. For all I have asked the same questions as you - let me try to distill. It’s a cool process ... if you want to try yourself, well, why not. But it can be tricky, so pay attention to the details (moisture content, time, and pressure). You are likely to have better luck with less dense woods (like spalted woods). You will not likely get as heavy a result as say K&G will produce ..but it is your decision whether the result is “good enough”. Consensus seems to be that if you are going to sell a knife, there is great value / confidence in the statement that the wood was “professionally stabilized “ (because of the possibility of poor resin penetration with a home-based process). Hopefully all that makes sense...
     
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  7. weo

    weo KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 21, 2014
    Nice summary, Cush.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2020
  8. scott kozub

    scott kozub Basic Member Basic Member

    600
    Jan 1, 2018
    I do both and lately have been ordering more professional blanks. Handles have been natural wood for 1000's of years so that where the "what can it hurt" school of thought comes from. However, to get the best possible results, professional is better and probably similar in price. I do it at home because I like to do hybrid blocks. I use a cheap HF vacuum pump with a glass pasta jar for a chamber from the dollar store and some valves and a vaccum gauge. Not much cost at all. The cactus juice is pricey and some woods use up a lot. You can make some weird stuff at home with cactus juice and alumilite.
     
    Willie71 likes this.
  9. Willie71

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

    Feb 23, 2013
    The pros have access to equipment we do not. For softer woods, like maple, poplar, Burch, cactus juice with proper prep works fine. Once woods get denser or oilier than black walnut, send it to the pros. Of course, if selling, you will be better off being able to say stabilized by K&G than home brew stabilization.
     
  10. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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

    Aug 20, 2004
    In response to those who say, "Handles have been made from unstabilized wood for 1000's of years...." I reply, "And blades were around .60% carbon or less and Rc45 for a couple 1000 years, too. But, I still like to use modern high carbon alloy steel and properly harden it with metallurgical techniques.
     
  11. Cushing H.

    Cushing H. Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 3, 2019
    Oh come on Stacy. Don’t confuse the issue with facts. Us stick-in-the-muds like our little delusions.....
     
  12. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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

    Aug 20, 2004
    One of my favorite quotes comes from Kevin Cashen (attributed to many people) - "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but no one is entitled to his own facts."
    (Said in reference to a certain cowboy knifemaker)
     
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  13. Trey9123

    Trey9123

    13
    Jul 1, 2020
    So if you do opt to send off for stabilization, is there any advantage to sending block versus scales. It seems like if you are paying by the pound you would want to get as close to finished size as possible before sending the off. Is it considered bad form to send smaller pieces or scales?
     
  14. weo

    weo KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 21, 2014
    Whew! Glad to see I didn't scare you off...;)
    Not bad form, but send a whole block and then cut it into scales when you get it back. The process uses heat and high pressure and scales will most likely not come back warped and curled.
     
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  15. Randydb

    Randydb Basic Member Basic Member

    911
    Sep 27, 2014
    I have a pile of pieces of interesting wood I collect out in the bush "drying" under my porch. Like you I am more of wood worker than knife maker. Every once in a while I cut 35-100 blocks up around 1x1.5x 5 and ship them off to K&G to be stabilized. Shipping and stabilization works out to about $6 cdn a block. Seeing as I find the wood it works out to be a great deal. No messing around and I get great blocks.
     
  16. Cushing H.

    Cushing H. Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 3, 2019
    Hey trey. It seems like the stabilization process can actually produce warps in the wood (like WEO said). Send blocks. They come back a little deformed. Use those to cut oversized scales. Let them sit a little while, as they might warp a little after cutting. Then sand flat and fit. If you send scales, you won’t have the leeway to cut and sand to size and flatness when they warp. Make sense?
     
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  17. milkbaby

    milkbaby

    640
    Aug 1, 2016
    Do NOT send scales to be stabilized unless each side is like 3/4 to 1 inch thick. The stabilizing resin is cured by heating which will cause most thin scales to warp.

    I've made knives with natural/unstabilized, cactus juice stabilized, and pro stabilized (K&G/WSSI) wood and personally feel they all worked fine depending on what use and conditions the knife will be used under.
     
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  18. Trey9123

    Trey9123

    13
    Jul 1, 2020
    Great, thank you so much for the info.
     

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