Stabilizing is a process that is not well understood by many people. To put it simply, it is the process of forcing a plastic polymer into wood at incredibly high pressure before curing the resin, thus leaving a wood that is impregnated with plastic to make it heavier, stronger, resistant to water and able to be easily polished to a high finish.
Many people will try home stabilization using all manor of vacuum pumps and off the shelf chemicals. This simply does not yield the same results as professional stabilization. Every block of wood sold as stabilized on my website was professionally stabilized by K&G, widely considered the gold standard in the industry.
What woods need stabilization? There is some debate about that. My list of exotic woods shows my personal suggestions for stabilization, but again. These are suggestions. The rule I follow is, if I would not use the unstabilzed form on a knife I was making that would be directly attached to my name, I will not sell the wood unstabilized on my website. All the woods you will receive from me are ready to be used.
Stabilized woods will resist warping, shrinkage and cracking very well, and the resulting wood will finish to a high polish and will not absorb water.
Finishing Stabilized woods: Stabilized wood finishes differently than even the same wood untreated. The injected resin means that the filled pores can be finished to a much higher degree. While something like natural maple, walnut, buckeye or koa would normally be sanded to in the range of 220 grit as a finishing grit, 1000-2500 is not uncommon with stabilized woods. Stabilized woods are also much easier to finish with a buffing wheel, as the filled texture does not stain and hold onto compound like raw wood.
What stabilizing does NOT do.
Stabilizing will not fill voids or gaps. Stabilizing resin will fill wood, it will not fill gaps. For large gaps or voids, use epoxy with black dye, and for small gaps use CA glue.
Stabilizing also does not make wood plastic. Well stabilized wood still looks like and works like wood. It still has a grain structure and can we worked with chisels, saws and abrasives. It simply strengths and enhances the wood.
After finish sanding, multiple layers of a standard finishing oil or wax can be applied to enhance the appearance and protect the finish.
It is important to know that not all woods can be stabilized. Woods that are very high in oil like myrtle, some cedars, camphor and others do not stabilize well, they have low weight gain and may not set properly. As a general rule, If I feel a wood should be stabilized, I will have it stabilized.