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How To Stabilize Wood [All You Need To Know]

Woodworkers do not believe in wasting any part of the wood, especially if the piece is beautiful. However, sometimes, the wood can become too soft to use. 

Carpenter doing wood work using clamping hand tool in his workshop.

Wood stabilizing will help in using up all the parts of wooden planks, ensuring almost zero wastage. Since wood is a precious resource today, this is something that artisans and woodworkers prefer to do. 

Now there is a lot of information about this process on the internet, and you might initially find it too confusing. So, we decided to create a guide for you about how to stabilize wood. 

All the information regarding the types of wood and the different stabilizing methods used have been listed down for your benefit. We will begin by explaining the process in general so that you have a clear understanding of what you are dealing with. 

So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage and read on! 

How To Stabilize Wood

What Do You Mean By Wood Stabilizing? 

Wood is not always very hard, and softwood can easily be damaged. Hence, wood stabilizing becomes necessary to ensure that they last long and remain protected from moisture. To create a stable and hardened piece of wood, you will need to inject softwood with resin. 

Once you have injected it, the resin will fill up all the air pockets and gaps in between the grains in the wooden block, hardening the wood from within. You can then add a layer of resin to the top to provide a glossy layer that will prevent moisture from entering. 

The Process Of Stabilisation 

Before you begin the process of stabilization, remember to consider the desired hardness that you aim to achieve. For example, if you want to make a wooden toy from hardwood, then the toy could turn out to be very heavy, making it difficult to play with. 

How To Prepare For The Stabilisation Process? 

Some steps need to be taken before you start with the stabilization process. First of all, keep all the required materials in one place. If needed, make a note of the items needed beforehand and check the list again before beginning work. This is important as otherwise, you will have to stop work in between to find the missing material, and that could hamper the workflow. 

Next, you will have to do a thorough checkup of the equipment that you plan to use. This means checking and cleaning every part so that all the dirt is removed. Dirt can cause problems in the curing process, and hence, clean up becomes an important step. Also make sure the equipment is working fine and will be able to cure the resin well. 

Other than that, you will need all your safety gear in one place, which involves gloves, glasses, and an apron. Resin can spill, and it will be very difficult to get the marks out of surfaces. Hence, we will recommend that you cover the surrounding area well before starting off. 

Clean your hands well and rinse off any container that you have used with the resin as soon as the job is over. It is best not to let the resin or any other stabilizing medium stick anywhere as that could then be very difficult to remove. 

In case you are going to use a vacuum chamber, check the machine well for any kind of damage before beginning the curing process. The machine has to be in perfect condition in order to stabilize the wood well. 

Moreover, we’d suggest keeping the tools in a place where you can access them easily. This would ensure that you have a smooth and error-free process. 

How To Stabilize Wood? 

Plastic spring clamps are clamping to glue two pieces of wood. Wooden background. Building equipment. Woodworking hand tool.

  1. With Epoxy Resin 

If you are working with softwood, then using epoxy resin is a great idea to stabilize the wood. When mixed with hardener, epoxy resin will form a hard layer to cover the surface of the wood and keep it safe. 

For best results, process the wood at 20 degrees Celsius. However, you should know that this type of resin will not seep into the wood, and hence, the entire piece will not be hardened. 

Now before you begin working, the wood needs to be prepared, and you will have to clean it well. Ensure that there are no small pieces of wood sticking out from the sides. Then sand the top if possible to have a clean surface. 

If dirt gets stuck inside the resin layer, it will look unattractive, and naturally, you would not want that. Hence, the wood has to be thoroughly cleaned before stabilizing it. 

Furthermore, we will recommend wearing gloves during the entire process so that you do not get any of the fluids on your hands. Once you are wearing proper gloves, get some thinner and mix it with the epoxy resin. 

Now you already know that the resin does not penetrate wood well by itself as it is thick. The thinner is needed so that it can penetrate the surface to some level and ensure that the wood hardens a little more. 

  1. With Thermal Hardening Resin 

The thermosetting resin is another great alternative that can be used to harden softwood. It will penetrate the topmost surface of the wood, and the heat will soak in, hardening the entire block at once. But you will have to be careful about not letting any moisture interrupt this process. 

Moreover, the wooden piece has to be completely dry before this process can begin. Since this method requires some heat to be added, you might have to put it in the oven. In this regard, we will recommend heating the oven up to 104 degrees Celsius and then drying the piece for the next 24 hours inside the oven.

This will remove all the moisture and will ensure a smooth hardening process. Remember that one of the reasons behind adding resin is to keep moisture away. Hence, you should ensure that the piece contains none of it before resin is added. 

Cactus juice is another type of thermal hardening resin, which can be used after mixing with other necessary chemicals. Remember that it needs to be stored in a dry place, as otherwise, the chemical properties of the fluid might change. 

Also, we will add a small tip here: when the stabilization process is done, clean all the tools and equipment with soapy water immediately. If you let the remains dry up, then they might be difficult to remove later. 

  1. With Vacuum Chamber 

Another way of stabilizing wood is by using a vacuum chamber for the purpose. Now, if you do not have a vacuum chamber, then purchasing a new one is a good idea. Please select one, which will remove moisture from the wood as well as cleans the epoxy fluid. It should be able to eliminate all the organic material and essential oils from the fluid so that it is perfect for use. 

Next, you will need to decide upon the capacity of the vacuum chamber before purchasing one. This is again a personal preference and will depend upon the kind of projects that you need it for. 

Moving on, this method is generally used for rotten or old wood, which has been damaged by moisture to some extent. 

  1. With Wood Hardener 

In case the softwood is damaged, then many people stick to using wood hardeners for the purpose. This is a transparent fluid that is largely used by wood artisans for their products. 

And the major reason behind its popularity is that it does not change the color of wood at all. Instead, it will just add a transparent layer on top, which will make the wood hard and will protect it from moisture. 

However, there is one problem here, and that is the wood hardener does not penetrate into wooden surfaces. That would mean that it would not harden the entire block of wood but would only protect the sides. So, it will stabilize the wood to some extent, but you may need to use some other agent for the complete protection of wood. 

  1. With Thermosetting Resin  

When the resin is cured at 95 degrees inside an oven, it is known as a thermosetting resin. The wood needs to be dried completely before the process can begin. Hence, you can use the oven to dry the wood at 104 degrees Celsius for 24 hours. Then use the resin to cover the wood and the pores will absorb it slowly. 

You will need dry wood, a vacuum pump, a vacuum chamber, aluminum foil, an oven, hardened resin, and a coloring agent, along with proper safety gear. Collect all the items needed and then start curing the wood. 

How To Use A Vacuum Chamber? 

The most common method of stabilizing wood is by using a vacuum chamber. We have divided the process into steps so that it is easier for you to understand. 

Step 1| Laying The Wooden Pieces 

The first step in this process involves laying out all the wooden pieces in the chamber. Now there is a chance that after laying them in place, they might float or move away. To prevent that from happening, you can use an anti-float mat. This would keep the wooden planks in place, and you can move on to the next step. 

Step 2| Filling Up The Resin 

Next, you will have to pour the resin onto the wooden planks in the vacuum chamber. We will recommend pouring in 15 mm and seeing if all the pieces are well soaked. You can fill it up to 30 mm so that the woods are deep inside the resin. This would ensure that the planks would soak up a lot of resin, and that would make the wood harder. 

Step 3| Air Extraction 

After the resin has been poured, you can close the vacuum chamber. Then the air extraction will begin, and all the air trapped within the wooden pieces will be released and extracted. Once the air is sucked out well, the resin can enter the blocks. 

You will soon see the resin boiling once the vacuum chamber is closed. This process should begin right after extracting all the air. Also, make sure that the resin does not foam too much while boiling. 

Step 4| Letting The Wood Sit 

Once the process has been completed, allow the wood to stay in the container for a while before taking them out. Also, open the lid of the chamber carefully as it would be extremely hot.

Step 5| Drying The wood 

Then you will need to take the woodblocks out from the chamber and allow them to dry. Keep them on a paper towel and let them stay in the open. While they dry, we will ask you to immediately pour the resin from the chamber into an airtight container. 

You can store it in a dry place, and the resin will last for a long time. It can be used again for stabilizing wood the next time you plan the process. Also, wash all the equipment used immediately with detergent and water. They should be cleaned immediately as it would be easier to remove all the resin while it is still hot. 

Step 6| Using An Aluminum Foil 

Once the wooden pieces have dried, you will need to wrap them in aluminum foil. The shiny side needs to be on the inside, and the matte one should be facing you on the outside. Wrap the wood well so that the foil clings onto the wood. 

Step 7| Heating The Oven 

The oven has to be preheated before the wood can be placed inside. To do this, set it at a temperature of 71 degrees celsius and wait for it to get heated. Once the oven is hot, you will need to put the aluminum-covered wood blocks inside. Here, you might lose some amount of resin from the surface, but that should not cause an issue. 

But if you are losing too much resin, then you would know that the surfaces had not dried well. Hence, please wait for enough time before placing the wooden pieces in the oven.

Moving on, after they are placed inside, leave them there for an hour and a half to bake. 

Step 8| Removing The Foil 

You can remove the foiled wooden pieces from the oven when they have been baked completely. Then you can wear your gloves and remove the foil from the wood. Now, this process can be difficult as the foil might not come off easily. 

In that case, you can use a knife or any sharp tool to poke the foil. Then the foil can be pulled off from the top of the wooden pieces. 

You will be able to see how the pieces have become hard, and there should be a huge difference from when they had been put in the oven. 

What Types Of Wood Can Be Stabilized? 

All types of wood cannot be stabilized as they do not have equal absorbing capacity. However, there are certain types of wood that come with larger pores, and these work the best. As the pores are bigger, the density is lower, making the wood perfect for stabilizing. 

The stabilizing medium can be poured over the wood to make it harder and better protected. Plus, the big pores will provide more space for the medium to settle, and that would make it harder. So, the major types of wood that can be stabilized are,

  1. Beech
  2. Polar
  3. Birch

These types have larger pores, and the resin can easily settle in them. That provides the final product with a good structure, and you can then use the stabilized wood for multiple purposes. 

Moreover, you can use coloring dyes with the stabilizing medium, and the finished product will look beautiful. MMA can be used along with resin to get the desired color and shine. If you are confused, ask the local store, and they will tell you about the popular colors that are being bought. 

However, there are some wood types that do not work with a stabilizing medium at all, and they are softwood, olive, ebony, and rosemary. These have tiny pores and an oily nature that prevents them from absorbing the stabilizing medium. Also, if the wood has a lot of tanning medium, then it will not stabilize as there are very limited empty pores remaining in the wood. 

What Is Stabilized Wood Used For? 

Craftsmen and artisans who work with wood often stabilize wood before using them to make items. If you are wondering what stabilized wood can be used for, think of all the things that you would use good quality wood for. 

The list would range from knives, dishes, pans, bowls, frames, and other daily use objects. These need very tough wood as otherwise they can easily get damaged or break over time. 

Tips To Remember 

Please remember that taking out all the air from the wooden plank is essential before moving forward. The more the air leaves from the deepest of pores, the more resin can get into the spaces. That would make the wood harder and better protected against moisture or damage. 

Next, keep an airtight container ready to store the excess resin from the vacuum chamber. If you are prepared beforehand, then you will end up saving a lot of resin, which can easily be used again. 

Additionally, the stabilization process should be done under controlled conditions to prevent the wood from hardening up too much. While hardwood is what you require, if it is too hard, then it cannot be used for many purposes. You might not be able to cut or carve it well. 

Also, hardened wood can become very heavy and difficult to manage. Imagine writing with a very heavy pen and then facing hand fatigue every now and then. So, keep these factors in mind before you actually purchase a product. 

How To Stabilize Wood Frequently Asked Questions 

In this section, we will be listing down some of the frequently asked questions about stabilizing wood. This should help in clearing up your queries too and hence, read through carefully. 

Can Water Enter the Wood After Stabilizing?

Yes, while stabilizing fills up the pores, wood can still absorb water and puff up. This happens through capillary action, and the water stays stored inside, destroying the wood. Hence, please make sure that you keep the wood in a safe and dry place.

You could also add a protective resin layer on the sides of the wood after the furniture has been made. This would protect the wood from moisture and water to a great extent, and you do not have to worry about accidental spills.

How Much Time Will The Entire Process Take?

The time period will largely vary depending on the type of wood, the density, and the weather conditions. You can expect it to take 6 to 24 hours and hence, do not plan anything in the next 24 hours. The resin needs to cure well, and you will need to keep a watch on the entire process while it happens.

Moreover, if you are working with high-quality wood, then it can easily take 24 hours to cure well. This is because all the air needs to be pulled out and eliminated so that the pores become free. Then the stabilizing medium can fill them up easily.

However, if you are working with lower quality wood, then you will need around 6 to 8 hours for curing.

Can You Use Glue Instead Of Resin?

Yes, you can use PVA glue instead of resin for stabilizing wood but be careful with the amount. It can be too thick, and hence, you would need to add some water to make the consistency thin. The softwood can then be soaked in this mix for the night before you take the wood out and dry them.

Nature wood with casting epoxy resin blue and red and stabilizing art for DIY

Final Words 

Stabilizing wood might have seemed like a job that is best left to professionals, but after reading this guide, you should be able to do it on your own. Just keep all the ingredients handy and follow the instructions. 

If necessary, you can check up videos on YouTube to see how the process looks. We will also recommend taking the help of another person so that the work is done flawlessly. 

One person can keep a note of the instructions while the other can focus on the job at hand. Having said that, it is time to wrap up as we are sure that you have a clear idea about the wood stabilizing process. 

Let us know if you have any doubts in the comment section below. We will try to address them in our next guide. 

Until next time!

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