Stabilizing wood

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Guthriecb

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Jul 19, 2019
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I was wondering if anyone had used Minwax wood hardener with any luck to stabilize wood. I picked up a mango branch and a monkey pod branch. Both had been on the ground for a very long time but I took them and cut into them anyway. The grain looks great, I’ll try to add pics later. I really don’t want to invest in a vacuum pot to stabilize so I was hoping the Minwax might be an option. Anyway, the wood was free so I’m gonna try it regardless, but didn’t know if anyone had any pointers. Thanks all!!


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FGarbrecht

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Aug 22, 2019
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I can't answer your question from direct experience with Minwax, but I suspect that it wouldn't work very well to actually stabilize the interior of your wood specimens. The process generally depends on first removing as much water and air from the interior of the wood as possible. Air drying to 5-10% followed by oven drying to bring water content down to less than 5% is followed by vacuum treatment with the wood submerged in the stabilizing resin. If there is air and/or water present in the wood fibers, the resin cannot penetrate into the deep interior of the wood. Minwax doesn't provide much info except to say that surface rot and degradation should be removed before brushing on surface layers of the product, and that it contains a mixture of some unspecified resin dissolved in methanol and acetone. If you just need to provide some surface stabilization it might be sufficient, but if you are trying to make an otherwise unturnable blank stable enough to hold together on the lathe, I doubt this will be enough.

On the other hand, you could experiment and report back. Maybe it would work. Some people do a 'stabilize as you go' approach using CA, which works on blanks with localized areas of unstable wood that can be stabilized with surface CA application as you find them during turning; this might work for you as well. Or you could send some of your cut blanks to some kind soul here who would stabilize the wood for you for little or no charge. I'm no expert on wood stabilization but I know how to do it and have the equipment, and would be willing to give it a try.
 

Larryreitz

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Feb 8, 2015
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Salem, CT USA
I have not used it for pens, but, once used it for a bowl I turned from some marginally hard spalted maple. As FGarbrecht mentioned above it it was a stabilize as you go process. On a smaller item like a pen blank CA may be a better alternative.
 

Kenny Durrant

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Sachse Tx. 75048
I've tried Minwax and it helps but it doesn't stabilize like Cactus Juice. Two different products. Minwax has properties that evaporate where C.J. solidifies when heated so it stays in the wood and makes it stronger. Of course there's more to it than that but that's the basics. If you don't want to spend the money to buy equipment or to have someone else do it for you I don't think it's going to hurt but it's nowhere the same out come.
 
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I tried using it several years ago but found that it didn't do what I wanted in the way of stabilizing. It is intended for wood repair on "punky" type woods but more for repair work that has sustained water damage or dry rot. I use CJ with the vacuum pump system. I've had good results and even woods that are very porous stabilize well i.e. driftwood.
 

leehljp

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Cactus Juice has already been recommended and I do also. This is with a vacuum system. Before Vacuum and cactus juice, CA and turn about a mm and CA again and again. Other variations are to CA the whole thing, turn barely round, CA again, turn one end of the blank (about half of it) about 2 mm and CA that; turn the other end. repeat.

Before Cactus Juice, soaking in polyurethane (water based or oil based, clear) or other natural hardening substance was acceptable. Back in those days, it was common to wait a week or two with the blank in the sun. I have used clear poly and put it where natural heat (like and attic) and wait a week. I noticed you are in Hawaii, that I ideal. This works better in other climates in the summer, but not cool or cold places.

Overall, a vacuum is the best to get hardener into it down to the core; oh and as mentioned, make sure the wood is dry before doing this. naturally green wood with moisture in it reacts to cactus juice and prevents other hardener from penetrating.
 

Curly

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Since you are going to give the Minwax a try anyway I would cut the blanks oversize including length. Drill a 3/16" hole or 1/4" if using bigger tubes. and put it in the oven. Turn it on warm and after a few minutes turn it off. If it is an older oven with an incandescent bulb turn on the light. The light will be enough to keep it warm enough inside to dry the wood. If it is newer and has LED lights, turn the oven on warm a couple few times a day until it is warm and then turn it off. When they are not loosing moisture (weight as you go is the best) warm them one last time but leave them in on warm for half and hour or more and let them cool in a ziplock bag or container. Immerse them in the Minwax to soak for as long as you want, pull them out and let them dry. Maybe give them a second soak. When you drill them out for the tubes soak them with Minwax or thin CA and then re-drill before glueing in the tubes. From there it is a turn a little and thin CA operation unless you have the patience to use the stabilizer each time and wait until it is dry.

The other option is to oven dry like above and use the thin CA inside and out when out of the oven and CA as you go. It would be the quicker option but more costly if you are doing a mitt full.

Or find someone near you that would stabilize them for you using Cactus Juice.
 

magpens

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Minwax Wood Hardener does definitely help with marginal pen blanks, even tho' it is not a true stabilization process.

I have used it quite successfully on punky spalted maple.

I first rounded the blanks, then drilled a 5/16" hole the length of the blank, and then immersed in the Minwax for about half an hour, removed and allowed to dry for 2 days.

I used the Minwax can as the container, and rounded the blanks to fit through the pouring spout. . Use a wire hook to suspend the blank so that you can easily pull it out.
 

Guthriecb

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Hawaii
Thanks for all the responses. They’ve been drying out for a few weeks and weren’t green branches when I picked them up. I cut them well oversize. They’re soaking now. I think I’m gonna leave overnight and then take em out tomorrow. Ill most likely need to do the ca as I go. I’ll let y’all know how it goes. Mahalo!
 

Guthriecb

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Jul 19, 2019
Messages
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Hawaii
I can't answer your question from direct experience with Minwax, but I suspect that it wouldn't work very well to actually stabilize the interior of your wood specimens. The process generally depends on first removing as much water and air from the interior of the wood as possible. Air drying to 5-10% followed by oven drying to bring water content down to less than 5% is followed by vacuum treatment with the wood submerged in the stabilizing resin. If there is air and/or water present in the wood fibers, the resin cannot penetrate into the deep interior of the wood. Minwax doesn't provide much info except to say that surface rot and degradation should be removed before brushing on surface layers of the product, and that it contains a mixture of some unspecified resin dissolved in methanol and acetone. If you just need to provide some surface stabilization it might be sufficient, but if you are trying to make an otherwise unturnable blank stable enough to hold together on the lathe, I doubt this will be enough.

On the other hand, you could experiment and report back. Maybe it would work. Some people do a 'stabilize as you go' approach using CA, which works on blanks with localized areas of unstable wood that can be stabilized with surface CA application as you find them during turning; this might work for you as well. Or you could send some of your cut blanks to some kind soul here who would stabilize the wood for you for little or no charge. I'm no expert on wood stabilization but I know how to do it and have the equipment, and would be willing to give it a try.
I agree, I guess “stabilize”, as it pertains to stabilized wood, isn’t the most accurate description of what I want out of it. I just want to see if I can make the wood turnable. I’m gonna experiment and I’ll let y’all know how it goes.


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Guthriecb

Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2019
Messages
49
Location
Hawaii
I can't answer your question from direct experience with Minwax, but I suspect that it wouldn't work very well to actually stabilize the interior of your wood specimens. The process generally depends on first removing as much water and air from the interior of the wood as possible. Air drying to 5-10% followed by oven drying to bring water content down to less than 5% is followed by vacuum treatment with the wood submerged in the stabilizing resin. If there is air and/or water present in the wood fibers, the resin cannot penetrate into the deep interior of the wood. Minwax doesn't provide much info except to say that surface rot and degradation should be removed before brushing on surface layers of the product, and that it contains a mixture of some unspecified resin dissolved in methanol and acetone. If you just need to provide some surface stabilization it might be sufficient, but if you are trying to make an otherwise unturnable blank stable enough to hold together on the lathe, I doubt this will be enough.

On the other hand, you could experiment and report back. Maybe it would work. Some people do a 'stabilize as you go' approach using CA, which works on blanks with localized areas of unstable wood that can be stabilized with surface CA application as you find them during turning; this might work for you as well. Or you could send some of your cut blanks to some kind soul here who would stabilize the wood for you for little or no charge. I'm no expert on wood stabilization but I know how to do it and have the equipment, and would be willing to give it a try.
I agree, I guess “stabilize”, as it pertains to stabilized wood, isn’t the most accurate description of what I want out of it. I just want to see if I can make the wood turnable. I’m gonna experiment and I’ll let y’all know how it goes.


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Guthriecb

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Jul 19, 2019
Messages
49
Location
Hawaii
Here is half of the finished product. The monkey pod turned well. However it had big critter holes in it and I tried to fill the void with CA and the turn shavings. It’s ok, not great but overall I think it looks good. The cap didn’t have as many critter holes but I was using a new carbide tool and took a little too much off. So I turned the wood off of the tube and will try again with another piece. The grain won’t line up as well but hopefully it’ll still look good. I’ll try the mango another time. It doesn’t look to have the same voids.



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