Does wood stabilization also limit seasonal wood movement?

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Forum topic by JuanVergara posted 06-13-2014 03:52 AM 2810 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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25 posts in 2660 days

06-13-2014 03:52 AM

Topic tags/keywords: wood stabilizer seasonal wood movement texas cactus juice infill hand plane plane

Hey, fellow Lumberjocks.

I’m in the end-game of a commission to make an infill hand plane for a client back East, and I’m worried about seasonal wood movement.

The infill is black acacia, and my worry arises from the fact that the grain direction is basically plainsawn, meaning that if the wood moves at all, it will do so sideways, either pushing into or pulling away from the steel sides of the plane. (Why did I take the risk in the first place by using this wood, you ask. Well – well, because I wanted to see whether I could get away with it, for one, and for another, because the wood was drop-dead gorgeous.)

As I understand it, you “stabilize” wood, whatever that means, by enclosing it in a vacuum immersed in something like Texas Cactus Juice, and as the vacuum sucks air out of the wood, the Texas Cactus Juice takes its place in the fibers of the wood.

If “stabilizing” means only “hardening punky wood so you can work it,” I get the idea. But does the process also limit wood movement? Would it relieve my worry about the infill for this particular infill?

I don’t know what the specifics are as regards black acacia and wood movement, but I’d be willing to bet that the specifics are close to those of black walnut, as it is a relatively soft, open grain wood. It’s lovely to work, even lovelier to look at in an infill plane, and I wouldn’t worry about it if the client who will use this hand plane lived in California, where I live. The seasons change here maybe once a decade. My client gets four of those things every year, if you can believe that.

Thanks in advance, folks. I’m new to Lumberjocks and already I’m a committed visitor.

-- Juan Vergara, California,

13 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


4027 posts in 3010 days

#1 posted 06-13-2014 04:38 AM

Hope you don’t take me wrong Juan, But you have the wood it’s on your bench your probably the only one that can really know how stable the wood is going to be.
Maybe try cutting a block squareing it up and leave it sit for as long as you can and check to see how out of square it gets.
So many reasons that a small block my move how old was the tree .how tight the rings. How dry it’s it.Or maybe it’s small enough to not matter right.
Trying to force wood to be something it’s not is just hocus poucus And may end up turning the beautiful color Mother Nature gave it .If it is close to walnut in stability it’s going to be fine.Aj

-- Aj

View JAAune's profile


2003 posts in 3529 days

#2 posted 06-13-2014 01:17 PM

Wood stabilization if done properly will eliminate seasonal movement. The catch is “done properly”. You have to dry out the wood to get rid of as much moisture as possible (oven dry) then proceed to fill all the cells with resin so moisture can’t get back in.

-- See my work at

View bondogaposis's profile


6025 posts in 3563 days

#3 posted 06-13-2014 01:22 PM

It is my understanding that, stabilization will fill the spaces in the cellular structure w/ acrylic resin and thereby rendering it stable and eliminating movement. If you have ever worked with stabilized wood, it is much like working w/ plastic.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View JuanVergara's profile


25 posts in 2660 days

#4 posted 06-13-2014 02:13 PM

Bondo – I’ve handled stabilized wood but haven’t worked it.

I take it that you and Jacob consider it essential to use a vacuum, so as to get both moisture and air out of the wood? So using Minwax Wood Hardener or similar products without the vacuum won’t do the trick?

-- Juan Vergara, California,

View Greg's profile


335 posts in 4085 days

#5 posted 06-13-2014 08:07 PM

Juan, the Minwax stuff is not even on the same level when it comes to stabilizing wood. I have tried it. If you are worried about it being done right, I recommend sending the blank over to K& G supplies. They will do it right! You are responsible to dry it though. You can do this by putting it in a dry warm (100-120degrees)environment (like a warming oven or a box with an incandescent light inside).

-- You don't have a custom made heirloom fly fishing Net?

View bondogaposis's profile


6025 posts in 3563 days

#6 posted 06-13-2014 09:34 PM

It is essential that the wood be dry prior to stabilizing it, and yes a vacuum is the only way that the acrylic can penetrate into the cellular structure of the wood. I made a home made vacuum chamber with a pickle jar and a HF brake bleeder, very economical and works well. It’s limitations are that the piece of wood has to fit into the pickle jar, so for me, I just use it for small stuff like tool handles and wine stoppers.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3699 days

#7 posted 06-13-2014 09:49 PM

As an opposing viewpoint….......Not saying that everyone else isn’t right, and not knowing much about Acacia, it seems to me that your wood will be less than about 3” in thickness and any seasonal or humidity caused swelling is going to be almost negligible. You can also build a tolerance factor into your plane so the iron is never pinched.

I have used stabilized wood before. Both store bought and home made with Minwax and TX. Cactus Juice.

It all has a plastic feel to it in my opinion. Not the pleasant richness that the feel of a piece of oiled wood has.

I have a Shipwrights wooden smoothing plane that was made in England in 1754, (Dated by Texas A&M University), I don’t know what it is made of but it is plumb beautiful. At 22” long, 3 1/2” wide, it has never moved enough to worry about in the 20 years I have had it.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Wildwood's profile


2959 posts in 3346 days

#8 posted 06-13-2014 09:57 PM

Juan, if your black acacia has reached plus or minus 1 or 2 percent EMC for indoor use would not worry about movement too much. Yes, MC of the wood will change when shipped back east. After a week or two will reach EMC there.

-- Bill

View JAAune's profile


2003 posts in 3529 days

#9 posted 06-13-2014 11:02 PM

I agree that 3” of wood probably won’t be an issue for movement. Stabilizing may still be desirable for some people though. One advantage is that it increases the mass of the wood and some people like heavy planes – especially smoothers.

I used the instructions that came with Cactus Juice and yes, it needs a vacuum chamber. However, the vacuum won’t dry the wood. That has to be done beforehand. Some people stick their parts in a toaster oven for several hours. I haven’t tried that yet.

My vacuum chamber has the added advantage that it can handle up to 80psi so I can pull a vacuum for the needed duration then switch over to 80psi to really force resin into the wood. The downside is that I don’t have a clear chamber so everything has to be done by timer and experimentation. I can’t see if air bubbles are still forming inside the chamber or not.

The chamber is made from an old paint pot I found at a garage sale for $15. It was modified with about $20 of fittings so it can be hooked to a resin pot, vacuum pump and compressor at the same time. A series of valves allows me to swap to the system I need.

-- See my work at

View JuanVergara's profile


25 posts in 2660 days

#10 posted 06-14-2014 02:51 AM

Jacob, Bill, et al – The needle on my el-cheapo moisture meter doesn’t budge at all, so I’m concluding that I worried too much.

I’ve begun giving the tote and bun my usual finish – wood grain filler, Tried and True Danish oil wet-sanded at 400 and 600 followed by shellac taken to a high gloss, then cut with Liberon and 0000 steel wool and topped off with more Liberon.

The photo shows what it looks like after the first wet-sanding. The feel is already buttery soft, and it will get even softer.

Many thanks to all for the input.

-- Juan Vergara, California,

View JuanVergara's profile


25 posts in 2660 days

#11 posted 06-14-2014 11:38 AM

Oh age and decrepitude, as my sweet mother used to say.

I had actually intended to post this photo showing the source of my worries – the grain direction on the tote.

-- Juan Vergara, California,

View Kelly's profile


3752 posts in 4156 days

#12 posted 07-26-2021 07:47 PM

An old thread, but relevant info is relevant info. On if 3” of wood will have much movement and whether its a problem, it depends on what you’re doing with it.

I [wood] turn pieces about 12” long after sandwiching them over clear acrylic. I add round mortise and tenons to joint them and make them into walking sticks. The pieces sandwiching the plastic is only about 1-1/2” wide and about 5/8” thick.

I have a box of finished pieces out in the uninsulated part of the shop and awaiting assembly into walking sticks. For several them that were perfectly round and smooth, I can, after a year in a shop storage that can get to 114 degrees, you can feel and obvious ridge.

In short, many things are perfect candidates for stabilization and my acrylic-wood projects would be one.

View pintodeluxe's profile


6476 posts in 4025 days

#13 posted 07-26-2021 09:17 PM

A 40” wide table is where I really worry about wood movement.

Of coarse I account for it whenever possible, but it’s negligible on pieces <6 inches wide regardless of species.

It looks like very fine work.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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