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A few months ago I thought I saw a thread on reel seat stabilization with Plexiglas dissolved in acetone and airplane dope. But I can not find the thread in the archives. Does anyone remember the formula and technique?

I was able to get a chunk of beautiful walnut, but when turning the first few pieces I ended up with some small pits scattered here and there throughout the blank. I am trying a number of techniques to fix them, and plan to stop turning and start sanding sooner on the next ones,  but what can be done to get that smooth, glass like finish? Or should I even worry about it?  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    Bob Nunley (see Bob's write-up in Power Fibers), and I use the Plexiglas impregnation.  Bob uses just Plexiglas dissolved in acetone.  I have previously used Plexiglas dissolved in acetone with a bottle of clear dope added but on the batch I am working on, I am doing it without the dope.  Here's how to do it.

    Break up a piece of Plexiglas into pieces small enough to put in a jar.  Add enough acetone to cover the Plexiglas.  Let it stand for a few days.  If the amount is small, it will turn to a clear Karo syrup looking mass in a couple of days.  Enough for two or three gallons takes a mite longer.  Just stir or shake often and you will get the clear "syrup".  Dilute to a milk or light cream like consistency.  Thinner penetrates quicker.  Bob just soaks his in the solution.  I just finished a chamber made from a pressure cooker so I can vacuum first add the solution and then compress.  I plan on using a thicker mixture to retain more Plexiglas.  I have been doing it one at a time using a chamber made from a water pipe nipple.  No vacuum, just 100 PSI for 24 hours.  (Onis Cogburn)

      I have done this same thing to treat the ends of the rod section where I was going to mount the ferrules.  It made a nice gluing surface when I was done.  But instead of using the acetone I used MEK to dissolve the chunks of Plexiglas ("Acrylic Safety Glazing").  To store the mixture I put it in a small glass jar that has a sealing screw on lid which keeps it fresh.  I haven't stabilized any thing else but rod sections but dropping a piece of wood for a real seat wouldn't be hard to do I just haven't done that yet.  (Robert Holder)

        Where does one acquire the Plexiglas chunks?  (Steve Trauthwein)

          I get mine at Home Depot.  I buy one or more of their precut sheets and then either break or saw it up.  (Onis Cogburn)

            Just make sure to wear safety glasses and leather gloves when to break up the Plexiglas.  Those pieces can be very sharp and a small chunk can be sent air born while cracking off pieces from the sheet.  I don't need to be using another story from the list in safety meetings at work again.  (Robert Holder)

              Score the acrylic before breaking it! It takes just a few seconds, but will eliminate the danger of flying shards of acrylic.  (Larry Blan)

            The best way to break up the Plexiglas is to cover it with a cloth of some sort, IE towel, old T-shirt, etc. then smack the h*** out of it with a hammer. By using the cloth cover you eliminate getting fragged!  (Mike Shaffer)

              Well that would work also.  While wearing leather gloves I just grabbed the sheet of Plexiglas with the pliers and put my other hand over the pliers to catch the broken off pieces.  Since I wasn't doing a lot of this it didn't take long to break off what I needed.  Then the left over sheet was tucked away in the shop when I need it again.  (Robert Holder)


I dissolved Plexiglas in Acetone to impregnate some inserts.  Stuff turned white but it was a consistent color through out.  Everything went fine until I dropped in an insert made of Redwood.  Now the "soup" separates when you let it sit. Looks like oil and water.  Top part is a pale oily brown while the bottom is a milky white.

First is this normal anyway for this mix or second are there oils in redwood that would cause this?  Might also have been contaminated with Pentacryl but I am not certain.  I am assuming that it is still usable, just keep it shaken up.  (Tim Wilhelm)

    Bob Summers just made me a rod that had a Pentacryl (or whatever it's called) impregnated piece of spalted maple for the seat filler.  It was very white appearing, and I did not really like it at first.  However, after rubbing in a lot of Briwax (brown furniture wax), the seat has developed a warmth that is nice.  (Chris Lucker)

      I soaked some fiddle back maple inserts in water for a week, then Pentacryl for a week.  The inserts went from a light maple color to a light tan color.  (Ted Knott)


I'm using Bob's (thanks Bob) Plexiglas goop to impregnate my turning blanks but I find it's not penetrating the blanks very deep. So I've decided to turn my blanks down slightly oversize and center bore them before impregnating now, to aid impregnation even further  I was going to try a vacuum system. I seem to recall someone saying they had built a cheap one out of a pressure cooker recently? Or if someone knows of an even easier/cheaper way I'd love to hear it, I've ventured into new territory here.  (Shawn Pineo)

    I use a piece of 2" galvanized pipe with caps on each end.  Drill and thread one cap for a Shrade valve.  (Just like the one in your tires)  I evacuate with a vacuum pump, that is available at any auto supply store.  Let it sit for two days then pump it up with my air compressor @ 120# for another two days.  Find that penetrates all the way thru the wood.  (Jerry Young)


I thought I saw a thread on reel seat stabilization with Plexiglas dissolved in acetone and airplane dope. But I can not find the thread in the archives. Does anyone remember the formula and technique?

I was able to get a chunk of beautiful walnut, but when turning the first few pieces I ended up with some small pits scattered here and there throughout the blank. I am trying a number of techniques to fix them, and plan to stop turning and start sanding sooner on the next ones,  but what can be done to get that smooth, glass like finish? Or should I even worry about it?  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    If it is walnut burl, the pits are part of the beauty of the wood. I dip my fillers with 5 coats of varnish and let the pits show through.  (Lee Koeser)

    A friend of mine, who is a maker of custom rifle stocks, wet sands with polymerized tung oil. This procedure creates a slurry that fills the grain and the  oil penetrates the wood before it dries. I will be trying this technique on some of my fillers.  (Steve Weiss)


Does anyone know, off the top of your head, where the recent thread is in the archives on impregnating wood for reel seats. At the time, I wasn't really interested, but now I am. It talked about different types of Plexiglas that works better than others or commercially made solutions, and where to buy it,. I think it told about melting the Plexiglas in acetone, procedures on how to mix "the soup" and how the impregnating process works. I have an idea, that if it works, can process small amounts of small wood (reel seats and trim rings) quick and easy.  (David Dziadosz)

    Minwax has a product called wood hardener that can be used. It looks and smells like the Plexiglas and acetone mixture all ready to go except it is thinner in viscosity. Drop a reelseat or bamboo ferrule in there for a couple of days and you should be ready to fish it out, wipe it clean and go.  (Gordon Koppin)

      I'm glad you mentioned that about the Minwax wood hardener. That was a question I wanted to ask in my original post. I was wondering how well that product would work for impregnating wood. I think it's also priced pretty high though. If you get what you pay for, it must be some really good s - - t! (David Dziadosz)

        I didn't see the reply regarding Minwax wood hardener, but I've used the product and can vouch for how good it is.  When I bought my first house in California the previous owners didn't properly coat (to protect) the windowsills on the south side of the house to prevent the wood from becoming dry with essentially no strength.  The windowsills were pine and had been stained but not varnished and when tapped sounded dry and hollow.  Minwax wood hardener is a clear liquid with the consistency of water, you would have been amazed how much a single windowsill soaked up (a whole can!!!). When the Minwax dried, the sills once again had strength, sounded solid, and paint adhered well.  I've thought about it for impregnating, but haven't seen the product since I came back to Michigan.  (George Bourke)

    Got everything together for the stabilizing process, except the "Dope". My oldest son works part time at Lowes, and came with a bunch of Plexiglas scrap and a gallon of Acetone. I went downtown looking for some "Dope", and all of my old contacts are either dead, crazy, in prison, or just moved on. Some are even clean and sober!  I read that I probably didn't need it anyway!  (David Dziadosz)


I finally got around to experimenting with impregnating reel seat inserts with the Plexiglas/acetone mix. Thanks Onis for all your info/recipes. I found that unless you have too few of pieces to send off to have done or if you just want to do this sort of thing, you'd probably be better off supporting the professionals!

I made two chambers, the same size, from 2"x6" black iron nipples and fittings, joined in the middle with a 3/8" ball valve. On each end I have a 1/4" ball valve with 1/4" flare fittings to connect a refrigeration gage/hose set. I filled one chamber with the soup and closed the 3/8" valve in the middle. The other, I put in the wood. If I pre-turn them, I can put in 6 reel seat inserts and a few trim rings 1/4"x1 1/4". I pull this chamber into a vacuum and let the pump run till all the air and moisture is out. While it is pumping I heat the chamber with a torch to boil out all the moisture. I seal it up and make sure there are no leaks. If no vacuum leaks, I turn the unit upside down, open the middle valve and let the soup run into the wood chamber. Then, I connect a compressor to the 1/4" valve on that end to pressurize the unit forcing the mix into the wood. After impregnating, I close the middle valve, relieve the pressure, turn it back over,open the middle valve and let the mix drain from the wood chamber, back into the mix chamber, relieve the rest of the pressure, close the middle valve, open up the wood chamber and retrieve the stabilized wood inserts.

Most of the parts were leftovers from other jobs and my son works part time at a hardware store were he used his employee discount. This system really works good, but you must really consider the time, cost, mess, and fumes!  (David Dziadosz)


I just got my first shipment of stabilized wood back from Wood Stabilizing Specialists in Iowa, and thought I would share my experience.

Although I have been making reel seats for about two years, I had never made one using stabilized wood until a rodmaker sent me some blanks in return for a small favor. I was so impressed that I had to try some more of them.

1. Great service- the turnaround time was faster than could be believed.

2. It costs 12 bucks per pound, but there is a minimum charge (36 bucks I think) so send in a couple pounds, or go in with some other rodmakers to meet the minimum.

3. Their process really works well. After turning to diameter, I now sand with 600 grit, then 1000 grit, then 2000. Finish with Hut plastic polish available at Woodcraft. It makes the reel seat shine, and there are no pits or gaps to worry about. Just keep at it with the polish until you get the glow you want.

4. The process darkens the wood somewhat I prefer rich colors so that was good. I have messed with staining impregnated wood, but you probably won't need it.

5. There are some drawbacks to stabilizing. Freshly impregnated blanks stink, but the smell pretty much goes away after turning. Another thing- I did have several blanks warp badly during the process (about 4 of the 50 I sent in). They were dry going in, so I have no idea what happened. There is also a significant increase in weight, but that is the price you pay for stabilization and ease of finishing.

6. The blanks you get back will have globs of resin on them. I think that retail impregnated blanks have been sanded before going to the shop, but yours may look a bit rough. No matter, it turns off, but they may not be pretty.

7. The cost for me was a bit less than a buck per seat. Note that I trimmed them to length beforehand, and I had some 3/4 by 3/4 blanks in the shipment. Since you are charged by the pound, trim them before sending them in. But you may pay more per seat if you do not trim.

I thought that it was worth the price, especially for the burl seats. Much easier to finish as well...  (Jeff Schaeffer)


Just finished the second batch of inserts from my latest model wood stabilizer. I used a 2 1/2 gallon modified pressure paint pot. The first batch turned out good, but the system needed a few design changes. A sight glass in the side of the pot let me know when I had enough solution in the pot. And a drain valve in the bottom of the tank, so I wouldn't have to dip out the solution and make a big mess. This unit can do about 1 to 70 inserts at a time and not over fill the tank.  (David Dziadosz)

    How do you make sure the wood stays submerged and doesn't float to the top of the solution?  My first thought is a piece off screening and a brick, but that's not particularly elegant, so...?  (Claude Freaner)

      I made a basket out of 1/2" screen wire. I cut another piece of screen to lay on top of the wood, inside of the basket. I made a simple locking device to keep the wood from floating and pushing the top of the basket up. The basket is why I can't put in quite as much wood.  (David Dziadosz)

        I'm on the verge of trying this myself, but I've been wondering how much acetone to how much Plexiglas?  (Tim Preusch)

          Hard question! I'm still learning. So far it seems that softer woods works better with a thicker solution and a thinner solution for harder woods. But can't prove that yet. The thicker the solution the longer it takes to draw it into the paint tank. I think the correct viscosity for the wood you are stabilizing comes with experience, and I'm not there yet! I mix the solution in quart glass canning jars. The lids are easily replaceable when they get messed up, you can see how the process is working, shake them once in a while to mix the solution, see how thick it's getting, and add more Plexiglas easily if needed. It's also faster mixing a bunch of smaller containers than it is to mix one big one. I then pour the solution from the jars into new, empty 1 gallon paint cans that you can get at the local hardware store for a couple of bucks each. You can adjust the viscosity by adding more acetone or thicken it with a thick batch from one of the quart jars. They work great for pouring into, drawing out of, draining back into, and storing the solution.  (David Dziadosz)

    Was interested in your wood insert stabilizing process.  Any place you could point me from a construction, how to approach. What does a person use to impregnate with?  (Tim Smith)

      I'm using a 2 1/2 gallon pressure paint tank. An old pressure cooker can work also. But, if you have to by it, the paint pot from (I think) Harbor Freight of Homier, is cheaper. One of them also has a smaller paint tank. Maybe a 1/2 gallon, I can't remember without looking it up. Add a compound gage, a drain valve, a valve for evacuating/pressurizing the tank, a valve for drawing the solution into the tank, and a sight glass in the side of the tank. I'm using an old vacuum pump left over from my days as a refrigeration service tech. I'm using a cheap cordless portable air compressor from a auto parts store. Works pretty slick.  (David Dziadosz)

    That's a very cool setup.  I'm going to make one in the coming months.

    What's your impregnation solution?  (Joe West)

      The credit goes to someone on the list that has done a lot of research and has spent a lot of time working with it. During a system crash I lost this info along with his name and I can't remember who it was.

      I'm using Plexiglas melted in acetone. I'm wanting to try MEK, I think it is supposed to evaporate a little slower.

      I did find out the hard way that some Plexiglas mixed with some acetone causes the solution to be cloudy. Try several till you a pair that remains clear. Makes a big difference in the look of the wood.  (David Dziadosz)

        BTW, it would be Bob Nunley who came up with the Plexiglas sauce.  (Joe West)

          You are probably correct about Bob.

          I found some things that I had printed, and it was Onis Cogburn that really helped me with the  stabilizing solution and procedure.  Thanks again Onis.  (David Dziadosz)


I built a vacuum chamber like this on Randall Gregory built and I must say it works, but only to 90%. After you turn and polish the impregnated wood, it looks really fine, but after you make it wet, the shine is gone and it becomes very dull. Because after two weeks in the chamber it was not possible to fill the preturned reel seat totally with acrylic. This will not happen if you use the impregnated wood from WSSI. So I must still varnish over the impregnation.  (Olaf Kundrus)


Last week I was in southwest Oregon and liked looking at Madrone trees.  I started keeping my eyes open for downed trees or stumps and finally came across an old root ball that might or might not be Madrone that I would like to use for spacers.  However, it is awfully light and none too sturdy. Might just be a worthless chunk of wood.  However, I bought a piece of burl Madrone from a burl store outside of Cave Junction and the guy told me that they "boil" the wood to stabilize it.

Anyway, I have never heard of this technique.  And, of course, I wasn't going to display my ignorance by asking the fellow what the heck that means.

Does anyone know if this means to literally "boil" the wood then let it dry?  What the heck does that do to the wood?  AND, will that help an old piece of wood be more sturdy to work with?  (Jason Swan)

    Like you, I have little idea what it means to "boil" wood.  Unlike you, I would have been dumb enough to ask.  Might it have anything to do with "boiling" in some sort of stabilization solution?

    Also, you might check into a can of Minwax "wood hardener" available from your local Lowes or Home Depot.  I've used it on some punky burls with varying success.  (Harry Boyd)

      I have a wood working friend who stabilizes all his wood turning stock in a microwave. I believe stabilization is an accelerated way of producing a 'seasoned' or dry wood.  (Paul Blakley)

    I don't know if the technique would be any good for something like reel seat spacers, but many years ago when I was messing about with wooden boats, I often boiled small pieces of green wood (breasthooks and angle braces) in linseed oil.

    The process is simple, and the idea is merely to displace moisture with the oil.  First, you totally submerge (sink) the green wood in the oil, then bring it just barely to a boiling point and continue for a couple hours. Shut the heat off, leaving the wood in the oil until all has cooled down to room temp.

    Oil boils at a much higher temp than water, and these higher temps "blast" out all the moisture from the wood.  In the slow, cooling process the wood draws the linseed oil back into its open fibers to whatever extent it is able, and upon curing, this stabilizes the wood.  After a period of drying (several weeks in the sun, during which time excess oil will bleed out) the pieces were installed and have remained absolutely stable ever since.

    I have used the technique successfully with  green (feather crotch) pieces of apple, pear, and locust.  I'm sure there are other products that might be used, but anyhow, this is what's meant by boiling green wood.

    On the negative side, I should say that the process adds weight to the wood, and that the curing time is rather extensive.  Also, while the process is simple, it's also both messy and potentially dangerous, as boiling linseed oil can ignite if it should splatter and contact the source of heat.  (Bill Harms)

      Thanks for the explanation, Bill.  This makes sense when I consider the piece of "boiled" burl Madrone that I purchased.  It is really heavy and it  has an oily surface that is almost waxy.  I thought it was wax, but it feels different.  Might be linseed oil or some other type of oil impregnation process.

      Thanks again.  Don't think I'll try that.  I might give Minwax wood hardener a shot.  This old root ball isn't worth the effort and the time to boil in oil.  I'll save that for my spuds.  (Jason Swan)


I came across a few slabs of spalted beech at my sisters farm this afternoon.  It is gorgeous, but as with spalted wood, it has plenty of soft areas Vs. the harder areas.

Do you have any recommendations to stabilize this wood?  I don't have a setup like Randall Gregory.  Is that my best idea, or can I buy a wood hardener over the counter that will do the same thing.  (Joe Byrd)

    The best  way to stabilize this and other soft woods, is to contact Mike at this web site. I have gotten a lot of my woods stabilized from this company.

    I can tell you, it is the best way to go.  (Dave LeClair)

      Dave's solution is far and away the best bet for punky wood.... but if you want to try some do it yourself solutions, find some Minwax Wood Hardener at the nearest Home Depot.  Cut the pieces to about 1x1x4 inches.  Weigh the piece, and record the weight.  Nuke the piece in short bursts of ten to twenty seconds, weighing after a few cycles.  Once the piece has lost 10% of its original weight, immerse (good Baptist word) it in the Minwax.  Leave it there for a few hours.  Take it out, let dry, and try turning it on the lathe.  If'n it works okay, it's cheaper than Mike at Stabilized Woods.  I've had pretty good success if the wood isn't too crumbly.  (Harry Boyd)


With the questions about stabilizing wood earlier this week, when I found this information I thought some of you might appreciate it.  I haven't tried this, but it makes sense to me.  (Harry Boyd)

    Should work, just be SURE to observe the warning about open flame and ventilation.  (Neil Savage)

    The jar must be a "pressure vessel" as well to avoid it fracturing as the vacuum is drawn. Make sure you chose glass jars that have round sides and concave bottoms. They should hold the pressure better than flat side or bottom jars.

    Other than the safety hazards with the fumes - neat idea.

    Now whose going to try a full length rod?   (Don Anderson)

      In other words, use a Mason Jar - these are made for canning fruit and vegetables, and the process is very similar: heat in boiling water and then seal the lid while it cools to pull a partial vacuum.  (Claude Freaner)

    This is a serious question: I wonder?  Couldn't it be a pipe (copper or PVC) with caps on either end?  (Dick Steinbach)

      I have seen PVC run throughout a wood working shop that held 120 PSI from an air compressor.  It was the normal, white PVC.  It had many connections on it for nail guns.  Surely you could pull enough vacuum with one of these to do the job for a whole section.  (Stuart Miller)

        Piping that may hold incredible pressures will flatten under vacuum. No sure whether or not PVC is a pipe for the job.   (Don Anderson)

          When I was in Cool School (Refrigeration), our shop was equipped with a central vacuum pump. Schedule 40 PVC piping was run through the shop to the different work stations. Worked great!  (David Dziadosz)

            Right. I'm retired from Rheem Manufacturing and the large vacuum pumps used for the assembly line that pulled down to 50 Microns were manifolded with 3" Schedule 40 PVC. And those things ran 24 hours a day. They were only shut down on weekends to have the oil changed. If the oil was not changed regularly it would get contaminated and the pumps would not pull down as they should. When we went to the large pumps it took a while to convince Maintenance that they needed to change the oil every weekend. When production slowed because Quality Assurance would not allow the units to pass because they were not pulling down to a preset vacuum level prior to charging with freon, Production always called R&D for relief on the specifications. I would always check the log on the vacuum pumps and most of the time have Maintenance come and change the oil on the pumps. They finally got the message. I don't know why they wouldn't listen, just because the oil looked good I guess.  (Dick Fuhrman)

              I worked in a high energy research lab while I was in college.  We had an electron gun in a VERY hard vacuum.  It was a foot in diameter and 14 feet long and had (best estimate) 4 molecules of air in it.  We redefined the "G-factor" of the electron by 1/100 (or was it 1/1000?  It was over 40 years ago.)  I never did really understand completely what it was all about.  (Neil Savage)

              Right on target! I was trying to treat some wood that I thought was fairly dry. The oil in the pump would get so contaminated with moisture and possibly dirt, it would not pull down into a good enough vacuum to pull out all of the moisture in a cool shop. I think water has a 70°f boiling point at 29" of vacuum. So, heat in a cold shop is important to evacuate the vessel. I'm wondering how well the compressed air driven vacuum pumps would work. The automotive industry uses them. Also, a heater to ensure the vessel/wood is warm enough to remove the moisture.

              Flood Paint Co. offers a deck and spa acrylic wood treatment that claims it can be applied when the wood is wet. What ya think?  (David Dziadosz)

    Here’s some more info that might be safer

    Article 1

    Article 2

    Check out some of the knife maker sites. Lots of good info for making splitting knives and stabilizing handles.   (David Dziadosz)

    The article Harry referred to looks good. Remember you have a heat transfer problem here, so I think a good solution would be a copper or aluminum container. The heat transfer is much better with metal than plastic.  (Frank Paul)

    For those who fear closed containers with high pressure...

    Seriously, the folks at Stabilized Woods are good. The wood is impregnated with a clear resin that turns and finishes beautifully. I prefer more traditional finishes for reel seats, but the blanks they have impregnated for me turn out beautifully. No pits, glass smooth finish. There is a minimum order, and they charge by weight, so cut your reel seat blanks down to reasonable dimensions before sending them in. They do reel seat wood for some of the major companies; Bellinger uses them I think.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


While reading the list regards stabilizing whole blanks it comes to me that you could rig up a Frankenstein style machine in your laboratory, placing a copper tube (solders easily) inside an insulated steel fence rail, (cheap) and run copper tubing and valves to pump out air and inlet the stabilizing liquid at the proper time. attach copper tubing to the insulated fence rail and introduce steam produced at a removed distance that would not produce a safety hazard for the stabilizing agent while heating it. Who knows what ideas may come up for the steam pipe, may help straighten blanks, shape wood for other projects etc.  (Saunder Hutchinson)

    Good point.   What would steam do to a blank?  I think all wood that is straightened is subject work with steam.  Has anyone tried it?  (Stuart Miller)

      I use a clothes iron set on steam to straighten my blanks.  (Darryl Hayashida)

        Do you have to do anything about moisture in the blank if you use steam?  I have been using a dry iron.  (Lee Orr)

          All I do is hang it in my drying cabinet overnight before I varnish. The combination of heat from the iron and the dry climate where I live dries the blank out quickly. The perceived "problem" of moisture in bamboo is less worrisome than most people think. I soak my strips in water before I plane then on a Morgan Hand Mill, so I wasn't worried about a little steam in my blank.  (Darryl Hayashida)

            There's one issue to do with humidity that might be addressed by the list -- one of reliable measurements.  I was speaking with Tom Morgan just the other day, and he told me of an experiment that he  and his helper ran recently. They took a discarded butt section, varnished it with the usual three thin coats, and indexed a couple measurement points on it.  Then, they subjected it to a drying oven that ran the moisture content way below ambient, and measured it at the marked points.

            Then, the section was subjected to an extremely humid environment for a day, and measured again.  Lastly, they allowed the section a couple days just to adjust to the workshop, and measured a final time.  The final measurement was identical to the one they began with, but the differences between the "dry" and the "high humidity" measurements ran as much as .012" at the .250" mark.

            I don't think we can draw many precise conclusions about this except to observe that when we lift a set of measurements off a rod during the humid summer months, we will likely get quite different readings than if we had measured it during the dry winter months.

            So, we might wonder if those who build to published tapers are working with a rod that was measured during optimal conditions or not.  Typically, we just wouldn't know. An additional question asks to what extent a (given) rod, built in one's shop during the humid summer, will shrink down to finer dimensions than the same rod built during the winter.  The numbers of each, at the time of construction, would have been identical, yet it seems possible that as much as a full line-weight difference could result.  (An effect, much more noticeable in the butt than the tips, I suppose.)

            Anyhow, something to ponder, for those with a lot less to do than I .....(Bill Harms)

              It all goes back to measure with a micrometer, mark with a crayon, and cut with a hatchet...  My shop is my half of the garage, and it has a long way to go before you could say it had any kind of humidity control.  I think if you follow a consistent regimen of heat treating, planing and gluing up, you'll probably come out within a couple of thousandths every time.  Cane, being a natural kinda weed, goes with nature, the same as wood does.  Unless you stabilize the strips, making them chemically, hygrometrically (is that a word?) and temperature neutral, there's not a whole lot you can do to stop the natural expansion and contraction of cane.  The heat treating, and to some extent the impregnating some folks do will get closer to achieving that goal, but I don't think we'll ever completely neutralize those effects.  So, make curls, glue 'em up, and use that fishin' pole to catch some fish...(Mark Wendt)

              I am fortunate to have migrated to a little piece of heaven (Southern Alberta  :)  - it tends to be a tad dry here near the Rockies - the snow is rumored to be formed from dry ice (OK, that was weak).

              Being a nice kind-of-a-guy, I will volunteer to store any of your rods needing measurement for a year or so before doing meticulous measuring.  I promise to fish - sorry "flex" - them occasionally to help in the humidity stabilization process.  I will even offer the choice of storage in my basement workshop or in a carefully chosen  "storage  facility" (aka camper) next to a river...

              You are even invited to visit occasionally to check on the stabilization process.  (Greg Dawson)


I'm still trying to get stabilizing blanks right! I built a vacuum/pressure vessel from an old paint pot. Seems it could work pretty good, but it still doesn't get the solution into the fibers of the wood. I've used it on some pretty soft woods, (spalted maple, maple burl) as well as some harder woods (tiger maple, cedar, and walnut). I've been using the Plexi-glass/acetone soup. It really helps when turning the soft woods. It penetrates all the way through the wood and you can really polish a shine on the wood. But, when it gets wet, the grain of the woods raises and gets dull and has a bit of a rough feel to it. It just doesn't seem to be getting into the fibers of the wood! I've tried thinning the solution, which helps. I can only get about 80 PSI pressure on the vessel before the gasket starts to give. I know the wood is dry. I can pull 29" of vacuum on the vessel and even warmed the vessel to around 90° f. I've ran the same wood through the process several times. I found out the hard way that if the wood is left in the fresh solution, the acetone will melt what was already in the wood from previous dippings.

Is there a different solution I can use? An additive I can add to what I got? How about higher pressure? Can it be done without requiring a finish coat on the wood?  (David Dziadosz)

    I gave up on the Plexiglas/acetone mixture.  Below is some information from Mike Brooks about the solution he uses to impregnate rods.  I've heard him say it works just as well with reel seat fillers.

    For hobbyists, I would recommend you make your own. Get together with a few other guys because you are going to end up with 1.5 gallons of the stuff and 2 quarts will last you forever. Mix one gallon of Daly's Ship 'n Shore with one quart of Daly's Super Spar. Add one quart of paint thinner. Mix and use.

    Take a piece of PVC pipe appropriate to the blank lengths you make The 1-1/2 diameter is convenient as a size. Use the PVC glue to glue and end cap on one end. Stick you blanks in there and fill it up to the top with the impregnation mix. Let it set for however long. Some guys only want to waterproof the blank and 2 hours works well for that. I like 48 hours because I get close to 100% penetration with that. Then, remove the blank, decant the impregnation solution into a can and cap tightly (it will keep for years). Wipe down the blanks and lay them on a flat surface or hang them so they can set straight. After two days you can either kick them by baking them @ 200 degrees for however long it takes to set the resins (a day or so) or, hang them from the rafters of your shop or garage for 2 to 3 months. I like the natural cure. It takes a long time, but the blanks setup straight and they look nicer to me. The oven cured ones take on a golden tone that some people like.  (Harry Boyd)

    In my mind, a stabilized insert should not have any top coat, if it has been truly stabilized. I sand with progressively finer sandpaper to 1000 grit, then actually polish the insert with Perfect it, Finesse it, then finally Hut plastic polish. I use a piece of a brown paper bag to apply the polishes. Then a final buff with cloth. It glows. Then cut the mortise, and give it the same treatment, but I do the mortised area by hand.

    In cases where the insert is not stabilized I have been dipping the insert into Varathane diamond wood finish and letting it dry vertically. It creates a drip line at the base, but that is under the cap, so who's to know? In that case I mortise the insert first, and wipe out any excess along the mortise edge with a matchstick, sliver of cane, or whatever is handy.

    Tru-Oil is also great, but I don't have the patience to apply numerous coats. The Varathane gives a much fancier look that people seem to like better.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


Darrol Groth gave me a real punky piece of wood at the Catskill Gathering, I think it is Spalted maple, it was like a sponge. The piece was 3/4" X 5".

He asked me if I thought it would make a reel seat insert. I had my doubts. When I got home I played with it for a while and finally came up with an insert that I think came out pretty nice. It was a learning curve for me. The wood was too pulpy to drill or even turn on the lathe. First I soaked it in Minwax wood hardener for about five minuets. After it dried, I turned it till I came to soft wood again, Soaked it the second time then turned it again till I came to soft wood. Soaked it the third time and got it turned to almost finished size. Then I tried to drill the center hole. The piece broke in three places. Two breaks were on one end were close and the third break was on the other end. I still was able to salvage 3 3/4". After drilling, I soaked it one more time in Wood hardener and finished turning it to size. I still was not satisfied with the hardness of the finished insert . I decided to soak it in Super Glue. That did the trick. Sanded the insert and applied several coats of Super glue. The final coat of finish is Gudebrod 840 while turning at high speed. I have used 840 on my other inserts and it is holding up real well.

I also have quite a few Boxwood inserts that I could not find a way to get a good color on the wood. I had tried dyes and stains. Finally gave Super Glue a try  and came up with a nice warm brown. That is the only and final finish on the box wood inserts now. I will send Todd some photos to post of the Boxwood and spalted maple reel seats. I don't have a web site to post them on.  (Tony Spezio)

    I've had a piece of wood darned near catch on fire from being a bit overzealous with the Superglue. Have you ever had that problem? I've also just gone with the Superglue for a finish, sanded/polished until I was happy, and let it go at that.  (Larry Blan)

      I have not experienced that, but thanks for the heads up. I do finish most of my inserts with just Super Glue. I wanted to get a higher gloss is why I applied the 840 on this insert.  (Tony Spezio)

        I'm intrigued by the use of super glue for finishing spacers. Do you mean the fast setting stuff sold in little tubes? If so, how do you apply it? The fumes from the stuff sold as "super glue" here in Australia are nearly lethal,  even from a couple of drops, so if it's the same stuff I guess you'd need to work with it in a fume cupboard, or maybe outdoors?

        I'm using Australian hardwood burls on all my spacers now. They are so hard and tight grained (especially the brown mallee), they come to an almost gloss finish after turning/sanding before any finishing treatment is applied. I'm happy with the oil/resin/wax blend I'm finishing them with at the moment (arbor oil), but I'm always interested in other finishes. There's some pics of them on my web site gallery. Also of a little brook trout carving from a brown mallee burl offcut. It's so hard I had to use a hacksaw to cut it, and then my Dremel to work it from there.  (Nick Taransky)

          I usually put the glue on with the wood in the lathe. I just drizzle it on, letting it soak in as best I can. If there are surface cracks, I fill the cracks at the same time. Superglue reacts with moisture to cure. If the wood is not dry, it can get awfully hot. Once it has hardened, I turn the piece, adding more as necessary. Once I have it smooth, I just work it down with progressive grits of sandpaper to the finish I want. It can be polished, too. Now, for the wood you are using, you might find it to be to much trouble. For burl, spalt or other tough turning jobs, it is uh, super! If your spacers are round, I wouldn't hesitate to use an epoxy finish either!  (Larry Blan)

          You are right about the fumes, I use a small fan blowing the fumes away from me I also open the outer door of the shop. A list member sent me some odorless Super Glue. I will try it on my next batch of inserts and post my report.  (Tony Spezio)

            Wouldn't odorless be worse. Presuming the fumes are still toxic, wouldn't want to be able to smell the concentration of fumes in the air. Sort of like what the power companies do to gas to alert folks of a leak.  (Jim Lowe)

              You brought up a good point. The Odorless container says use in a well ventilated area. I still plan on wearing my mask and have the fan blow the fumes away from me with the doors open as I do with the regular SG.  (Tony Spezio)

            OK, this might be a stupid question.  How do you apply Superglue?  Seems like it hardens pretty quick.  (Lee Orr)

              If you are putting a drop between two surfaces and squeezing it into a thin film it does. If it is put on the outside and allowed to soak in, it takes much longer to harden.  (Larry Blan)

                I seem to remember someone soaking bamboo ferrules in Superglue in a baggie to remove the air to get more penetration. Wouldn't this same technique work for inserts?

                Anyone tried it?  (Don Schneider)

              I did that with the first and second Bamboo ferrules I made, It did not seem to make much difference that the ones I applied super glue to without soaking them in a baggy. None have come apart so far.  (Tony Spezio)

                I forgot to mention, the original idea came from a post on the list, I believe it was the maker from Argentina.  (Tony Spezio)

                How does super glue hold up to outdoor conditions? Does anyone have any long term experience with its longevity?  (Rich Margiotta)

                  So far so good.  I have only been using it for three years.  (Tony Spezio)

              Stupid questions are my domain ... that being said,

              Superglue brand glue is thin CA and is not the best for a wood finish.  Most woodworking (not home improvement) stores will have CA in 3 grades thin, medium, and thick. Thick CA fills gaps the best and takes 1-2 minutes  to  setup.  Thin  sets  up  quick (5-10 seconds) and does not fill gaps as well. Medium is right  in  the  middle  and  takes  about 30-60 seconds for setup. Also the thicker it is put on the the longer it takes to dry. I personally use Medium,  but thick works also. If it doesn't state thin, medium, or thick - it's thin.


              • Will work on oily woods
              • Polishes to a bright shine
              • Very quick to apply and quick to setup compared to other wood finishes
              • Fairly safe compared to other wood finishes (in fact it's used in place of sutures for cuts)


              • Smell (you can pick up odorless CA, it's more expensive)
              • Expensive compared to other wood finishes. (but not too bad)
              • Builds high and has that plastic look that some people do not care for. You can use less coats for less of the plastic look.
              • Requires some method of polishing.

              For chunks of spalted or burl that has lots of fissures holes and/or cracks I will simply put in the 'thick' CA in there and wait a couple of minutes and then start turning.  As the bare wood is exposed I use more CA but first pack the cracks with the dust and chips and fill the voids.

              I turn the exposed portion of the insert about a 1/16" short of where I want it to be.

              I spin the insert on my lathe at about 500 RPM. Then I put a good amount on my finger or paper towel.  I apply the CA to the insert, trying to keep the coat as even as possible. Usually it takes 2 applications to cover the exposed portion of the insert. I let it spin for about 5 minutes until it's dry.

              Then get a sanding block with some 220 and lightly sand it flat. continue to 600. Be careful not to sand through the layer or it'll show and, you'll have to sand it down and restart.

              Repeat 2-4 times until you get the depth you want.

              Then either buff it or I prefer to use the Micro-Mesh cloth backed sandpaper that goes from 1500 to 12000 grit for the final polish.

              You can peel the CA right off your finger when you're done.

              Micro-Mesh and Medium CA are both available from


              Read the safety info on the bottle. Wear eye protection (and if you wear glasses wear protection over your glasses or you'll wind up with little spots of CA you can't get off.  (Ron Hossack)


I've turned a spacer out of Box Elder.  The spacer has a really cool pink section where a branch had originally been.  Will I need to stabilize this somehow?  I'm worried about it splitting down the road.  My plan for now is to soak it in Tung overnight.  (Lee Orr)

    I did the tung oil soak on my first reel seat, and it won't stabilize the wood.  Every time it gets wet, it swells enough to seize the sliding band.  Also, didn't preserve the finish very well, and turned dark and dingy in just a couple weeks.  Tung by itself isn't enough.  (Tim Preusch)


Is there a difference between acrylic plastic sheet and Plexiglas?

I've been trying to dissolve acrylic in acetone for about a month now. At first it was going just fine then it stopped. Dead.  I do remember a long time back that someone had mentioned to make sure you didn't use acrylic as it won't dissolve in acetone. Thanks to Jerry Foster, I have found a substitute but it's pricey.

SO...the question(s) is there a difference between acrylic and Plexiglas, is there a solvent for acrylic, does anyone know where Plexiglas can be purchased. I can't find any locally. (locally? Pretty funny!)  (Mike Shay)

    Plexiglas is just a brand of Acrylic sheet, they are one and the same. Acetone is the proper solvent for acrylic. You will probably reach a saturation point however where once a certain concentration of acrylic has dissolved into the acetone the action will stop. If you try another batch cut it up into fine shavings as the greater surface area will allow it to dissolve faster.

    The more expensive substitute you mention is probably Lexan (polycarbonate sheet). It is some seriously chemically resistant stuff, it will not dissolve in acetone -- at least not enough to do anything useful like stabilize reelseat inserts.

    If you can't  find  acrylic  sheet  or  Plexiglas  locally  try McMaster-Carr.  (Mark Shamburg)

    Was this post timely.  I have been struggling with the same thing. About a month ago I place some Plexi in a jar of acetone and it melted down nicely but has just turned into a lump of sludge in the bottom. If I give it continual agitation it will resuspend the majority of the Plexi, but if it sits, the Plexi seems to precipitate out of solution.

    I tried raising the temperature to about eighty degrees and that did improve the re-suspension process but the plex still precipitates if it isn't constantly agitated.

    I was experimenting with impregnating real seats and wanted to give the Plexiglas/acetone solution a try. Just need to figure out how to keep it in solution long enough to get the "soup" into the real seats.

    It is good to know I'm not struggling alone.  (Will McMurrey)

    First...thank you all so much who responded! It's appreciated.

    So, of course, one question leads to another...

    Depending on who you talk to, the acetone will either continue to dissolve the Plexiglas OR one can dissolve only so much in a given amount of acetone?

    I am dissolving mine in a closed mason jar. There is no evaporation. But since the acetone is no longer eating up the plastic, I assume it has reached some sort of equilibrium? There is no lump of sludge on the bottom of the jar. In fact, I had swept up the shavings when I cut the plastic and placed them in the jar to dissolve as well. They are still floating around in there.  I have read that the soup will become about the consistency of Karo syrup. That hasn't happened. It is still very 'watery.'  So, what do you'se guys think? Should I drain off the stuff I have into another jar and add fresh acetone and see what happens or simply continue this apparently very long little journey?

    The chunks I cut were about an inch square and about a quarter inch think.  Too big? No big deal? Start over? Buy impregnated seats from someone else?

    Aw...nevermind, I'll just drain it and add fresh juice to the soup and see if it kicks it.  (Mike Shay)

      Give it up and just use Tru-Oil or varnish on your seats. All the impregnated inserts I've bought have been needlessly heavy anyway.  (John Channer)

        First...Am I picking you up for the CRR this July?  Yes? (just say yes).

        Second...the soup I've been using adds no appreciable weight to the seat.  Happy to send you one for your perusal.

        Third...the reason I am going to the trouble of all this is that tru-oil didn't work for me. It allowed water to pass to the wood and just swelled the hell out of two of my customer's reel seats. Two seats out of a hundred or so ain't good.

        Vacuum/compression pump and chamber are made and working fine. Just looking for a less expensive alternative to what I am now using for soup.

        Luv ya man!  (Mike Shay)

          If your intention is to vacuum impregnate with your "soup", you can't draw much of a vacuum without vigorously boiling the acetone.  When it does, it will make a helluva mess! (Al Baldauski)

            'splain please?  (Mike Shay)

              When you draw a vacuum on a liquid you reduce the pressure over it.  The reduced pressure allow the molecules to escape the liquid much easier which has the effect of lowering the boiling point.  Water boils easier (at a lower temperature) up in the Rockies than it does at sea level. Drawing a vacuum on a container has the effect of climbing a HUGE mountain.  Acetone normally boils at 104F at sea level, as opposed to water at 212F, so if you reduce the pressure  to –11 psi  (1/4 of an atmosphere) acetone will boil at room temperature.   When it boils, it will cause your resin solution to froth up and foul your plumbing and vacuum pump.  If you reduce the pressure to say ½ atmosphere (-7.5 PSI) the acetone won’t boil but it will evaporate very quickly and might harm the seal in whatever pump you are using.  (Al Baldauski)

              Acetone has a high vapor pressure, meaning it's highly volatile (until the surrounding atmosphere is saturated).  If you lower the ambient pressure the liquid will increasingly want to vaporize (in fact, boiling the sauce). In this case, you'd be left with your sauce stuck to everything in your evacuation chamber.  You can boil water at room temp by changing the ambient atmospheric pressure.  (David Huntress)

      Sounds like what you have is not acrylic. There are some products that are some other type of plastic or layers of different types of plastic that may be called "Plexiglas"  (Mark Shamburg)

        If you have "true" acrylic plastic, it should dissolve in all proportions and result in a clear solution from watery to syrup depending on the percentage of  plastic you use.  The key to good dissolution is some form of agitation.  Vigorous stirring or shaking will significantly increase the solution rate but as the viscosity increases, stirring will be the most effective.  (Al Baldauski)


Anybody have experience dissolving Plexiglas in Acetone for wood stabilization? I have been experimenting and want to compare notes.  (Chuck Pickering)

    I am half way to finishing a "vacuum and pressure" stabilizing outfit. Have all the bits but must now find the time to put it together. In the mean time, I did some very unscientific experimentation by first dissolving some Plexiglas in acetone, as I did not put in enough acetone I ended up with a saturated soup with some 2' of mush at the bottom of the container. I put in 4 reel seat blanks (machined to a finished size) 2 of a light color 1 dark and 1 teak. 3 weeks later after much stirring and shaking, I retrieved the reel seats.

    Against all odds, they came out quite well, at first view they look gray and have no luster but with a little hard work with some 1200 paper, the sheen started to show through.

    The teak was a disappointment as the color did not come out the one light seat made of a hard wood looks great the dark one come out well, I will be more particular with the type and quality of the timbers I use in future and intend to do further trails to get the best combination on looks and durability.

    When you tap the reel seats together they make a sharp sound rather than the dull thud of the original timber. I have not checked the depth of finish but am happy that the seats will give better service than the original timber.

    I have now put a dark reel seat insert into a 50% solution and will be taking it out in 2 weeks time.  (Gordon Gove)

    I have placed several pieces of Plexiglas from a broken drafting tool in a quart mason jar and covered it with acetone. The Plexiglas melted to the bottom of the jar in a Jell-O like mass. Did I use too much Plexiglas? Is there enough in suspension to use?   (Chuck Pickering)

      You may not have had "Plexiglas" drafting tools.  There are a zillion clear plastics for 10 zillion different applications and they don't all dissolve in the same solvents.

      The type of plastic you want to dissolve in acetone is acrylic.  Very often you will find a polycarbonate plastic used in applications similar to acrylic but polycarbonate won't dissolve in acetone.  Then there are many varieties of the "same" plastic.  Some polycarbonate will dissolve readily in toluene but not acetone, other polycarbonates won't dissolve in any common solvent.  Acrylic is similar.

      A simple test for solubility is to pour some solvent on the plastic in question and if when you rub it it feels "slimy" and starts to make a clear thick paste, then it will dissolve.  If the plastic is unaffected or turns milky then you don't have a good solvent.

      If your pieces of plastic turned to Jell-O (but not a real sticky blob) and resist dissolving when vigorously stirred, then you don't have a good solvent.  (Al Baldauski)

      If the mass is sitting on the bottom, just add more acetone and stir for a few minutes.  The Plexiglas should dissolve all the way.  It should be about as thick as maple syrup all the way through, IE: no big globs.  (Don Peet)


I made up a batch of acrylic soup for reel seat impregnating and was wondering how long I should let them soak.  I don't have any fancy pressure or vacuum set-up, just a quart mason jar filled with soup and inserts.  Should I leave them in over night, a few days, a week, a few weeks?  Oh yea, I turned them down to rough diameter of .700, in the hope the soup would get deeper into the wood that will be used.  To keep the hole from filling up I plugged the ends with a short length of dowel.  (I've tried a few prototypes and I was able to get the dowels out without any problem and the holes were clean.)  OK guys send me your opinions, methods, etc.  I really don't want to build a pressure or vacuum system, so I hope this is doable by simple soaking.  (Tom Key)

    Some folks just let them sit in the jar until they stay sunk. Depends on the wood how long that might be.

    It's absolutely doable though and how most folks do it.

    As far as fancy contraptions go, it's nice to get done in a day what could take weeks of soaking, and it's mostly fun making contraptions.  (Mike Shay)

      I have  heard that heating the "soup" also helps the penetration into the wood.  That is something that I read somewhere, I cant remember where.  (Ray Corkran)

    I let mine sit for one week, no pressure, also I do not plug the holes so soup can get in the wood from both sides.  (Steven Kiley)

    I am another newbie and am also trying to impregnate without a vacuum and pressure setup. I machine to correct size sand and then loose fit all the seat fittings, remove the fittings and then plunge into a nearly saturated acrylic acetone soup and leave for a week,  I get some all round  penetration (I do not seal the bore).

    I am using some dark timbers and find that the soup has to be replaced virtually each batch, as I get leaching of the dark color(tannin) into the soup and this then darkens any light colored timbers I put in. 

    I get a dull finish which is OK the more you polish the better the gloss. I have now started finishing with a single coat of polyurethane vanish get added gloss and to bring out the texture of the wood. I have all the makings for a vacuum/pressure outfit but am not sure a couple of rods a year warrants the time and effort (When I retire maybe?)   (Gordon Gove)


Does anyone not use stabilized reel seats? If so, have you had any problems?  (Jim Lowe)

    I never used to use stabilized seats, and never had a problem ever. Tru-Oil finish. I chose that Tru-Oil because I knew the finish could be touched up, but I have never really needed to repair one.

    Stabilized is very nice, but there are some woods that just don't look their best until they have been acid stained. Like curly maple. And I still apply the thinnest possible polish of Tru-Oil even on stabilized wood.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    I will always stabilize my reel seats because a friend of mine had just purchased one of those high end $600 graphite rods.  He took it out to show everyone and with lots of effort the reel seat locking band could not slide down the wood.  As it turns out he used it a week earlier in rain and thought he wiped the rod down pretty good ... but not good enough.  Imagine spending $600 for that.  (Doug Alexander)

      May I point out that the "high end graphite rod" that started this discussion almost certainly had a reel seat finished with poly?  Clearly, that didn't work either.  (Neil Savage)

        Poly, Clear Coat and varnish don't penetrate and are just on the surface and are not as scratch resistant as the procedure I stated. On a wood like Cocolobo they are worthless IMHO. You need something that will seal the surface and resistant to abrasion. The procedure will also work on other woods.  (Don Schneider)

    Well you would be better off with a bamboo rod because people tend to take care of them a little more. "He wiped it down pretty good" would spell disaster in our format. I use it often and have good results.  (Ron Rees)

      I don't know how many people I have seen dunk the reel seat in the river. I have been guilty of this occasionally while trying to juggle a nice fish and a rod at the same time. I am not as worried about a little water as opposed to a dunking. Will a good thick coat of CA glue over the wood protect it enough? I know water takes the path of least resistance and if it can find a way in, it will.  (Scott Bearden)

        I haven't stabilized mine (yet) and haven't had a problem (yet.)  I've dunked the whole rod once or twice while float tubing in roughish water too.  As usual, there are a lot of variables, IE: different kinds of wood expand differently when they get wet.  I'd wonder if the seat on the "high end rod" had more than one coat of finish on it, or if the sliding ring was too tightly fitted in the first place?.  If you use enough Tru-Oil to get a really nice looking finish, there are about 10 or 12 coats.  Also, the oil soaks into any porous areas of the wood, while varnish, especially poly,  pretty much just sits on the surface.  Remember though, my opinion is worth at least as much as you paid for it.  (Neil Savage)

    I have been making my own reel seats for quite some time and finish them with Tru-Oil, (not to be confused with tung oil) I have never had a problem on one of my personal rods and have never had a customer complain. Either there have been no problems or everyone is too nice to me to complain :>) Seriously the finish on my shotguns have never shown any adverse reaction to being soaked in rain/snow storms either. I think the thing to do is make sure that you have several coats on the reel seat and when you install it, make sure you seal the ends well also, I use 5 minute epoxy to secure/seal my real seats on.  (Joe Arguello)

    The only reel seats that I use that are stabilized are the ones that have been turned out of punky wood (burls and spalted) which need to be stabilized in order to be turned. The plain walnut, cedar, maple or any wood that can be turned without stabilizing that I have used have not as of yet given me any problems.  (Will Price)

      Thanks. I didn’t realize burls needed stabilizing before turning. I picked up some raw amboyna burl at the local Rockler.

      So that said, anyone ever use PEG to stabilize wood?  (Jim Lowe)

        I use raw amboyna burl on most of my rods and I finish them  with Tru-Oil, no problems reported yet. PEG is not a stabilizer, it keeps wood from drying too fast and checking on the end grain.  (John Channer)

          Great to hear. Thanks to everyone that responded. I've got enough amboyna for about 30 seats. So if something doesn't work, I can always change things around. But it sounds like I'm OK not stabilizing the wood.

          For those that use amboyna do you have any splitting problems as it dries? The stuff I have is pretty raw. It still has the bark on it and everything.  (Jim Lowe)

        I've turned a number of amboyna seats recently.  A couple were stabilized and the rest were not.  I haven't had any problems turning either so I would risk saying you don't need to stabilize it if  you don't want to.  Do be sure it is good and dry as amboyna, especially the darker parts, is very wet.  Tru oil and CA work great for finishing, especially the CA.

        Also, impregnating does not mean that the insert will not absorb water!  I've had impregnated seats as well as non-impregnated seats swell to the point where the sliding band would seize up.  Admittedly, I don't know how the inserts were stabilized, but Bellinger, REC and two unknown home recipes have all shown signs of swelling.

        This to me means that the only real advantage to stabilizing seats is to help when turning fragile woods. (Chris Carlin)

          I find this encouraging, since I live in a more forgiving climate than you.   (Jim Lowe)

    I for one HAVE had problems with unstabilized wood. The wood swelled horrendously on two rods. Both the same wood, oak. Both "sealed" with multiple coats of Tru-Oil. If you can call that sealed! Linseed oil is a poor sealant IMHO. I also think that some woods are more prone to this type of problem than others.

    I sure can pick' em!  (Mike Shay)

      I'm not sure what is in Tru-Oil, but I am sure it's a lot more than linseed oil.  Linseed oil, even boiled, takes quite a while to dry, where Tru-Oil dries in a few hours at most.  I like linseed oil for tool handles, but I wouldn't use it on a rod.  (Neil Savage)

      Tru-Oil is a polymerized linseed oil (highly thinned so it can be wiped on), which is to say it's been cooked at a high enough temperature so that when it's exposed to oxygen it will completely polymerize (form a film), whereas regular linseed or tung oil never completely polymerizes.  I can't prove it, but I don’t see how its film can offer better protection than varnish, which is oil that has modified with resins.

      The way I've been finishing spacers is to brush on two coats of homemade 2# cut orange shellac (steel wool between coats), followed a full strength coat of spar urethane.  Sometimes I rubdown the first of varnish and add a second.  The shellac brings out the grain and color of the wood at least as good as Tru-Oil, and it is a better sealer against water vapor than even poly.  I haven't done any tests nor do I have long term experience with this yet, but in theory this should be a good combo.

      Stabilized wood is noticeably heavier and has a "cold" look to it, but some of the burls do look nice.  (Rich Margiotta)

        According to the MSDS, Tru-Oil is 1/3 "modified oil" (proprietary) and 11% "linseed oil" (proprietary) and 56% mineral spirits.  Since I have no idea what the "modified oil" is, nor what they've done to the linseed oil I can't exactly what it is.  I only know it works for me. (Neil Savage)

      Your varnish procedure is considered a good finishing protocol by most woodworkers, particularly good when you want to protect the top coat  (varnish) from stains or waxes in the wood. Bob Flexner in "Understanding Wood Finishing," rates oil finishes 0-2 in water resistance and  0-1 in water vapor resistance and polyurethane varnishes as 5 in both categories. 0 = very poor, 1 = poor,  2 = fair, 5 = best. However, with respect to water vapor penetration it is well known that no finish will prevent equilibration of water vapor with  wood over the long term. It seems to me the best way to protect a reel seat insert from swelling as a result of a dunking is to use a finish with high water resistance, hoping that at the end of the day the user will wipe the rod down and not put it in a moisture chamber (rod tube) where all kinds of funky things occur.  (Doug Easton)

      Were the reel seats that you had the problems with turned from Kiln Dried wood ? As you know kiln drying makes the wood unnaturally dry if it's to be used outdoors in a wet environment.  The wood Will absorb water, unless it some sort of fully plasticized stabilized product, swelling to reach equilibrium with it's surroundings.  Kiln dried wood is more stable for use in house interiors which are "usually" of a lower humidity level than outdoors.    Of course during a Santa Ana condition in SoCal you are on yer own!

      I think that reel seat rough stock needs to be "conditioned" before turning to final dimension by allowing the wood to absorb moisture so it reaches an "air dried" moisture level.  I think that "air dried" should be more or less in the middle of the range. So that if the reel seat takes a dunking out on the river it won't swell enough to be a problem.  Also if said reel seat sits inside where the humidity is lower it won't shrink enough to cause problems, like delaminating from glued on reel seat cap etc.  I don't know what your local humidity levels are in Congress but I suspect they aren't as low as they were 50 years ago with the modern sprinkler irrigation techniques.  (Larry Swearingen)

        Kiln dried?

        I don't know! I do know that it was from a whiskey barrel from Scotland that was made in Portugal from whatever the hell oak tree that is there they make it from, that was charred and had a really fine single malt in direct contact with it for ten years at a time, multiple times in it's life. We all know how well alcohol draws moisture from the surrounding substance?  I'm dehydrated at this very moment!

        I'm with Rich on this one. Linseed oil basically sucks though he was polite and wise enough not to say that. Tru-Oil is just polymerized linseed oil. It might work terrific for gun stocks sitting in the rain. Not saying it doesn't. But I'm really unhappy with it's protection qualities when it comes to reel seats. It's benefits, to me,'s better than nothing, it's easy, and it looks good when the rod goes out the door. to share your shellac #2 formula or point me in the right direction? always...thank you for the info! I appreciate it!  (Mike Shay)

      I don't use stabilized reel seats. I use Cocolobo (buffed to a high luster only, no finish) & never had a problem. When my rods come out of the shop they are as pretty  & good as I can get them. However, I use my rods with no babying what so ever. On week long float trips in rain & cold I've dropped then in the river, dunked them while changing flies and generally abuse them. When I do get to a dry spot at the end of the day I clean them up as best I can. When I get home, total inspection and cleaning.  (Don Schneider)

        I really like Cocolobo also, but I developed a very severe reaction to it over time. I use a mask and nitrile gloves when working with it and don't touch it until I get some kind of seal on it. Unfinished it will continue to leach oil so you may want to consider sealing it if you are going to sell (give away, barter)(maybe just for your own sake) rods. There are other toxic woods that fall in this category also. Anyway just something to consider.  (Jerry Foster)

          You're correct, Cocolobo is very high up on the toxic wood charts and all safety precautions should be taken. I wear protective nitrile gloves, mask, face shield and eye protection (swimming/water goggles) when turning reel seats.

          To finish, the only thing I put on it is carnuba wax when buffing it. The heat from buffing causes the carnuba to penetrate and seal the wood. Taking a shower ASAP after working with it is also a good idea.

          There is a product called Crystal Coat which is a mixture of shellac and carnuba that does a good job. After a fishing trip, I clean up my rods and give them a wipe down and polish  of carnuba wax.  (Don Schneider)

    How did they do reel seats 50, 80,100 years ago. I don't think they were stabilized then. There are a few rods from the past are still around!  How are these reel seats and do they still work.

    Just a thought.

    I do my reel seats with the same thing I put on the rod spar urethane 3 to 5 coats coat the inside with 5 minute epoxy when I assemble I have only been build rods for a couple of years but have had no problems yet.  (Rick Barbato)

      My dad's 1950 Heddon has a plastic reel seat of some sort. Still works fine, although I'm not sure what would happen with a really big fish on...  (Neil Savage)

        My Dad's ca 40's Montague Mantau has a cherry wood real seat and is still going strong. (Ralph Moon)

    Stabilized wood reel seats, if they are stabilized well, can be polished to a point that they do not need a top coat. l using a kit that is called micro-mesh. It is a craft kit put out by It starts out with 1500 through 12000 grit mesh polisher pads, then a liquid polishing and flannel buffing.  If the reel seat is well impregnated with the plastic resin, they will polish to the point of a glass finish. Most of my reel seat blanks are put out by, so they are all well stabilized. I have no interest or money in either of these companies. This is also almost the same way the Army used to do Plexiglas aircraft canopies.  (Jeff Van Zandt)

      Beautiful wood. How do you find drilling through these blanks? Also they don't give the OD for the blanks. Do they offer different sizes. Do you mortice them or do you use pocketed but caps?  (Doug Easton)


I've been trying to stabilize a couple of wood blanks but have been having trouble with the liquid stabilizer. I've tried melting Plexiglas's, and wood hardener they both seam to work OK but I'm looking for something that will penetrate all the way through and harden like a rock.  I've been pulling 20mm/Hg for 24 hours and then pushing 30 PSI for 24 hours.  (Eric Thieman)

    Look in the archives. There is a product used on pool cues that penetrates to the core without the vacuum. Maybe someone will pipe up and share the product name again. (Timothy Troester)

      Barringer cues use to sell a product called Nelsonite, but they no longer sell it.  They have a new product, the name escapes me, that is supposed to be a lot less toxic but just as good.  I emailed them a while back wondering if they sold it in small quantities.  They sell it in 5 gallon sizes -- way more than I'd ever use--for $125.00 or something like that.  It was a tad rich for my blood, so I have no experience with it.  If I remember correctly, they said you could soak for 24 hours and it would dry in 2 -3 days, but I could be wrong.  (Don Schneider)

    Your wood may not be totally dry, and/or you're not putting enough pressure into the vessel to push the liquid to the core. If you're working on reel seat wood, try drilling the blank first. Seems like I could get the blank rock hard, but after turning, it would still take on moisture and swell. I still need to add a top coat of finish to the turned blank. (David Dziadosz)

    I think David has it right. Are you by any chance trying to stabilize unturned blanks? Just a little block of wood?

    If so, you might consider turning and drilling the blank just oversize. I pull at 20 and push at 20 PSI (it's all my antiquey pressure cooker can handle) and as long as the blank is roughed out and drilled there is no problem getting the soup to the core.

    If you're turning some of the tortured, canyoned burls, consider simply soaking the blanks in soup until the blank sinks to the bottom of the can. It might take a week or two. Then let it dry and turn. The wood hardener seems to be alcohol based. Use a covered container (think Tupperware/like/style) The alcohol will pull a LOT of moisture from the blank using the method you are using. Drilling the hole first makes it so much easier for the soup to go all the way through.

    And...FWIW...seems to me I recall Nelsonite taking weeks to fully cure? But the topic at that time was using it to impregnate rod blanks.  (Mike Shay)

      Are you able to stabilize the wood good enough to NOT need a top coat of finish?? I never could get the stabilizing process to "plasticize" the wood like the pro's can do!

      In my vacuum/pressure vessel I can pull 29" vacuum while adding lots of heat and almost 100# pressure. I could stabilize the wood for turning, but couldn't get the "soup"  in the fibers  (lack of better terms).

      I know that Randal G. (where is he now?) had Bob N's old pressure cooker, and Daryl H.,  all used the "soup."  But, how did theirs turn out? Did they need to add a top coat of finish to their reel seat wood?  (David Dziadosz)

        I've found that even the pro stabilized woods need a topcoat of finish.  Not to protect them from water, but to bring out the detail of the wood.  (Mark Petrie)

          I thought their spill was that NO other finish was necessary. Only buffing!  (David Dziadosz)

    Here's what I found out, that to get the plasticized look and feel you need a product called LocTite resinol 90c I read this on and knife makers forum, the whole thread was pretty good but this was the important stuff. If you wanted to read the whole thing just Google "resinol 90C knife blade" it should come up. Here’s what they said:

    "In a earlier thread I mentioned that I was going to order and try some Resinol 90C. Here is a update. I got a shipment of LocTite Resinol 90C in and have stabilized one piece of wood with it. The 90C comes in a four gallon container along with a activator cartridge. The cartridge needs to be refrigerated until used. After the 90C is mixed I have been told it is best to keep it refrigerated.

    The 90C is made for stabilizing. It is very thin so it doesn't need any thinner. It is also heat activated. I covered a block of maple burl about 1 1/2 inches square by 5 inches long with the 90C and placed it in my vacuum. My vacuum gage said I was pulling 30 inches. The wood was really bubbling. I ran the pump for a few minutes and turned it off for awhile, turned the pump back on a few minutes, etc. I left the wood in the vacuum for about 17 hours. The wood was still bubbling, but I got impatient and took it out and put it in a pressure chamber. I pressurized the chamber to 80 plus pounds and left it for a hour or so. I took the wood out, put in in a oven set to 275 degrees and let it heat for three hours. I let the wood cool, cut it down the middle sanded to 400 grit, then buffed. It looked like glass. I couldn't tell the outside from the inside, so it had excellent penetration. I have sent lots of wood off to be stabilized, and none of it was any better than this piece, and some of it has been not nearly as good.

    Four gallons of Resinol 90C plus shipping cost almost $300.00. The last batch of wood I sent off to have stabilized cost $260.00. Based on this one piece of wood, I feel I can save a lot by doing it myself. Also I have had wood sent back to me that in my opinion was not stabilized very well. Now I will have no one to blame but myself. In the future I will leave the wood in the vacuum till the bubbles stop, and will leave the wood in the pressure chamber longer with a higher pressure."  (Eric Thieman)

      That and trying to explain 4 gallons of goop in the refrigerator to SWMBO!  (Neil Savage)

        That's why rodmakers need to have a second refrigerator; beer and goop!  (Timothy Troester)


Recently there was a thread on wood stabilizing. Take a look at this process. It shows several different processes. (David Dziadosz


To those of you that have impregnated wooden reel seat inserts with an acrylic slurry, I have some questions. I personally like Helmsman Spar Varnish, but have been messing with the slurry. And my results leave a lot to be desired. But somehow, someway, I need to know how well it really works........

1. Have you had success?

2. Does the wood become plasticized and finish like plastic?

3. Does the wood fibers absorb 100% of the slurry?

4. What   is   the   ratio  of  acrylic  to  acetone?  Like  4  pieces, 1'X1.5"X.25" squares to a 1 qt. mason jar of juice?

5. Do you make the juice thicker or thinner?

6. Do you use pressure or vacuum or not?

7. Do you soak a solid wood insert blank, or bore and turn to final size, then soak?

8. If you just soak, for how long?  (Ed Miller)

    1. Have you had success?

    Yes.  If you do this be sure to do it in a well ventilated area.

    I've used Acetone, Mineral Spirits and MEK (quite nasty stuff).

    2. Does the wood become plasticized and finish like plastic?

    Not necessarily ... it does penetrate the fibers but I would not say it is plasticized nor does it finish like plastic.  But it is easier to turn and finishes nicer than raw wood.

    3. Does the wood fibers absorb 100% of the slurry?

    Mine do.  I make sure they are saturated before taking them out to dry by seeing if the hole has the slurry coming through the bore.

    4. What is the ratio  of  acrylic  to  acetone?  Like  4  pieces, 1'X1.5"X.25" squares to a 1 qt. mason jar of juice?

    Ratio?  Not sure there is a proper one.  What I do is use either Acetone, or MEK and acrylic (Plexiglas) air compressor and a paint pressure pot .

    Pour the acetone or MEK in a tall mason jar (I use a large pickle jar) about half full.

    Cut the Plexiglas in 1" squares.

    Put the pieces of Plexiglas in the acetone jar and close tightly (acetone evaporates very quickly) while MEK has a longer open working time.

    Shake or stir the mixture every 4-5 hours. Depending on the quantity of Plexiglas and acetone it may take a few days to dissolve into a syrup like slurry.

    Pour the slurry into another jar.  Make sure you don't go over half full. If there is a clump of plexi in the bottom of the jar just add more acetone and stir/shake it until it dissolves.

    5. Do you make the juice thicker or thinner?

    The final solution should have the consistency of water.

    6. Do you use pressure or vacuum or not?

    Pressure, 60+ lbs.  I use a modified "Paint Pot" for this.

    I do not use vacuum because acetone will dissolve rubber and I don't have a filter on my home brew machine and don't want the fumes of the acetone affecting the "O" rings I use.  If you have a filter then go ahead and use vacuum.

    7. Do you soak a solid wood insert blank, or bore and turn to final size, then soak?

    I bore a 3/8" hole first.  Why waste the solution on wood you're going to drill anyways.

    Put the blanks in and weight them down with something and then I place under pressure

    for 10-12 hours.  Release the pressure and let the wood sit for a few hours.  Repeat process 3 to 4 times.

    Take the blanks out and separate them on a piece of wax paper and set them outside to dry.

    Another method I'm going to play with is using MEK + "White" Styrofoam.  I played with this a couple of times.  They're building new houses around here and I go collect the left over insulation.  I've not done any dunk tests with this so cannot tell you how well it penetrates the wood.

    Yet another method is using Mineral Spirits, oil base poly, air compressor and a paint pressure pot. Make a 50/50 mix of poly and mineral spirits.  Use the above directions to pressurize the blanks.

    8. If you just soak, for how long?

    The only soaking is with Minwax wood hardener and it will penetrate the fibers.

    Just pour a it in a glass jar big enough so that a normal blank can lay flat.

    Close lid and wait until blanks sink.  Wait one more day and take them out and let them dry.  Turn and finish.

    I have also used the Acetone+Plexi as a finish on the turned insert.  I believe it is harder than CA.  (Ron Hossack)

    Thanks  for  all  the  info  on   reel  seat  impregnation  with Plexi-slurry. My soaking in the slurry for a week with figured maple, and black walnut, show not much more than a light surface coating that can be sanded off. Ron Hossack had the best suggestion, with using a pressure pot to force the slurry into the wood fibers. As for soaking, he had this suggestion.

    The only soaking is with Minwax wood hardener and it will penetrate the fibers. Just pour a it in a glass jar big enough so that a normal blank can lay flat. Close lid and wait until blanks sink.  Wait one more day and take them out and let them dry.  Turn and finish.  (Ed Miller)


Last week there was a thread about acrylic slurry for soaking reel seat inserts.  During that discussion one of you mentioned using Minwax wood hardener which greatly interested me.  Problem is I can't find the email (too quick to hit "delete"), so could someone please forward it to me.  (Tom Key)

    I buy this at ACE hardware.  (Joe Arguello)

      My ACE Hardware  does not carry it but my  Home Depot does, don't buy it on the internet, it's way too expensive that way. When I first tried to find it it was about $10.00 pint at  Home Depot  and about $80.00 per pint on the internet.  (Don Green)


I have been using Super Glue on my Spalted Maple inserts. Yesterday I started using MinWax Wood Hardener. I  find it works as good as Super glue without the strong smell. The Wood Hardener has a smell but not as bad as the Super Glue. Someone recently mentioned the wood hardener on the list. I had some on the shelf but forgot about it till it was mentioned. I roughed out three blanks that were real soft Spalted Maple. Applied as much Wood Hardener as the wood would soak up. Waited a couple of hours and turned the blanks to round from 3/4" sq. Chucked up the round and drilled the center hole all the way through. Put it on the mandrel and applied more Wood hardener. After about two hours turned the blanks to finished size. Mortised the inserts and am real pleased with the results. I now need to apply the finish varnish. Looks as good as the Super Glue treated inserts.  (Tony Spezio)

    I've never tried the Minwax but have used lot's of thin CA and melted Plexiglas in Acetone because I flat like the looks of spalted woods.

    In a quest for always looking to improve (ie cheaper) I've been using successfully a mixture of 50% white glue and water under vacuum.

    Some raised legitimate questions about the safety of using a pickle jar and an air compressor so I thought about this.

    What I did was to take an old 12v Tire Pump I picked up at the local thrift store for a few dollars and converted it into a vacuum pump. It works great.   Pulls about 10".

    I can put a bunch of wood in the 50-50 mix of white glue and water and I have stabilized blanks in about 15 minutes because you can see that the foaming has stopped.  Set them out for a few days to dry.

    Now, these are stabilized to turn without blowing out chunks not use as a final finish.  I still use either CA and/or Lacquer Dipping to finish the blanks.  (Ron Hossack)

      Just a tip. If you intend to use pickle jars or some other "non-vacuum ware" for low vacuum purposes you can greatly increase the safety by wrapping the glass completely with plastic electrical tape. This will contain most of the shards just like real safety glass. We do this in the lab. You can test this by wrapping a jar with tape and dropping it from a high enough place to break it to a cement surface. Its amazing how little broken glass escapes.  (Ron Hossack)


How do those of you who use the Plexiglas acetone method on stabilizing reel seats create the mixture?  (Jim Tefft)

    I score the Plexi in about 1" square pieces and put about 1" - 1 1/2" high of it in a small glass jar.

    Cover the Plexi with acetone about 1" higher than the top of the small pile.   I let it sit for awhile and swirl  the mixture every so often topping off the acetone as needed.

    It takes a few days for it all to melt.   Now I do keep my mixture in a thick syrupy state and when I want to use some just simply put in a small glass jar and mix more acetone

    until the consistency is where I want it.   (Ron Hossack)

    It's simple. fill a quart jar or paint can about half full of acetone. Add a handful of Plexiglas shards in it and seal it. Let it sit for several days until it dissolves. You may end up with a sludge on the bottom. Stir it. Keep adding shards until no more will dissolve. Add enough acetone to thin if necessary. The trick is to get it right to the point that no more Plexi will dissolve. Slightly too thin is better than slightly too thick. Should be about the same consistency as pancake syrup. You'll make too much of it the first time. Hence the half jar. When it appears to be about right, add your reel seats. Soak for at least a week or two.

    Word of warning: The first batch I did was all walnut. It worked great. I did another batch with red cedar and spalted maple. The cedar bled  color.   The  whole  batch  came  out  the  same  color - pink -  and the cedar  lost it beautiful color swirls. Disaster.

    Exercise caution in handling the mix. Acetone is not good for you. Use an old pair of tongs to remove the seats from the container. Wear gloves, etc. Put them on something hard to dry and let them cure a few days. Also dunk them before you do your final polishing and mortising as it will kinda gunk up on the seats. I soaked mine before I did any of the turning. I did, however, drill the hole through the middle first so the sauce could get to both sides at once, so to speak.

    For what it's worth, I don't use it for reel seats anymore, just for bamboo ferrules. The ruined batch broke my heart.  (David Atchison)


A wooden butt cap on one of my reels seats has chipped and has me thinking about alternatives. I'd really like to stay with wood as opposed to going to nickel silver and thought I might try impregnating the wood with wood hardener or Plexiglas to toughen things up a bit.

I realize the issue here is really the thinness and brittleness of the material but was wondering if anyone stabilizes their wood with wood hardener or Plexiglas and if so, haven't you found that this adds to the toughness of the material?  (Jim Lowe)

    If you can stand the smell of Super Glue, that is what I have used in the past. I have gone to Wood Hardener now and it does add toughness the wood. It darkens the wood some  where Super glue will not.  (Tony Spezio)

      Personally, I think a nice metal butt cap is strongly to be preferred to a piece of wood soaked in plastic, but I have an alternative suggestion for you guys.  I have a really old Malloch greenheart salmon rod with a stag horn butt.  (David Zincavage)

      Is there any reason you can think of that would prevent someone from using a stabilizer and then finishing with Super Glue?  As many others have noted and posted, the CA glue (Super Glue) makes a dandy finish for reel seat fillers.  Ron Hossack, for example, has pictures of fillers and pens he has done this way (CA finish; dunno about stabilizers), and the results are exquisite.  (Steve Yasgur)

    There's a product called GitRot used in boats - it's epoxy very very thin and actually wicks up into the capillaries of wood - once hardened WOW ....  (John Silviera)


Does anyone have any experience with using really high vacuum for impregnating reel seat blanks? Have several high vacuum pumps in our labs and could borrow one. A couple are super high vacuum use with the scanning electron microscope, which has just been moved and will not be back in operation until the factory folks get it set up and tuned up again, sometime in late July. Might have some fun with one of those.  (Carey Mitchell)

    Most of the liquids used to impregnate reel seat inserts contain solvents. If you achieve a high vacuum, you can easily drop below the vapor pressure of the solvents. The result is that the bubbles you will see are the solvent boiling off and not the air coming out of the wood you are trying to impregnate. Under those circumstances the liquid's viscosity often increases and, after you release the vacuum, air pressure has a hard time forcing the now-viscous liquid into the wood's pores.

    By the way, even though it is called vacuum impregnation, it is air pressure which pushes the liquid into the evacuated pores, so your piece of wood should remain completely immersed in the impregnation liquid when the vacuum is released.

    Carey, your SEM folks would probably get very upset about the contamination of their vacuum pumps if you tried using those!  (Tim Anderson)

      The statement that " is air pressure that..." is only partially correct. The vacuum does, in fact, play an important role. What is known as "full cell" penetration is obtained only by first applying a vacuum. Without a vacuum applied first, only partial penetration is attained. My references are to be found in the wood treating literature; especially that for the creosoting of railroad ties, utility poles, etc. One in particular that explains the process very clearly is: "Basics of Pressure Treatment of Wood" by Salim Hiziroglu at Oklahoma State University. A worthwhile read for anyone wanting to stabilize wood for reel seat inserts, pen blanks, etc.  (Frank Schlicht)

        Of course the application of vacuum aids good, quick penetration.  Evacuation of air (including water vapor and all of the other components of "air") out of the pores of the wood makes penetration of an impregnating liquid a much faster process.  Without evacuation, full penetration will eventually occur if most of the wood's pore throats are large enough to allow the penetrating liquid to flow into the wood and nothing else is filling the pore spaces.  For example, most of us are familiar with fully waterlogged wood which occurs without the application of vacuum.

        If one wishes to consider that the vacuum achieved inside the pores of the wood "sucks" the liquid in, fine.  However, under the conditions most of us employ when impregnating reel-seat, inserts, the effective pressure applied to the impregnating liquid is ambient air pressure just as it is ambient air pressure which pushes a milkshake up a straw we are sucking on.  Of course, it is possible to speed up the impregnating process by  applying additional pressure to the liquid.  Just takes more equipment.

        By the way, the waterlogging analogy is fully appropriate.  Leave your reel-seat inserts immersed in the impregnating liquid for one or two weeks and you will probably get impregnation every bit as good as with a vacuum process.  (Tim Anderson)

          Does anyone know what process/solution the "Big Boys" use to "plasticize the wood"?? Is it the solution or extreme pressure and heat?? I set up an old spray paint pot for a vacuum/pressure vessel. It works well for stabilizing wood, using the Plexiglas/acetone soup, but doesn't "plasticize" the wood. I can only pressurize the vessel to about 100 PSI before the gasket starts leaking.  (David Dziadosz)

            I will hazard a guess in the hope that I do not have to defend it very strongly!  That guess is:  the solution.  The more solvent in the solution, the less solid plastic is left in wood's pores after the solvent evaporates out.  The result is plastic-lined pores and not plastic-filled pores.  A low-viscosity catalyzed plastic with no solvent should give the fully plastic look with completely filled wood pores and grain as long as the impregnation is complete.  (Tim Anderson)

            To get the kind of "plasticization" that you desire, you apparently need to first pull a vacuum on the wood. This is to remove all air and moisture still in the wood (Air dried wood typically averages about 15% moisture. This will vary with geographical location.); which apparently has the effect of "opening up" the cell cavities so that they can receive the impregnating material. Then you add the impregnation material and pressurize. What you are getting is known in the wood pressure treating world as "empty-cell treatment", and what you are seeking is known as "full-cell treatment". In an earlier note of a day or so ago, I posted the link to a very readable article out of Oklahoma State University that has a couple of excellent graphs and some drawings that clearly show what the processes are and what the differences are between the two outcomes. Here is the link. Click on: Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources and type in Basics of Pressure Treatment of Wood in the search box. It will be the first article on the list.  (Frank Schlicht)

    For all the discussion of various equipment necessary to achieve the impregnation process I have not seen any recommendations to use one's Foodsaver and jars. I am sure many of you have them.

    Would this not provide enough vacuum? Or is it too simple a solution for the fully engaged rodmaker? (Steve Shelton)

      Most vacuum pumps are NOT designed to handle solvents, especially a Foodsaver pump.  No matter what level of vacuum you pull there will be evaporation of solvents from the impregnating solution which will eventually, if not immediately, degrade or destroy the pump’s seals unless the pump was designed for the specific solvent.  (Al Baldauski)

        That is so right!! In our labs we use a dry Ice water or Ice chilled trap to prevent entry of vapors. Sometimes a grad student or other newbie doesn't do it. This results in about $1,000 damage to a high vacuum high quality pump. It doesn't matter what kind of pump you use, you need a trap regardless of the solvent. The lower the vapor pressure of the solvent the colder the trap. For most water miscible, a good regular ice trap is OK. But not for ACIDS,  (Doug Easton)

        I think Al brings up an interesting point highlighting the safety implications of pressure and vacuum impregnation.  Both the vacuum pump and pressure vessel should be rated for the service.  Although a glass mason jar may be designed to store food under vacuum, I don’t know how long it will hold up or for how many cycles.  Maybe I am conservative but -15” to -26” on a pickle jar seems chancy.  This goes for our home made pressure vessels.  Impregnation chambers pressurized to 100 psig. store a dangerous amount of energy.  (Ray Taylor)

          Although a glass mason jar may be designed to store food under vacuum, I don’t know how long it will hold up or for how many cycles.  Maybe I am conservative but -15” to -26” on a pickle jar seems chancy.

          I have one pickle jar that is 5-6 years old and never once has there been a problem but I needed a new one to test a new stabilizing fluid.

          At the very worse it would implode.

          I suspect that when they seal it up at the factory there's more pressure on that jar than what my vacuum venturi generates.

          This goes for our home made pressure vessels. Impregnation chambers pressurized to 100 psig. store a dangerous amount of energy.

          I use a modified paint  pot for pressure.  I never cast over 60 lbs ...  (Ron Hossack)

          I have resisted commenting until now, but this is all eerily similar to Bob Nunley's vanish fountain. If you have not read the story, or have forgotten its implications, it is available under extreme rod making on the tips site. It is funny to read, but quite painful to Bob at the time. Implosions can be as deadly as an explosion!

          I have seen some quite questionable ideas, some from makers that appear to work in industries that use at least some vacuum. You do not need turbo-molecular pumps and liquid nitrogen filled cold traps to boil enough water out of a piece of wood or bamboo to make room for a version of secret sauce... but if you insist on cobbling up some impregnating contraption, test it in a reasonably explosion resistant  area  that you  are not occupying... or at least pay up you life insurance so your family can grieve on a sunny beach somewhere.  (Larry Lohkamp)

      I suppose everyone has their preferences, mine is for unstabilized wood. I don't find the stabilized woods I've used to have any advantage over the garden variety, other than it's typically heavier.  (John Channer)


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