Wood vs Stabilized wood.

I'm making kitchen knives and will use whatever material the customer requests, but someone recently told me that collectors and experienced users won't purchase a knife unless the wood has been stabilized. Is this true? I under that a straight walnut handle won't last as long as a stabilized wood, but I'm thinking if the customer wants it, then I'll build it.

What does everyone think?
 

Mike Martinez

Well-Known Member
Some woods benefit from being stabilized and some are so dense and oily that they are naturally stable once they're dried. Hope the following helps.


Here is a bit from Mark at http://burlsales.com/stabilized.html :

What is stabilized wood?
Different industries will have different definitions of what is stabilized wood.
For carpentry and general construction stabilized wood can be wood that is fully dried and stable. No longer prone to movement caused by green wood drying. Hence stabilized.
Furniture makers may call wood that has been dried and seasoned in climate controlled conditions stabilized.
In woodturning they treat green wood with a chemical that will limit cracking as the green wood dries. The wood is still green and wet. This enables them to turn the wood easily, but they still have to deal with the drying of the wood.
Wood that is to be used for knife handle material is stabilized in it's own unique way.
The purpose of stabilizing wood for use as knife handle materials is to make the wood more durable and less prone to cracking or moving.
Dry wood to be stabilized is placed in a chamber under a vacuum. The stabilizing agent (chemicals) are released into the chamber with the wood. The wood and chemicals undergo a period of time under vacuum followed by a time under high pressure. After the wood has been completely penetrated or infused with the chemicals the wood is then heat cured in ovens. This changes the liquid stabilizing agent into a solid. When properly done the chemicals penetrate the wood grain and fibers and turn into a solid giving the wood additional weight and hardness for increased durability. This helps to limit or eliminate warping, cracking and other problems that can occur with wood when used under extreme conditions. Stabilized wood is usually easier to work with and finish than natural wood because some open pores and voids become filled and the wood now has a more evenly distributed hardness.
 

HHH Knives

Super Moderator
Great response Mike! I could not of done it better :)

My take on it is YES, on a kitchen knife or any knife a stabilized wood handle will outlast and look better longer then a natural wood knife. aside for if its a wood as mentioned thats naturally oily and dense..
God Bless and Stay sharp my friends!
Randy
 

Frank Niro

KNIFE MAKER
I used dried hard woods on an awful lot of fix blade hunters I made. I never had one come back with a cracked handle. If you are going into fancy woods it may be that they are actually easier to shape and fit if stabilized. I can't see placing a $40 set of wood scales on a knife that will be selling for $80 or so. Frank
 

Doug Lester

Well-Known Member
Not a whole lot to add to what Mike has said. As far as what collectors and experienced will buy, saying that they must be stabilized is an overstatement. Some people don't like the plastic feeling that stabilized wood often has. Some just like natural.

When deciding on whether or not to use stabilized wood, remember that it hasn't been around nearly as long as natural wood and plenty have knives have been worn out with the original handles on them, even kitchen knives. Some woods, however, would be unreliable as knife handles unless they were stabilized. Your softer woods and most of the burls do better as knife handles if stabilized. There are woods that are prone to cracking, such as ebony and snake wood, that can be helped out with the process. Some woods are pretty stable as is, though you can stabilize them if you want. I think Osage Orange would fall into this group. Others like lignum vitae or a lot of your rosewood group are too hard and oily to even accept the resins used in the process. A few woods have an objectionable change in appearance after stabilization though I lost my list of those woods. Also, stabilization does not make a wood proof against cracking or warping. It just makes it less likely.

Doug
 

Meridian Blades

Moderator - Knife Maker
Heres my take........ Its in the kitchen around water and moisture all the time. Definately stabilize it or use woods that are oily (coco / blackwood).

Larry
 

rhinoknives

Well-Known Member
I concur with the two posts before me. If it's a Maple handle, Make it a Stabilized Maple handle.
Professional impregnate Stabilization allows us to use many burl & very porous woods that we couldn't use otherwise. Like California Buckeye would be a terrible wood to use without treatment.

The other extreme would be a wood like Arizona Desert Ironwood, It's so dense and oily that you can't stabilize it.

Laurence
www.rhinoknives.com
 
Thanks for all the great information. At this time I'm experimenting with different woods, but I have two orders for wood handled knives. 1 customer would like Walnut and the other is sending me a chunk of Peach from his farm to use for the handle material. I just want to be cautious that any knife I put my name is going to last and don't want to use materials that will break quickly. I don't want to deter customers from using natural woods as I think it makes a beautiful handle, but I want to inform them of the risks.

Thanks again everyone!!!
 

Knifemaker.ca

Dealer - Purveyor
A custom knife is going to take something between 15 - 100 hrs work. I can't imagine not making it the best it can be. I've heard the 'plasticy' comment, but I'm inclined to believe that a blind test would put that to rest. Stabilizing does add some weight. If you can get a sizeable batch together, quality stabilizing can work out to only a few bucks a handle.
 

Taz575

Well-Known Member
I agree, go stabilized or oily/durable woods (Cocobolo, Lignum Vitae, Desert Ironwood, etc). Non stabilized knives in a kitchen environment will be exposed to moisture and humidity and will move around more. Also, food can get into the pores of the wood, etc. Be careful of stabilized wood though. I have used some from some places and it moved, curled, shrunk, pulled off of the tangs, etc. Pieces that are in my shed where it's cold laid flat against the tang and swelled a bit, but moved when I brought them back inside. Not all stabilized wood is treated equally!! If I was to send wood out, K&G and WSSI would be my first 2 choices; I have used a bunch of wood done by both places and it was beautiful.

If it's too "plasticy" feeling, then use a coarser finish. I played with woods using 12000 Micro Mesh sandpaper and also faux pearl with the same Micro Mesh paper. The Plastic feels like plastic, the wood still feels more wood like, even highly polished, but they were too slick for my tastes. They looked beautiful, but almost too shiny; it was hard to get pics of the handle and pin since they were so reflective. Since the MM is a sandpaper, there was some grip to it when it was wet, but felt slicker when it was dry. A sisal wheel and white compound works OK, but can remove material if you push too hard on it. I switched to the Jantz Matchless White and a sewn Muslim buff or Polishing wheel; it doesn't remove much material and only polishes. It also doesn't affect the polish on the metal tang and stuff as much. After buffing, I wipe down with Denatured alcohol to remove the wax residue and then apply Tung Oil or Tru Oil and rub in a few coats to bring back the wet look and bring out the grain. It gives a nice feel to it that's smooth, but not as slippery feeling.
 

rhinoknives

Well-Known Member
Thanks for all the great information. At this time I'm experimenting with different woods, but I have two orders for wood handled knives. 1 customer would like Walnut and the other is sending me a chunk of Peach from his farm to use for the handle material. I just want to be cautious that any knife I put my name is going to last and don't want to use materials that will break quickly. I don't want to deter customers from using natural woods as I think it makes a beautiful handle, but I want to inform them of the risks.

Thanks again everyone!!!

You have to be careful when using "Customers" woods that they are properly dried before Stabilization.

I want the moisture content to be 10% or less before I send it out to Mike at WSSI for stabilization.

Also Miniwax wood treatment is NOT professional stabilization as far as I am concerned.

Laurence

www.rhinoknives.com
 

Doug Lester

Well-Known Member
I still remember Mom's old butcher knife with an unstabilized hickory handle that she had forever. I think that my sister is still using it. Of course it probably wouldn't do as will in a dish washer but dish washers aren't very good for knives, especially ones like Mom's that were carbon steel.

If you are really all that concerned you could always try Micarta or G10. Just don't try to cut the G10 with a wood cutting blade. Not only did doing that absolutely rip the teeth off my band saw blade, it grabbed the blade and damaged the motor before I could hit the off switch. Expensive mistake.

Laurence speaks the truth about the Minwax Wood Hardener. Also, from what Ed Caffrey said, it's not water proof. It's just designed to harden water damaged wood so that it can be painted over. It's not something that you would want to try to give a handle water resistance.

Doug
 
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I took everyone's advice and convinced the customer to switch from Walnut to Rosewood. I understand Rosewood is naturally oily and dense and will repel water over time better than walnut. I've attached a photo of the finished knife to this post. I'm new to this forum and knife making in general so I'm very appreciative of all the wonderful feedback and info I've received. I'm slowly becoming addicted to the feeds and strings on Knifedogs!

The knife is made of 440c stainless with a brushed finished using a 400 grit cork belt with a turquoise vulcanized fiber stripe between the steel and the wood. I used General Finishes High Performance Water Based Top Coat - Gloss to seal it. Pins are 7/32nd brass and black. Customer paid $185 for the knife as it's my 9th knife to actually build.

Still learning!

rosewoodchefknife.jpg
 
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rhinoknives

Well-Known Member
I still remember Mom's old butcher knife with an unstabilized hickory handle that she had forever. I think that my sister is still using it. Of course it probably wouldn't do as will in a dish washer but dish washers aren't very good for knives,

Doug

I always advise my customers to NEVER put any knife in a Dishwasher.
When asked why? I say that it's called a Dishwasher because it's for dishes! If it was for knives they would call it that!

All joking around aside, The phosphates and other nasty chemicals in dish washer soap are so strong they will ruin the cutting edge in a wash or two. Not to mention the damage to the handle woods & plastics etc..

Laurence

www.rhinoknives.com
 

rhinoknives

Well-Known Member
I took everyone's advice and convinced the customer to switch from Walnut to Rosewood. I understand Rosewood is naturally oily and dense and will repel water over time better than walnut. I've attached a photo of the finished knife to this post. I'm new to this forum and knife making in general so I'm very appreciative of all the wonderful feedback and info I've received. I'm slowly becoming addicted to the feeds and strings on Knifedogs!

The knife is made of 440c stainless with a brushed finished using a 400 grit cork belt with a turquoise vulcanized fiber stripe between the steel and the wood. I used General Finishes High Performance Water Based Top Coat - Gloss to seal it. Pins are 7/32nd brass and black. Customer paid $185 for the knife as it's my 9th knife to actually build.

Still learning!

View attachment 37360

Nice size and I like the profile. FYI, Any material in between the tang and scales is usually called a "Liner"

The handle also looks nice, In the future you may want to round the scales to the tang a bit more so it's more comfortable for long term use..

All around you did great and the customer should be happy.

Laurence

www.rhinoknives.com
 

scott.livesey

Dealer - Purveyor
I have been using water based polyurethane for floors on some of my knives. I like the final finish. I usually do 5 coats. I have the same finish on my dining room table and after 3 years there are no scratches, wet marks, discoloration, or other finish issues.
I have told everyone in the family that I will hurt them alot and often if I ever see them putting any of our kitchen knives in the dishwasher.
the old sailor
 

Mike Martinez

Well-Known Member
A quick tip... when you use mosaic pins make sure that you line them up correctly. My first 5 knives had mosaic pins and none lined up. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what it was that looked "off," to me until my wife pointed it out. Now when doing a handle, extra emphasis is placed on their correct orientation. :)
 
I've made this mistake quite a few times myself. I've been experimenting with pointing them towards one another, having them the exact same direction, etc. You are right that it looks off when they are just going off in some random direction.
 
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