How to Stabilize Small Pieces of Wood

The question ‘Do you know how to stabilize spalted maple pen blanks?’ is a common one. So I decided to do some homework on the subject. Here’s what I found…

Minwax Wood Hardener

Available at your local hardware store for about $10.00 a bottle. Minwax high performance wood hardener is made up of extra hard resins that are disolved in a solvent solution. The mixture penetrates the wood pores and as the solvents evaporate they leave behind the resin which hardens or stabilizes the wood.

This product is easy to use and from what I’ve read on different pen turning and knife making forums, the majority of people that have tried it have experienced positive results.

Here’s how it works:

Always work in a well ventilated area when using this product and follow the manufacturers directions.

Your wood must be good and dry before using this product. For better product penetration, you may want to warm the wood blank before applying the wood hardener.

Shake the can well, apply the wood hardener with a disposable bristle brush to completely saturate the piece.

Apply several coats in quick succession until a shiny surface appearance is obtained. You’ll know you’ve applied enough coats when the wood stops absorbing the solution. Make sure you recap the bottle right away between coats to prolong the life of the hardener… you don’t want the stuff to thicken by letting the solvents evaporate.

Allow to dry for at least a couple of days to be sure that it’s dry right through.
Finish and seal like you normally would.

CPES – Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer

This product is used by the marine industry to repair rotten, punky wood on boats. It’s available online for about $36.00 for a 2 pint kit.

CPES is said to work best on rotten wood rather than sound wood.

It’s a clear epoxy sealer that is thin like water made for penetrating, which soaks deep into damaged or rotten wood, unlike an adhesive epoxy which just coats the surface of the wood. The epoxy resin is delivered into the wood pores through a solvent base. The same solvents also evaporate excess moisture from within the wood. All of the wood fibers and spores are then left encapsulated with the remaining epoxy. It glues the remaining fibers back together, and restores useful strength back into the wood, without changing the natural flexibility of the wood.

This product is available for both cold weather and warm weather applications.

RESINOL 90C – from Loctite

Resinol is a solution used mostly by hobbyists to stabilize homemade knife handles and grips. It cost is about $400.00 for 4 gallons and is requires additional equipment which can be very expensive. The end result is not comparable to professional stabilizing services. The wood is harder to work and quite brittle, due mainly to the higher curing temperatures required by the Resinol. (More than double that used by professional stabilizers). I also found a lot of great information on the knife forums about the Resinol 90C (this one inparticular comes to mind

Polyurethane Method from the IAP (International Association of Penturners)

This is a pdf file with pictures and instructions! Stabilizing wood with Polyurethane and a vacuum

Resolute by Cue Components

Resolute is a product offered by Cue Components to replace Nelsonite. It is said to produce the same results as Nelsonite with less danger and less odor and best of all less cost! Here’s a link to the Wood Stabilizing page at Cue Components

Polycryl by Preservation Solutions

Polycryl is a wood fortifier that fills and strengthens the cells in soft, punky, or spalted wood. It drys clear and will not yellow. This makes turning spalted wood a little easier. After treating your wood with Polycryl the wood must be sealed and finished as this is a water-soluble product. All types of finishes and glues can be used once Polycryl has dried into the wood.

This product is water-soluble and penetrates best when the wood is wet. It remains water soluble after it has dried into the wood and should not be used for outside projects.

Polycryl is available directly through Preservation Solutions at a cost of about $17.00 for
32 oz Polycryl

Acryloid B-72

Also called paraloid B-72 at times, is a soluble methacrylate copolymer used in the art restoration business. Some knifemakers have used it as a stabilizer for wood, bone, etc. I didn’t have any luck finding information on how to use this product, but did find several references to it in the knife forums saying that it’s a good product for stabilizing knife scales.

Acryloid B-72 is available as a 100% resin in the form of beads.

Professional Stabilizing Service

If you are in need of professional stabilization, check out They have a great selection of acrylic stabilized wood pen blanks, knife scales, pistol grips, reel seats and a number of other small project blanks available.

Note: If you’re thinking of trying any of these products, please be sure and follow the directions and safety precautions provided by the manufacturers.

We hope you’ll find this information and the links helpful. If you know of a stabilizing technique that’s not on our list, or have something you’d like to add to any of the above techniques, please leave a comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *