What Is Stabilized Wood – Why is it so expensive

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you.

Stabilizing wood makes the wood harder, heavier, more resistant to rot, water-resistant and the wood generally gets more pleasant to work with because of the even structure. Stabilized wood also gives you the ability to produce wood in any color and unique patterns

Stabilized wood is wood that has been infused with stabilizing resin in a vacuum chamber. The resin fills up the pores and air pockets in the wood and then hardens when it is dried. Stabilizing wood increases the structural properties of the wood, increases the weight of the wood, adds color to the wood, and makes the wood more water-resistant.

You can also add beautiful colors to the wood by adding dye to the resin before going into the vacuum chamber. Stabilizing wood opens up a new world of woodworking.

You can use punky and almost rotten wood that you could not use before it was stabilized. But stabilized wood is not always so easy or cheap to get your hands on, so let me help you to understand it a little bit better.

By the end of this article, you will know in detail what spalted wood is, how it is made, and how you obtain/make some spalted wood for yourself.

What Is Stabilized Wood?

The simplest explanation to what stabilized wood is that it is wood that has increased structural properties due to being infused with stabilizing resin in a vacuum.

The stabilizing resin used when stabilizing wood is normally Cactus Juice Stabilizing Resin and Stickfast Stabilizing Resin. Pressure Chamber used to stabilize wood.

When being put in a vacuum, the stabilizing resin infuses all the pores and the air pockets in the wood. The infused wood is then dried and the liquid resin is turned into a solid while still being inside the wood. The wood piece has now become more “stable”, hence the name “stabilized wood”.

Wood that has been stabilized will feel dense, heavy, and have an even structure throughout, no matter what type of wood and the density the wood was before stabilizing.

A great type of wood to stabilize is punky or almost rotten wood. If you have some pieces lying around in your shop that is just too pretty to throw away, but you can not find a use for them because they are falling apart. Then Stabilizing those pieces can bring new life to them.

Stabilizing punky pieces will literally hold those pieces together like glue and make them hard as a rock.

What is Stabilized Wood Used For?

Stabilized wood is generally used for decorative purposes like knife handles or pen blanks. It is mostly small pieces of wood that get stabilized because the stabilizing resin is relatively expensive.

Knife with Stabilized Wood Handle

Making Knife Handles is a great use of stabilized wood. Boring knife handles can become filled with color and beautiful patterns when stabilized. The stabilized wood will also be more water-resistant and durable than other kinds of wood. Knife Handle blanks can be bought in all kinds of colors and shapes on Amazon.

Pen made with Stabilized Wood.

Many people use stabilized wood to make unique Pens. These pens are expensive because they are handmade and made for a niche market of pen collectors and enthusiasts. Pen blanks to make beautiful pens can be found on Amazon.

Why Is Stabilized Wood So Expensive?

Stabilized wood is so expensive because the stabilizing resin is expensive and the process of making stabilized wood takes a long time. At the moment of writing this article, Cactus Juice Stabilizing Resin costs 55$ for 1/2 a gallon (1.89L).

Stabilized wood is commonly made from burl wood or spalted wood, these are expensive types of wood. Wood that is going to be stabilized also has to be dry, preferably 0% moisture content before it can go in the pressure chamber under vacuum.

Drying the wood can take up to 24 hours in a small toaster oven, and time is money. The wood also has to sit in the vacuum for 12+ hours before the resin has been able to fill all the voids in the wood, the time needed depends on the size of the wood. The wood also has to be dried in a toaster oven to cure the resin, this can take anywhere from 1.5 to 6 hours.

From start to finish it can take anywhere from 24 – 48 hours to make stabilized wood pieces.

How Do You Make Stabilized Wood | General Principles

  • Cut up normally dried wood (10-12%) into blanks for your project
  • Dry the wood to 0% moisture content in a small toaster oven
  • Place the blanks in the vacuum chamber
  • Cover the blanks in Cactus Juice Resin
  • If the blanks float, put something heavy on top of them
  • Turn on the vacuum chamber and apply full vacuum
  • Let it run until there are no more bubbles
  • Release the vacuum and let the blanks soak for twice as long as you had them under vacuum
  • Remove blanks, and put them in the toaster oven to cure ( Use a drip pan underneath)
  • Cure at 190 – 200 degrees Fahrenheit (87-93 degrees Celcius) until the Cactus Juice has solidified
  • Remove the blanks from the oven and let them cool down
  • Now the blanks are ready to work with.

Where to get stabilized wood?

You have 3 options when you want to get your hand on stabilized wood. You can buy it from online retailers, you can make it yourselves, or you can get it from someone local that produces it that you can buy it from.

The simplest option is to buy it from online retailers like Amazon, Etsy, or other stores that specialize in wood.  The wide arrange of different types of wood blanks in different sizes and colors is vast. You will find a piece that fits perfectly for your project 99% of the time.

The downside of using online retailers is that you won’t get to see the product beforehand and the blank might look different than what did in the picture when you get it. Only buy from users with good reviews and many reviews when buying blanks through online retailers.

Since stabilized wood blanks are mostly sold by small businesses or private persons. Producing stabilized wood on your own is a viable option. It is a fun pastime to have but you will have to spend a fair amount of money to get going.

You also need to get the wood and you need a saw to cut the wood into the preferable sizes. But just know that it takes a long time to make stabilized wood, but most of it is just waiting.

Infusing Colors Into Wood By Stabilizing It

You can add colors to the stabilizing resin, these colors will then penetrate and fill the air pockets in the wood together with the stabilizing resin. This produces colored wood pieces that can be any color you want all the way through the wood. The coloration of the wood is why so many people love stabilized wood. It makes for unique patterns, beautiful colors, and every piece of wood becomes one of a kind.

We use Alumilite Dye to add color to the wood, the Alumilite Dye is added to the Cactus Resin when filling up the vacuum chamber. 

Cactus Juice Stabilizing Resin

Cactus Juice Stabilizing Resin is a heat-cured resin used for stabilizing and hardening wood. Cactus juice is not solvent-based, not toxic, and not flammable. It does not significantly change the color of the wood after it is finished stabilizing.

The Cactus Juice comes in two parts. The Cactus Juice Resin is the first and the other is the Activator Agent. The activator bottle comes in the right proportions to the resin. Just pour the activator agent into the resin and shake well.

Activated Cactus Juice Stabilizing Resin has a shelf life of 12 months, unactivated Cactus Juice Stabilizing resin has a shelf life of 3 years.

Can Rotten And Punky Wood Be Stabilized?

Wood that has started the rotting process and punky wood can be stabilized. Stabilizing pieces that are somewhat rotten and punky is actually one of the main reasons we stabilize wood. By stabilizing these pieces we bring new life into otherwise useless pieces of wood.

What Kind Of Wood Is Used For Stabilizing

All types of woods can be stabilized. But the most common woods to stabilize are wood types with unique grain patterns like Curly Maple, Elm Burl, Maple Burl, Birch Burl, Bog Oak, Spalted wood, Black Walnut, and much more. The more interesting the grain pattern is before stabilizing, the better it will look after stabilizing. Especially when adding color to the Cactus Juice Resin.

The density of the wood will also determine if it is good for stabilizing. If the wood is dense like Black Walnut, it will have a hard time soaking up the resin. This can result in poor penetration of the resin into the wood. Less dense wood will have an easier time soaking up the resin.

Is Stabilized Wood Waterproof

Stabilized wood is not waterproof, but it is water-resistant. If we compare stabilized wood to what it was before we stabilized it will be less impacted by water than when it was natural. Natural wood will expand and contract in relation to the moisture content of its surrounding environment.

Stabilized wood will stay more or less the same unless heavily disturbed. But I would not put stabilized wood in the washing machine. 

Recent Posts