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.
So what exactly is Stabilized wood? Why do knife makers, tool makers and turners love it?
Simply put it helps to alleviate one of woods biggest downsides. Its sensitivity to moisture. While the first thing most people notice about stabilized wood is its increased density and how it can take a much finer polish, the first use of stabilizing is right in the name. It makes wood stable. Raw wood will expand and contract with changes in moisture, and any piece that is not perfectly quarter sawn will warp, twist and deform as these changes occur. By stabilizing wood, the wood fibers are surrounded and impregnated with a highly stable plastic. The fact that the inter cellular space is now taken up by resin also provides several benefits, such as the marked increase in density and hardness, finer polishing since the open spaces between wood fibers is taken up, as well as resistance to absorbing water as there is now less room for the water to be.