Stabilizing With Other than Cactus Juice or the Equivalent

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Forum topic by Kelly posted 07-26-2021 08:27 PM 623 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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07-26-2021 08:27 PM

Topic tags/keywords: stabilization dalys pecan imagination unincorporated kellys vacuum stabilization profin seafin

I have a gallon of Cactus Juice, but it’s summer and my shop air conditioner can only keep my shop down around 85 to 88 on a 114 degree day. That means, to store my Juice, I need to bump off a college kid and steal his fridge (I’ll needs to volunteers to assist me on that, she might be over three feet tall).

The Cactus Juice is said to start to cure at about 86, so not having a shop fridge and storing it in the shop could be an expensive waste.

Meanwhile, I have a five gallon Bacoeng vacuum chamber with the glass lid, a HF vacuum pump and my version of plumbing, so I can relieve pressure off the pump while the chamber is still under vacuum, for easier start ups. In short, I’m anxious to get to play/work. It all needs, badly, to be played with.

I decided to experiment and, when I was off at the wood supplier’s, I bought a gallon of Daly’s oil based, penetrating oil, which they sell by the trade name Profin (I could only get cedar locally, but the experiment must go on).

I took a small piece of pecan from an end grain slab I cut from some pecan my son gave me out of his far away wood pile, cooked it, then weighed it. I wrote the result on the piece, which was about 1/2” by 2” by 5”.

I put the cooled (stored in a zip lock to cool) under vacuum for 24 hours, while submerged in PENOFIN PENETRATING OIL from Dalys.

After 24 hours, I released the pressure and let the piece soak for 24 hours. I could see the oil level had gone done.

After soaking, I set the pieces outside and let them cure in the sun for a couple days.

When I weight the little piece again, it had gained 10 grams from the oil. The picture, below, is the piece sanded to 320 and buffed with red oxide [just to see what would happen].

The can of Dalys PROFIN:

The soaked, cured and polished piece of pecan before and after:

After the success with the PROFIN, I am, as I type, experimenting with another Dalys product, SEAFIN SHIP’N SHORE.

Including shipping, it cost the same as Cactus Juice, but does not have the same temp-cure problem I mentioned. Too, it is said to harden wood 15% to 25%.

Unfortunately, I neglected to weigh the first batch, so have no idea how much of the resin-hardening rosewood oil the pieces took on, but I did, again, note a significant drop in the fluid level when I released the vacuum.

Because I can, and have a lot of other things to distract my anxious self, I’m trying things like not cooking the dried wood before treating, vacuuming and releasing then soaking, then vacuuming again and soaking again.

It should be interesting to see what all comes of these games. So far, I’m happy with the results and with the Dalys products (guess they’ll need a review on those pages).

12 replies so far

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5732 posts in 2435 days

#1 posted 07-26-2021 10:41 PM

Penofin is about the best stuff I’ve found for preserving outdoor wood items without painting or any surface coat finishes.

Smells like fish, but if it works…

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#2 posted 07-26-2021 11:54 PM


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#3 posted 07-27-2021 03:53 AM

I have never used Cactus Juice or Penofin but it seems to me that they are for totally different purposes. CJ is a resin that hardens when heated which is especially good for stabilizing punky, spalted or even rotted woods. On the other hand, I assume the Penofin penetrating oil is a finish that probably cures or polymerizes through exposure to oxygen. While I am sure that you can get the Penofin to penetrate deeper with the vacuum chamber, I speculate that if you cut it open after a week or so you will find that the oil inside is still wet. It could actually take years for the interior oil to polymerize because the oil on the surface cures and seals out the rest of the oxygen so it cannot penetrate and react with the interior oil.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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3752 posts in 4157 days

#4 posted 07-27-2021 06:28 AM

It could have gone without saying PROFIN or SEAFIN and Cactus Juice are for different purposes. It should be obvious that is what this post is all about. That aside, it, certainly, does not mean experimenting is out of the question.

So far, my results have converted brittle end grain into something usable for something like knife scales.

For your concern to be a problem, one or two facts would have to exist:

(1) the oil would have to wholly penetrate the wood and seal all the cells; and/or

(2) there would have to be no oxygen left in the wood.

Regarding the forgoing:

(1) Even Cactus Juice doesn’t always penetrate all the wood;

(2) Our vacuum chambers are not perfect;

(3) Even with 29 inches of vacuum on a given piece of wood, it could take days to remove most the oxygen from the wood, and the time it takes will change with different types and conditions of wood;

(4) There would still be oxygen left in the wood; and

(5) The stabilizing process does not make the wood water proof. Rather, moisture moving in and out of it is slowed. If moisture can move in and out, so can air.

Wood has a LOT of air in it. That fact becomes evident when you try applying epoxy finishes over unsealed wood. The wood will bleed air bubbles that must be dealt with. Then, as the resin starts to cure, bubbles freshly released will be trapped in the lower layers (sealing the wood cuts this problem to a fraction, so the epoxy has time to harden, before more air can move into it).

I started playing with penetrating finishes about forty or more years ago. Well into my experiments, a well known expert argued with me that such finishes could not harden wood. That such claims were just advertising garbage from Flecto Varithane. We, now, know that is not true and some products can penetrate wood and harden them and stabilize them.

The reason I argued with the expert was, I had first hand knowledge from what I experienced. He did not, and had not thought of all the details.

I had been using the penetrating finishes, like Varithane’s Plastic Oil, to stabilize wood I used for burl tables and such.

As I applied the oils, I kept the finish wet, because as long as I did, what was in the wood didn’t have as much access to oxygen, so the hardening process was slowed, allowing deeper penetration, before the finish hardened.

I disregarded what I considered foolish and wrong speculation on finishes. Things like other “expert” painters telling me I was wasting paint when it soaked into the wood. The paint was not evaporating and wasn’t all blowing back, so it was going into the wood. The result was, weathered and aged shingles I painted on my house became more durable. Before painting them, you could poke through some with your finger, they’d become so thin. After, all you did was hurt your finger.

So to it may go with this approach to stabilizing wood. Since shaking the vacuum chamber produces bubbles 24 hours in, there is still oxygen in the wood. It doesn’t take much to harden the oil based finish and this may be the case here. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

I was VERY liberal in my applications of Plastic Oil and thinned Varithane projects. As long as the stump or slab would take the oil, I kept adding. Again, it wasn’t evaporating.

While working one six inch slab, I dropped my brush. When I bent to pick it up, the bottom of the slab was wet in large spots. Obviously, once the thinner evaporated off and the polymer hardened, you end up with pretty stable wood.

One stump table, forty years in, still sits in front of a regularly used fireplace and still has no new cracks or splits. It saw a couple gallons of finish.

In the end, a lot of people have had to “hold my beer” while I did something they didn’t think could be done. Right now, I’m the only one who can give an answer to that, it would appear.


(1) Cactus Juice might better be described as a hardening product for use on any wood it will soak into, since the packaging indicates that, and it makes sense. End grain does not have to be soft, punky or rotten for it to work. It just needs to have been a means of the tree moving its live sources through it.

Just as staining wood can be a problem when staining end grain and side or flat grain because the stain soaks into the end grain more, Cactus Juice will, also, soak into the end grain more and easier than through the sides of the wood. This, of course, is why we focus most on sealing the ends of boards and logs.

(2) Note that my projects are, at this point, focused on end grain slabs. The reason is simple – no one else is..

(3) On the topic of apples and oranges, and while I find the process iffy for reasons not related if it removes oxygen, some people use linseed oil to react with the oxygen in wheat, rice and so on to remove the oxygen, for storing food.

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#5 posted 07-27-2021 12:34 PM

I obviously didn’t understand that you understood that there is a difference or I would not have said it. Frankly, I still don’t understand your goal here because you have not demonstrated to me how you are getting comparable results “stabilizing” with the Penofin that you would get with CJ as implied by the title. Your before and after pictures shows 2 totally different end grain so I am not sure what to take away from that. To demonstrate (to myself) that the Penofin is a comparable alternative to CJ, I would have sliced 2 pieces the same thickness from the same piece so that the they both have the same endgrain profile and treated one with CJ and the other with Penofin. I suspect (my hypothesis is) that the oil in the Penofin may be plumping up the cells in the wood to close gaps while the CJ is actually filling the gaps. If that is the case, I would expect that the Penofin gaps may reopen over time as volatile oils eventually evaporate and the cells contract again. I am sure that will leave some resin or polymerized oil behind but I am skeptical that will have a similar result to CJ over the long term. I predict that over time the pressure treated Penofin piece will lose weight while CJ treated piece will not. That is not to say that it won’t meet whatever your requirements are but I would not consider that result true stabilization of the wood.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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#6 posted 07-27-2021 04:14 PM

Back to the part of my post talking about heat. You cannot use the Cactus Juice in a hot shop. It will start curing before it hits the wood. Others store their juice in fridges for that reason. Meanwhile, I still want to play with wood, including stabilizing it as much as can.

As to oils vs Cactus Juice, both can go a long ways to stabilizing woods. I know this from first hand experience.

Take a cedar fence, for example. You wouldn’t want to try to stabilize it because it would be more expensive than just using composite or building with block or concrete. The challenge of building chamber systems to stabilize quantities would be something.

On the other hand, thinning common motor oil with paint thinner and being aggressive with applications can give you a fence that will not lose or gain moisture, so it will not crack and split like untreated ones do. I used to be in the business and because I did not take the common path, some people though I all but walked on water. Treatments were easy and, years in, their fences made their neighbor’s fences look like hell.

The nice thing about the fence treatment with [non-hardening] oil was, it did not matter if it was cold or warm. You thinned according to the temperature and applied it. It still wicked in.

In the end, an oil saturated piece of wood is very stable.

If one can use hardening (polymerized) oil with resin, the piece will not just be more stable, it, also, will be more durable. The end grain pieces I’ve finished will take a drop on the floor that would have, before treatment, shattered them.

Again, the oil treatment can be done in any temperature. It can be done without a vacuum, but, because a vacuum will get oil into wood quicker than just soaking it, I am experimenting.

My pressure pot is right next to the vacuum chamber, so experiments might take me to pressurizing the piece immediately after releasing the vacuum and soaking it, just to see if it drives air in without pushing the hardening oil out.

As with my projects of attempting to stabilize large pieces of wood years ago (applying finish and keeping the surface wet to allow saturation, until ready to allow the applications to start to harden), there is no information on these things anywhere on out there on the Net. In fact, the only information out there is from people who, like I say, say it can’t or should be done, BUT have never tried it. Rather, their reasoning is, don’t was material – all you need is a surface coat [with a tiny bit of grip].

As to practicability of these experiments, there are many in addition to the ones mentioned. Cost and availability of product are one. For thin things, like knife scales and jewelry, the sealing problem you were worried about, though valid for the same reason I keep the surface wet when applying hardening oils or poly, is a non-issue.

The oil based products I used are designed to have future applications applied to them, just as you would with non-hardening oil applications on fences, decks and cedar shakes, shingles and siding. The protection is cumulative, especially at the point of the pores of the wood.

For future reference, the oils used in PENOFIN and SEAFIN are not volatile oils – they are [polymerized] hardening oils with resins.

Regarding your reference to volatile oils, oils applied to dry, raw wood surfaces do not evaporate off. Rather, the oil wicks to the next dry cell. For that reason, an application of oil to a fence, siding or roofing may look like the oil evaporated, but it did not. A second coat may leave one with the same impression first arrived at. However, because the applications are cumulative, the third coat may be evident years down the road.

In the end, this is an experiment, successful thus far, in situations in which the CJ is not practical, or just because we can.

It is not intended to be exactly the same in all ways using completely different products. Rather, it is intended to provide me and others another means to an end. The results may be slightly or greatly different, but if the end product (e.g., turnings, jewelry items, knife scales, etc.) functions as hoped, you’ll be reading about it elsewhere in the future.

SIDE NOTE: For the reasons mentioned, taking a $100.00 gallon of Cactus Juice out into a around 100 degree shop is not on my list of things to do at this time. Too, I have other pieces of CJ stabilized wood, so already know what the general outcome of using it is.

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#7 posted 07-27-2021 04:19 PM

I neglected to add the “after” picture, which you pointed out. That is corrected, now.

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#8 posted 07-27-2021 05:55 PM

Sorry, I used the wrong phrase. What I meant was that the volatile components of the penetrating oil will evaporate. A quick glance at one of the SDS documents (not sure if it the same one you are using) seems to show that at least 25-50% of the components are volatile solvents, depending upon which one you used, and will evaporate off the surface but it would seem to me that if you trap some of it below a cured surface treatment, it will take some time to evaporate.

It is hard to tell from the after picture that you just posted whether the checks in the end grain simply closed up or are filled. If they just closed because the wood fibers were basically reinflated, that probably will not improve the strength as much as filling the gaps with resin does. But if that meets your requirements. Great.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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#9 posted 07-27-2021 07:10 PM

I think you may be mixing up ingredients. The solvents, though mixed with the oil and resin, are not the oil and resin. Rather, they are added. It is those ingredients that evaporate off. As they do, the oil left behind is polymerized by what oxygen is left in the wood.

As my previous post stated, I thinned my mixes of oils too, whether non-hardening oil for fences and other exterior wood things, or polymerized hardening oils [and resins] for stabilizing wood (including wood floors). In fact, my mixes started out at around 30%, then, after those coats were allowed to harden, future coats were at about 15%, with final coats not thinned at all. As indicated, they were quite successful.

If you think about it, for the projects mentioned, you may be worrying about a problem that isn’t. If you can add more later (and you can), the wood can still breath, so air can transfer in and out, polymerizing the deeper oil.

If the oil in the outter, say, 1/4” cures, who cares if the inside takes longer. The wood will still be FAR more stable than when the project was started.

When you move a fine piece of furniture from a high humidity area to a low one, you are concerned about the humidity causing shifts in the wood that can wreak havoc on the piece. To avoid this, nearly everyone applies surface coats. However, many fine pieces are still damaged or even destroyed by the shifts in moisture content.

This was another “discussion” I got into with an “expert.” He insisted sealing the inside of, for example, a chest of drawers was a waste of time.

As I pointed out, elsewhere he and others insisted counter tops and things needed both sides treated equally to avoid uneven moisture gain that caused warping and twisting. My stance was simple – the insides of such things were not finished because it cost time and money.

I treated even the inside of cabinets I restored or built because the item would take on moisture there as quick as it would anywhere else. If nothing else, spending the extra few hours and the material to finish the inside of cabinets slows the gain and loss of moisture, thus shifts in wood, or even drying, which brings shrinkage and, eventually, cracking and splitting.

This brings me back to the whole point of stabilization – stabilizing the wood against moisture loss and gain, all or in part. Where, for example, a fence:

- Applying non-hardening oil WILL, as you indicated, swell the wood. I worked a butcher block with cracks, splits and separations with generous coats of mineral oil. When the top quit taking oil quickly, I slathered on a layer and walked away. A few weeks later, nearly every crack, split and separation was invisible to the naked eye.

Since the oil did not evaporate, the top never went back to its state I found it in. Of course, since the oil would have continued to wick to dry sections, the problems would have returned over time, absent future maintenance coats. With them, the butcher block appear fine and well until I passed it on to someone else [with lessons on maintenance].

Here, using hardening oils with resins, the wood MIGHT swell a bit in the few hours we are talking about, BUT the oils would harden before any notable shifts back could occur. Those that did occur, would be what allows future coats, like the manufacture suggests, and when they talk about that cumulative effect I talked about.

The oils may dry slower on the inside, and could even take years, BUT that only the outside of an item is fully cured does not mean it will not go far toward protecting the piece. Again, if moisture could move in, so could air and the cure would continue.

And, no, neither of these are resins that fills large voids. As stated, these are polymerized oil and resins purposed to penetrate, seal and protect woods.

ONE THING NOT MENTIONED – Sanding this is nothing like sanding Cactus Juice. It loads the paper quick. However, unlike other things that load the paper, this seemed to brush off easily, so the paper was not ruined.

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#10 posted 07-27-2021 09:36 PM

This brings me back to the whole point of stabilization – stabilizing the wood against moisture loss and gain, all or in part. Where, for example, a fence:
- Kelly

This gets to the reason why I commented in the first place. Moisture is not primarily what stabilization with CJ is about. CJ is used to add structure back to the wood by filling voids, basically “gluing it” back into a single piece. The penetrating oil does not do that. The oil may stabilize related to MC changes and CJ will have a similar effect simply because the hardened resin seals off the wood from moisture but if that is your primary goal, the CJ is not really the right tool for the job.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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#11 posted 07-29-2021 04:39 PM

You are far from correct about your assumption stabilization is not, primarily, about stopping moisture. Decades back, when the process was introduced, it was, primarily, about that and not about turning punky wood into something that could be turned.

Once my more important interests and things move back into the backseat, I’ll respond in detail.

Nothing better to do with this thread, in light of the bent it took. On that, can you think of a single positive thing to contribute to this attempt to find other ways to improve the condition of wood using other than JUST CJ?

Meanwhile, consider this page. It’s about common folk, like many of us here, who experiment:

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#12 posted 07-29-2021 04:46 PM


-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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