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Wood Stabilizing Specialists, Int'l., LLC

Wood Stabilizing Specialists, Int'l., LLC, Ionia IA 50645 | Toll Free in US 1-800-301-WSSI (9774)

Effective November 01, 2013, we are discontinuing use of the email addresses, mike@myclearwave.net & wssi@myclearwave.net.
Please address all email to:

info, hints, tips

What others are saying!
Reviews & comments for knifemakers, woodworkers, artisans, & manufacturers!

 

The following are excerpts from an article by Michael Thompson written for the March/April 1991 issue of Blade Magazine entitled ANY WOOD FOR A KNIFE HANDLE:

...A nagging problem with some handle materials, especially ivory, horn and wood, is a tendency to shrink and warp because of different humidities in various parts of the country...

...The solution is to stabilize the applicable handle materials so they can't dry out...

...Two-part process requires applying acrylic resins to a handle material followed by a curing period. The result is a water-resistant, harder-than-untreated wood that can be machined and drilled, and that can be polished to any finish you'd put on steel, from satin to a high gloss...

..Before, knifemakers were limited to a few hardwoods when they wanted burled or fancy grained wood handles. Now even soft woods can be stabilized and used as knife handles.

I have a piece of California buckeye that is soft enough that I can dent it 1/8 inch with my thumbnail. After stabilizing it is hard as counter-top material and takes a great polish that was impossible before treatment...

treated wood block

kudos from customers...


P.P. - from Phillipsburg, MT:
...Received shipment yesterday, and worked the one for Ruger #1 down. Sure works good, looks better. Thank you for a very fine product...

R.H. - from Fayetteville, GA:
...First chance I've had since I received the Curly Maple back from you all. I am happy with this batch, it came out great. Thanks...

K.H. - from Minneapolis, MN:
...This knife is for you, the handle is one of the samples you sent. GREAT MATERIAL...

J.L. - from Wheaton, IL:
...Received all processed wood and tried a piece of Birdseye. In a word---EXCELLENT!...

...Spalted maple is one of the more impressive of the soft woods that can be used for knife handles. It's unusual because of the dark streaks that develop as the wood begins to decay, thus the word "spalted". After treatment this otherwise useless wood makes one gorgeous knife handle...

...Various woods react differently to stabilization. Soft woods absorb greater amounts of the chemicals and are consequently more affected by the advantages of the treatment. Box elder burl, a highly figured soft wood, could not be used on a knife handle until the advent of stabilization. Other species like spalted cotton wood, myrtle wood burl, redwood burl, maple burl and pipe briar may now be machined and used for knife handles, including those on interframe folders...

...For some reason the stabilizing chemicals seem to displace the natural oils in cocobolo and a few other hardwoods, including some samples of walnut, which results in the natural oils "weeping" out of the wood for days after the treatment...

...Since stabilized wood repels water and oils, stains, dyed and chemicals will not penetrate wood...

...Stabilization may seem like the answer to most problems associated with wooden knife handles and it often is. But you may not appreciate all of its side effects. I noticed a weight increase of about 20 percent in the wood I had treated. Some woods increase as much as 50 percent in weight if they are soft and absorb a lot of chemicals....

...Ray Applegate carved some figures into the stabilized wood with excellent results. Stabilization eliminated all moisture from the fibers. The result is that all of the wood's natural flexibility and elasticity are removed. Forcing pins through small holes will crack stabilized wood, as will hammering on it. But that same inflexibility is an advantage when dealing with other stabilized materials like horn and ivory. Horn and stag can be straightened with heat, then stabilized so that they will not warp back to their original shapes...

...The natural pores of stabilized woods remain open after treatment. Since no finish is necessary and most knifemakers simply sand the wood to 400 or 600 grit, then buff with jewelry polishing compound, some of the compound may be trapped in the open pores of the wood. If this is a problem, stabilized wood can be filled like any other wood by impregnating the open pores with a quick-setting glue and sanding dust from the wood itself. Fred Roe seals the pores with an acrylic before sanding and buffing...

...Proper sanding and buffing can impart a glossy finish to stabilized wood. But that beautiful polished finish on stabilized wood will dull after prolonged immersion in water. That's why Leon Thompson uses a hand-rubbed satin finish on knives he expects to be used in and around water...

...Stabilized wood will take in moisture by capillary action much like steel wool is waterproof but will absorb water like a sponge. If you put a block of stabilized wood in water, it will become saturated in a few hours. The actual fibers are dry but the spaces will pick up moisture. If you lay the wood on a workbench, the water will leak out overnight and the piece will be dry again tomorrow...

...This is not an exact science. It's more of an art. Some examples to illustrate: a ram's horn that curled even more during treatment, a piece of spalted maple that broke apart, and the odd samples that weep oil. When working with natural organic materials, the innate character of each piece must be considered...

...Highly figured or burled woods tend to warp during treatment. That's why its wise to leave extra material on a piece that is being treated...

...I'm impressed with the possibilities of stabilized materials. Hunting and fishing knife handles can now be made of wood and even horn. Folder scales of exotic wood may now be milled and machined to shape with predictable consistency. No longer will full tang knives have steel extending past the wooden scales after a few years use...

...Stabilized materials should be worked with fresh sanding belts on conventional machinery or with sharp hand files and sandpaper. they require no finish other than sanding or polishing, and possess the endurance of synthetics while retaining the natural beauty of real wood. the treated woods have already been ordered by dozens of custom knifemakers and collectors with reviews ranging from guarded optimism to downright enthusiasm for the product...

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The following are excerpts from an article published in Wood Magazine, January 1992, written by Bill Krier and entitled SOMETHING NEW FOR ADVENTUROUS WOODWORKERS, ACRYLIC-IMPREGNATED:

...Suppose you could take a piece of soft, crumbling wood and make it hard and solid, while retaining all of its natural beauty? What if this stock proved impervious to swelling, checking, and warping? What if it resisted water, and it's colors never faded? Sound impossible? Not anymore! You can perform this "magical feat" with nearly any piece of dried wood through a process called stabilization...

...How stabilization works
The process forces liquid acrylic resins into wood under high pressure. the resins completely impregnate the stock, and then cure...

...for manufacture into knife handles, pistol grips, boat trim, jewelry, a wide variety of turnings, and many other objects...

...What stabilization does to wood
Once stabilized, your stock increases in weight by 20 to 150 percent (porous woods such as spalted maple take on more resin than dense woods such as ebony). It becomes harder, stronger, and will not change shape. The color darkens slightly, similar to the way wood darkens when you apply water to it. Because the acrylic saturated the wood fibers, the pigments in those fibers cannot fade through oxidation...

...What we discovered in our shop tests
During trials in the WOOD magazine shop, we had good success sawing, sanding, and turning various samples of stabilized woods. Because of their hardness our samples of spalted maple, black ash burl, and Australian lace wood required more cutting power and dulled our tools a little more quickly than nonstabilized wood...

...All cutting operations, especially turning, created clouds of fine dust, so be sure to wear an approved respirator while working it...

...You don't have to apply a finish to stabilized woods. You need only sand the work piece with a succession of 100-, 320-, and 400- grit abrasives, and then buff with a compound to bring out a deep sheen. A coat of wax protects the buffed surface...

...We achieved an even shinier surface, though (and one that doesn't require any maintenance), by sanding up to 320-grit paper and applying a water-based finish. Unlike untreated wood, the grain of stabilized wood does not raise when you apply a water-based finish...

...Oil-based finishes also work, but keep in mind that these will add a slight amber cast to the natural appearance of the wood. Stabilized woods do not accept stains, but we can't imagine many circumstances under which you would need to alter the already beautiful look of these woods.

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The following are excerpts from an article published in Woodwind Quarterly, August, 1993, written by Scott Hirsch and entitled, ACRYLIC WOOD STABILIZATION, THE IMMORTAL INSTRUMENT:

...Few commercial secrets are as guarded as wood stabilization. Many companies have spent considerable time trying to develop a successful process to preserve and protect their wood instruments...

...To my knowledge, no process used by an instrument manufacturer is more than partially successful at best. That may soon change. The long search for a method to stabilize wood has recently taken great leaps forward. Methods are now being refined to bestow the following qualities on wood:

  • Enhancement of grain structure and overall finish and appearance.
  • Augmentation of sound production by increasing the mass of the instrument. This may include both increase volume and changes in the tone quality.
  • Preventing the instrument wall from slowly graduating in shape from round to oval, due to irregular grain structure.
  • Protecting the wood from decomposition in environments that encourage wood destroying organisms.
  • Forestall the potential for cracking due to the influence of moisture...
  • Increase the ability of the wood to hold detail such as fine turning and carving.
  • Allow the use of wood species that are gorgeous, but have previously been considered too unstable for use.
  • Eliminate the need for periodic refinishing or even applying a finish in the first place.

These attributes may give the maker the opportunity to create a musical masterpiece boasting a life-span measured in centuries. For a number of traditional woodwinds, the ramifications of a process that would do all of the above are nothing less than momentous.

Processes are currently available in the United States and continue to undergo development. Several companies claim to stabilize wood. Some of them are probably using a very unrefined approach, even a simple soaking application. One firm, Wood Stabilizing Specialists, Inc. (WSSI), (formerly in Cedar Falls, IA, now in Ionia where it is now known as Wood Stabilizing Specialists, International) markets perhaps the largest and most sophisticated effort to stabilize woods...they may currently be the best example of a company on the cutting edge in wood stabilization. WSSI specializes in wood but has some experience with bamboo as well.

Their process saturates wood with a special blend of monomers and acrylics. After saturation the mix is catalyzed into polymers, a process that creates long chain molecules. The result is a clear and durable material that has qualities of both acrylic and wood.

No oil or other agent will penetrate an instrument wood blend more than a small part of an inch without supplying pressure to force the material into the wood. WSSI's process is understandably proprietary...

While there are many questions to answer, the potential benefits from applying the process are intriguing.


Wood Stabilizing Specialists, Int'l., LLC ("WSSI")
2940 Fayette Ave
Ionia IA 50645
Toll Free in US 1-800-301-WSSI (9774) or 1-641-435-4746
email gif e.mail us... mike@stabilizedwood.com 

copyright © 1999-2013, Wood Stabilizing Specialists, International

Effective November 01, 2013, we are discontinuing use of the email address3s, mike@myclearwave.net & wssi@myclearwave.net.
Please address all email to:

 

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