Does Claro Walnut need to be stabilized?

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
Basically just what the title says. I'm thinking not, since it's so dense, but thought I would get some input from here just to be sure.
I'm planning on using some on my KITH Bowie.

Thanks for any input
 

Jason Volkert

KNIFE MAKER
Yes and noo_O. This is what I do. If I can make a dent with my finger nail in the wood then its to soft it guy in the box that I might actually send to K&G one of these days before pigs fly. But that's what I do. (keep in mind I really have know clue to what I am doing);)
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
Trying to recall, but there are several varieties of walnut that either won't accept stabilizing, or are not good candidates for stabilizing. My go to finish for all types of walnut is Tru-Oil.....usually 10+ coats over a period of a few days. If you're not familiar with the application of Tru-Oil, it's a different animal.....here's how...... http://www.caffreyknives.net/how_to_videos.html (Go down the page to the video titled: Applying a Tru-Oil finish to Handles.
 

BossDog

KnifeDogs.com & USAknifemaker.com Owner
Staff member
We stabilize walnut routinely. It's hit and miss how much chemical it will take. Some walnut is oily and ignores stabilizer, some isn't so much. Small, tight burl looking walnut can benefit from stabilizing as it moves with humidity. It won't hurt it to stabilize and you can drive some darker dye into it. An oil coating like Ed suggests makes it look quite good. A lot of walnut has very large pores and can definitely benefit from filler or multiple wet sandings with oil to fill the pores.
 

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
Thanks for the replies. I think I will set the walnut aside and use something else. I bought three pieces big enough for turning bowls a while back. So when I have time and the money I'll cut them down and send them to K&G.

I have a piece of stabilized buckeye burl that my wife gave to me that will work well for the KITH
 

chrisstaniar

Well-Known Member
I use a fair amount of Ca Claro Walnut and I haven't stabilized it. Just tru-oil coats. I haven't had any issues. The place I buy it supplies for gunstocks, guitars (fender), and other standard stuff. I don't believe it gets stabilized for any of the other uses.
 

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
Hmmm...decisions. The buckeye piece I have is really better suited for a hidden tang. I'll take a closer look at the walnut and see how it looks.
I know...waffling a bit...
Thanks
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
Stabilizing is a pretty new concept in the grand scheme of using woods for tool handles in the history of human kind.

Personally, I think it has been over-hyped and over-sold and misrepresented/misunderstood by many. I believe that there are very few woods that NEED stabilizing. There are many other woods that I'm not convinced stabilizing does anything other than add weight.

That said, there are a couple woods that seem to benefit extremely well from stabilizing.

Walnut absolutely does not NEED to be stabilized. I always think of gun stocks. There are more EXPENSIVE, high-end gun stocks made out of walnut than probably all other woods combined. A gunstock takes far more abuse (impact) from recoil and more exposure to weather than the average knife handle will ever see.

Call your custom gun maker of choice and tell them you want your gunstock stabilized and see how that conversation goes.

Just sayin'.
 

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
Thanks for the reply Mr. Doyle. Good point on the rifles. If they were stabilized the weight would make them totally unwieldly.

Walnut it is.
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
Just to be clear:

My position on stabilizing comes from a lot of experience working with and cutting/processing a LOT of wood, both stabilized and not.

That does not mean that anyone else has to adopt my view on it. In some cases, stabilizing has some merit, and in a few cases may even be necessary.

But do not believe that stabilizing is a magic cure-all for all your natural material problems.

Any claims that stabilizing will prevent or eliminate warping, cracking, shrinking/expanding or that stabilized wood won't absorb/is impervious to oil, dye or water or that it sinks in water, etc.....are all false claims that can be easily disprove by anyone willing to simply try it.

That includes even professionally stabilized wood by the best outfits in the business. I am not necessarily saying that the top companies in the business are the ones making these claims.
 

Bruce McLeish

Well-Known Member
John, what about spalted wood? Wouldn't stabilization make it inherently stronger?
I have also wondered about stabilized wood and oil finishes and its ability to fend off moisture.
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
Additionally, I'm not suggesting people use any old wood in any old fashion without any thought given to the material properties and intended use of the knife.

Any wood handle should be properly installed and in most cases, if stabilizing isn't used, a proper oil finish with sealer is probably a really good idea.
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
John, what about spalted wood? Wouldn't stabilization make it inherently stronger?
I have also wondered about stabilized wood and oil finishes and its ability to fend off moisture.
Spalted wood has already started to rot. Personally I've had enough bad experience with PROFESSIONALLY STABILIZED spalted wood to not touch the stuff again.
 

tkroenlein

Well-Known Member
John, how do you deal with the inevitable shrinkage of some of the natural woods?

I'm very interested in your thoughts on this. I LOVE to use natural woods but have reservations because of a few issues with shrink.
 

Chris Railey

KNIFE MAKER
Spalted wood has already started to rot. Personally I've had enough bad experience with PROFESSIONALLY STABILIZED spalted wood to not touch the stuff again.
If you do not mind me asking what kind of problems have you had with spalted woods. I know Ed shares that same opinion but I have never asked why. Do not get me wrong, I am not arguing the point I am just curious.
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
John, how do you deal with the inevitable shrinkage of some of the natural woods?

I'm very interested in your thoughts on this. I LOVE to use natural woods but have reservations because of a few issues with shrink.
Sometimes, a little bit of movement during the changing of seasons or building a knife in one climate then selling/shipping it to another climate is just one of the tradeoffs you may have to deal with when using natural materials.

Making sure you use woods that are seasoned and dry is more than half the battle. A good finish and/or sealer can go a long way towards minimizing movement. Stabilizing, in some cases, *may* help limit movement.

Additionally there are build methods such as intentionally leaving wood handles proud of guards, spacers, tangs etc...so that the effects of movement are minimized or outright eliminated. This is sometimes referred to as 'museum fit' or 'heirloom fit' handles.

The downside to that is it adds some time and increases the precision factor of the build. And it must be very well done or else it looks terrible and unfinished.
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
If you do not mind me asking what kind of problems have you had with spalted woods. I know Ed shares that same opinion but I have never asked why. Do not get me wrong, I am not arguing the point I am just curious.
I once made a set of 8 or 10 knives with spalted maple handles. I had stashed a dozen or so blocks of spalted maple over about 2 or 3 years from several different sources. All of them had been professionally stabilized by a very prominent name in stabilizing.

Over the course of about 16 months I had to replace every single handle. It was a lot more than just a little shrinking and expanding around the tang. It was the black line spalted stuff that looked like camo pattern or a jigsaw puzzle. Adjacent sections of wood in between the spalt lines actually raised and lowered and buckled and shifted dramatically.

For awhile after that I would still use it on request but with the disclaimer that I wouldn't fix it for free if it moved.

Since then, I've stopped even using it on request and I won't even buy it to sell to other makers.
 
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