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Two years ago next month I took a one day class in making a stock removal knife. It was too short to have time to make and attach wood handles, so they offered paracord for handles. I said no thanks 'cause I had a ton of various woods from when my Dad and I did woodworking in the '80s and early '90s. In addition, I was finally getting my shop set up after my BIL moved out.

 

I made the handle out of kiln dried bubinga that I have had for forty years. It was finished with Tru Oil. Yesterday I was looking at it and noticed I could feel the pins protruding from the wood. Not enough to see unless I was looking for it, but I could definitely feel the pins. Would stabilizing have prevented the shrinkage? If so, I need to cut some blocks from various woods and send them off now so that I will have them when needed...  :unsure:

 

Thanks ~ Ron

Edited by Ron Benson
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4 hours ago, Ron Benson said:

Would stabilizing have prevented the shrinkage? If so, I need to cut some blocks from various woods and send them off now so that I will have them when needed...  :unsure:

Not completely, but it helps.  All woods will absorb/lose moisture depending on the ambient humidity, even when stabilized, but less.  

I've had to re-shape stabilized handles before.  

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Not all wood stabilizer compounds are equal, not all companies that do stabilizing do it well, and not all wood stabilizes the same.

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1 hour ago, Joshua States said:

Not all wood stabilizer compounds are equal, not all companies that do stabilizing do it well, and not all wood stabilizes the same.

I have three companies booked, (K&G, River Ridge, and Wood Dynamics), but there are probably more. Who has a good reputation now?

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Something to remember with unstabilized wood is to oil it periodically to prevent large shrinkage. Its what keeps butcher block going to the point they qualify as antiques if done regularly it should prevent noticeable shrinkage. For stabilized woods I don't know if its worth trying as I haven't dealt with stabilized wood in the time frame to give an answer if it works or not I'm sure someone else will.

 

You might try oiling the wood a few times or letting it soak in oil then cleaning up the residue to get the handle back to its hydrated size. I would recommend using pharmacy store mineral oil if its not a food use knife so it wont go rancid if put away for a long time again.

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K&G has always had a good reputation, IMO.  They have slowed down in the past couple of years, but I hear it's due to the increased volume that's they are running through.

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Sean makes some very good recommendations on treatment for non-stabilized woods and periodic oiling to prevent shrinkage, cracking, etc.

As for stabilizing companies, K&G mostly pioneered the process and is well known for good work. I'm not familiar with the other companies you mentioned. Some woods cannot be stabilized because they are either naturally oily/waxy (Cocobolo and other tropical hardwoods) or are simply too dense to absorb the stabilizing compound deeply enough to be effective (purple heart is one).

 

I was taught a simple test to check whether the stabilization was thorough. Drop the piece in a bucket of water. If it sinks to the bottom, it's good. If it doesn't, beware. 

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I see movement even in professionally stabilized woods.  Enough that metal to wood intersections that you could not initially feel become large enough to catch a nail.  That isn't much movement, but it irritates me.

 

Interestingly, it seems like most of this movement happens in the first couple of weeks of the knife being finished.  I've had handles that I went back and reworked to make smooth again, and they didn't change much if at all over the next couple of years even though my local humidity goes from darn near one hundred percent to darn near zero each year.

 

I don't have any scientifically collected data, but it's made me wonder if there isn't some stress being relieved, or some new level of equilibrium that stabilized block needs to find after being shaped into a handle.  A block of plastic can take a few days to stop changing dimensions after you machine it.

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I think you're right on the money, Brian.  I've had that same experience.  Plus I'm pretty sure bubinga is one of those oily tropical hardwoods that doesn't respond to stabilization.

And I also now know why my grandfather always told me to oil my knife handles as well as the blades.  

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I dont know how well it will work on knife handles but a longevity method if you don't want to oil the handle every week or month which depends on usage the more you use it and clean it the more often it will need to be oiled is a oil and bees wax mixture. I cant remember the ratio off the top of my head but if you have display knives or knives you rarely use so periodically oiling them would easily be forgotten it will slow down the oil leeching back out and can last much longer than just oiling. I believe this method is good for passive use as active use will either wear off the wax layer with hand heat or will need to be washed off to not have a slippery wax surface to hold onto.

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I have taken stabilized blocks and cut them in half for scales on a table saw, only to find them immediately cup and warp, requiring additional sanding back to flat. The interior of the block showed noticeably different penetration of the agent than the outside layer.

Now I generally set my wood, even stabilized wood, in the garage for a year or so before using it.

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Thanks all for the comments. @Joshua States - I think I need to get some blocks cut and in the mail so that they can have some time to equalize when I get them. I may even cut some into scales  just so they can move. I know that resawing wood , form 2" thick to two 1" thick pieces for example), needs to be done well before you are ready to take them to final dimensions to allow for the inevitable movement after resawing.

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Looking through the wood I have I found a small maple burl and cut off a hunk. I like the grain oriented this way, but I have several that are big enough that I could cut blanks perpendicular to the one below so that a live edge integral "butt cap" could be made. I don't think I'm close to that yet, but it's fun to dream...

 

I didn't measure, but it's big enough to get at least two blanks from lengthwise and it's a little over 4" wide.I've had it for ~ 40 years. It's basically straight off the bandsaw with a quick run over the jointer to help show the grain.

 

20210209_161531[1].jpg

 

 

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1 hour ago, billyO said:

Nice find!

Thanks. At that time I was heavy into wood turning and went around to various tree services looking for wood. The log the above piece came from was over 2' in diameter and a little over 8' long. It was covered in burls ranging from head sized to over 2' across. I still have a bunch including some large ones.

 

The owner of the business was using it to line his road. I asked him how much he wanted for it and he said $25. When I said OK, he looked at me like I was crazy, but he took my money. ;) I probably sold $400 - $500 worth of bowls, (in 1980 dollars), and only used a little more than half. Unfortunately, a change in jobs almost eliminated my turning time.

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