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Thread: Cactus Juice with larger punky blanks

  1. #1
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    Cactus Juice with larger punky blanks

    I see a lot about using Cactus juice to stabilize small items, like pen blanks. But I can find very little on using it with say a 7" bowl blank or a chunky vase blank. Anyone done this? How effective is it with large pieces of very punky wood? Also, how much bubbling can one expect from items of this size/makeup in a vacuum chamber? I also suspect oven curing time would need to be longer. I have some beautiful but very punky apple root that I'd like to save, if possible. I'm trying to decide if it's worth it to invest in a vacuum/cactus juice system.

  2. #2
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    The first issue would be getting a bone dry 7" blank without cracking it so the resin soaks all the way in and to be able to withstand high oven temps to cure the resin without cracking. Then it would be expensive. Maybe a quart of juice? $40 is a lot of money to stabilize a piece of punky wood.

  3. #3
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    I did a buckeye burl about 5.5” round 3” thick last summer. Have an old lab oven to dry & cure, left at 220 f for 4-5 days to dry. Seems like I did 36 hours or so of soaking after vac, and some extra cure time. Full penetration and worth the effort for me.
    Downsides— Took some time to clean up some voids when I got close to finish turn. And…be sure to have some way to get the wet piece out of your vac chamber—CJ is slick when wet, and I cut that piece to just barely fit my chamber-a small screw eye in the top would have been a nice addition!
    earl

  4. #4
    Seems as though you could lessen the amount of resin used and drying difficulty by roughing the blank first.

  5. #5
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    Tom -- I'm in an agreeable mood, so I'm going to agree with everything that's been said so far. As Tom said, stabilizing large pieces can be difficult and expensive. But, as Earl said, with the right piece of wood, it can be worth the trouble and expense. And, as Kevin suggests, both the difficulty and expense can be reduced by rough-turning the blank before stabilizing. Allow me to add some additional information based on my experience:

    It can be very difficult to get Cactus Juice to fully penetrate larger blanks. How successful you might be depends on both the type of wood and how punky it has become. Cactus Juice will easily penetrate several inches into very punky wood. It may not penetrate more than an inch in sound wood. Red oak, ash, and other open-pored woods, will allow Cactus Juice to penetrate more easily. Dense, close-grained woods are more difficult.

    It is critical to get the wood bone dry before stabilizing. Here in Arizona, that's usually not difficult. Even here, I bake my blanks for at least 24 hrs at 115 degrees. If I were in a more humid clime, I'd probably extend the time (but not the temperature). I don't use high temperatures for drying to avoid case-hardening the wood, where the surface of the wood is dried so quickly the surface shrinks, preventing the moisture deeper down from escaping.

    As Kevin suggested, rough turning is the way to go. If you rough turn, you'll seldom need to penetrate more than one-inch deep into the wood. This saves time in the vacuum chamber, saves resin, and yields blanks that are fully stabilized.

    Using these methods, I've successfully stabilized fairly large blanks -- bowls up to 7" in diameter and vases up to 9" long. (I have a large vacuum chamber, but it is only about 10" deep. This limits the length of blank I can stabilize.)
    David Walser
    Mesa, Arizona

  6. #6
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    TMI prioducts has a Stick Fast stabilizing system. When I bought mine they sold vacuum bags for that purpose. Unsure if they still do but it may be worth a Google to see if that will suffice. I personally have not bought or tried it.
    They have some nice videos of that too. If they still sell it.
    Good luck! Sometimes a piece of punk is worth saving.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Walser View Post
    Tom -- I'm in an agreeable mood, so I'm going to agree with everything that's been said so far. As Tom said, stabilizing large pieces can be difficult and expensive. But, as Earl said, with the right piece of wood, it can be worth the trouble and expense. And, as Kevin suggests, both the difficulty and expense can be reduced by rough-turning the blank before stabilizing. Allow me to add some additional information based on my experience:

    It can be very difficult to get Cactus Juice to fully penetrate larger blanks. How successful you might be depends on both the type of wood and how punky it has become. Cactus Juice will easily penetrate several inches into very punky wood. It may not penetrate more than an inch in sound wood. Red oak, ash, and other open-pored woods, will allow Cactus Juice to penetrate more easily. Dense, close-grained woods are more difficult.

    It is critical to get the wood bone dry before stabilizing. Here in Arizona, that's usually not difficult. Even here, I bake my blanks for at least 24 hrs at 115 degrees. If I were in a more humid clime, I'd probably extend the time (but not the temperature). I don't use high temperatures for drying to avoid case-hardening the wood, where the surface of the wood is dried so quickly the surface shrinks, preventing the moisture deeper down from escaping.

    As Kevin suggested, rough turning is the way to go. If you rough turn, you'll seldom need to penetrate more than one-inch deep into the wood. This saves time in the vacuum chamber, saves resin, and yields blanks that are fully stabilized.

    Using these methods, I've successfully stabilized fairly large blanks -- bowls up to 7" in diameter and vases up to 9" long. (I have a large vacuum chamber, but it is only about 10" deep. This limits the length of blank I can stabilize.)
    I'm not too worried about the cost of the materials because the wood would warrant the effort and cost. I also don't buy that it'll take a quart of CJ to do a 7" bowl. Seems like an over estimate to me, as the entire blank likely occupies less than 2 quarts. Estimating that it's 50% air by volume.... hmm I doubt it. Might be 25 or 30 though.

    On roughing out first, makes sense assuming you can mount it safely on the lathe. The couple of pieces I tried to put a tenon on were not safe except between centers. A mortise might be a bit more stable. I suppose I could turn as much as possible between centers and then maybe drill out the remaining center column. That would remove the bulk of it. All this suggests you know about what form you plan to make beforehand. That might change if certain parts were to become more stable after CJ application. I guess it's just a compromise/balance as to what to remove vs. retain before CJ application. And of course all of this affects not only cost but cure time and probably penetration success.

    Thanks for the inputs. I see it can be done, has been done, but takes longer to cure and may be costly. There are other reasons to have a stabilizing system. I have about convinced myself it's worth the investment. Trying to decide on a pump. Am leaning toward 1/2HP 6cfm and a 5 gallon chamber. Does this sound like a reasonable functioning setup?

    Also, like the idea of an eye hook to remove it. Any other suggestions on how to package/remove from vacuum chamber?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tom lucas View Post
    I'm not too worried about the cost of the materials because the wood would warrant the effort and cost. I also don't buy that it'll take a quart of CJ to do a 7" bowl. Seems like an over estimate to me, as the entire blank likely occupies less than 2 quarts. Estimating that it's 50% air by volume.... hmm I doubt it. Might be 25 or 30 though.

    On roughing out first, makes sense assuming you can mount it safely on the lathe. The couple of pieces I tried to put a tenon on were not safe except between centers. A mortise might be a bit more stable. I suppose I could turn as much as possible between centers and then maybe drill out the remaining center column. That would remove the bulk of it. All this suggests you know about what form you plan to make beforehand. That might change if certain parts were to become more stable after CJ application. I guess it's just a compromise/balance as to what to remove vs. retain before CJ application. And of course all of this affects not only cost but cure time and probably penetration success.

    Thanks for the inputs. I see it can be done, has been done, but takes longer to cure and may be costly. There are other reasons to have a stabilizing system. I have about convinced myself it's worth the investment. Trying to decide on a pump. Am leaning toward 1/2HP 6cfm and a 5 gallon chamber. Does this sound like a reasonable functioning setup?

    Also, like the idea of an eye hook to remove it. Any other suggestions on how to package/remove from vacuum chamber?
    I didn't know you had stabilizing experience or I wouldn't have suggested an amount that would be used. Sorry.

  9. #9
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    If it’s pretty punky, you might be surprised at how much air space is left after the water is baked out. You’ll also be well served to keep the blank fully submerged after removing the vacuum, probably a few inches of head space for a bowl blank, maybe more to be sure. The excess is not waste, can be stored and reused. I’m guessing you’ll have to pour in close to 3 quarts, and consume a pint and a half. If we start a pool, those are the numbers I’ll take!! Sounds like a fun project. Do a few batches of other wood first, Curtis at TurnTex has great info on his site but there’s still a little learning curve. He’s pretty open to phone calls as well, good guy.
    earl

  10. #10
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    I haven't tried cactus juice but I have used Min-wax wood hardener - - the solvent based one. I think that the solvent is acetone. It is not used in a vacuum. It just relies on the wood soaking up the solvent-thinned resin. I've had reasonable luck with it. I suggest that you get the wood bone dry before applying so that you don't have a water/acetone interaction. The biggest piece that I've done is a short-squatty 10" dia x ~ 4-5 " hollow form of gum amber with spalting.

    It's kind of pricey - - IIRC $15 for a pint but I recall that it only used about a half can for the 10" piece. It might be worth a try. I suspect that it isn't as good as cactus juice, but it doesn't require a pressure pot or vacuum chamber. It might be worth doing a $15 experiment. But I'd suggest trying it on a sample piece in case you don't like the results.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by tom lucas View Post
    ...

    On roughing out first, makes sense assuming you can mount it safely on the lathe. The couple of pieces I tried to put a tenon on were not safe except between centers. A mortise might be a bit more stable. I suppose I could turn as much as possible between centers and then maybe drill out the remaining center column. That would remove the bulk of it. All this suggests you know about what form you plan to make beforehand. That might change if certain parts were to become more stable after CJ application. I guess it's just a compromise/balance as to what to remove vs. retain before CJ application. And of course all of this affects not only cost but cure time and probably penetration success.
    That's a good summary of the trade-offs. Any wood removed in roughing out reduces your flexibility in what the blank is used for. But, any wood removed makes it easier, and less expensive, to stabilize the blank. For some blanks, you know what you'l be making, so it is fairly easy to rough them out. For example, say you're making a bunch of duck calls. Drill the blanks out with a bit that's a little smaller than the finished hole size. (Getting rid of the wood in the center does the most good when it comes to stabilization.) For other blanks, you might not know what you'll be making. A 3"x3" turning square can be used for a lot of things -- rolling pins, pepper mills, boxes, candle sticks, slender vases, etc. With such blanks, I'd defer stabilizing until I had a better idea what I'd use the blank for.

    ... There are other reasons to have a stabilizing system. I have about convinced myself it's worth the investment. Trying to decide on a pump. Am leaning toward 1/2HP 6cfm and a 5 gallon chamber. Does this sound like a reasonable functioning setup?

    Also, like the idea of an eye hook to remove it. Any other suggestions on how to package/remove from vacuum chamber?
    You don't need a 6cfm pump. What's important is the depth of vacuum the pump will pull, not the cfm. A higher cfm pump might get your vacuum chamber to 'full vacuum' slightly quicker than a lower cfm pump, but the difference (if any) is apt to be very small. Saving five minutes off the time it takes to get up to full vacuum is immaterial. Each batch of blanks will be under vacuum soaking the resin for hours, if not days, at a time. So, spend your money on getting a higher quality 3cfm pump. Or, simply save some cash. (Naturally, if you have another use for a 6cfm pump, go for the it.)

    I have a 5 gallon stainless steel vacuum chamber with a glass lid. I think it is a good size. You can fit a fairly large blank in it, but it isn't so large that storage is a concern. Mine fits inside my 10 gallon pressure pot when not in use.

    The fittings of my vacuum chamber are through the side of the steel chamber, not the lid. In theory, having the fittings in the side of the chamber reduces the chamber's effective capacity. In practice, I've not found that to be so. Normally, I place my blanks into smaller containers within the chamber. This uses less cactus juice and it allows me to do more than one color of cactus juice at a time. The advantage of NOT having the fittings go through the glass top is the strength of the glass is not reduced.

    Note: You want a glass lid. Cactus Juice does not play well with most clear plastics, such as acrylic. Over time, the plastic will develop micro-fractures and the lid will fail.

    And, I agree, there are lots of good reasons for having a stabilization system. I find I enjoy stabilizing and casting my own blanks almost as much as I do turning. I also enjoy turning my own blanks more than I enjoy turning other blanks. For me, that's reason enough.

    HTH
    David Walser
    Mesa, Arizona

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brice Rogers View Post
    I haven't tried cactus juice but I have used Min-wax wood hardener - - the solvent based one. I think that the solvent is acetone. It is not used in a vacuum. It just relies on the wood soaking up the solvent-thinned resin. I've had reasonable luck with it. I suggest that you get the wood bone dry before applying so that you don't have a water/acetone interaction. The biggest piece that I've done is a short-squatty 10" dia x ~ 4-5 " hollow form of gum amber with spalting.

    It's kind of pricey - - IIRC $15 for a pint but I recall that it only used about a half can for the 10" piece. It might be worth a try. I suspect that it isn't as good as cactus juice, but it doesn't require a pressure pot or vacuum chamber. It might be worth doing a $15 experiment. But I'd suggest trying it on a sample piece in case you don't like the results.
    Before cactus juice, lots of pen turners melted plexiglas in acetone and made their own stabilizer. But now with every retail store and office needing plexiglass shield, the price of acrylic prices are sky high!

  13. #13
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    David Walter makes a great point on pump size. Don’t know why it wasn’t an earlier thought m but if you’re already using a vacuum chuck, that pump is probably sufficient, just add a manifold to link in your vac chamber(s). I run 2 chambers off my JB Eliminator 4 cfm and a 4 port manifold. When I get around to adding vac chucking, I’ll run off that same pump and could do so while stabilizing. Impediment for me is the stabilizing setup is in the basement, and my big lathe is in the shop/ garage.
    David—would be interested in pics of your 5 gallon chamber and where you sourced your lid.
    earl

  14. #14
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    Earl -- Here is a link to the current version of the chamber I use. This one is aluminum, mine is stainless steel. Also, this one costs about twice what I paid for mine! The company also sells lids, with a silicone gasket, should you source your own pot. (A sturdy aluminium stock pot should work and cost a lot less.) https://shopbvv.com/collections/wood...vacuum-chamber

    At the time I bought mine, I realized I could save some money by sourcing the glass for the lid and other items locally. However, I was still working 60+ hours/week as a tax CPA and valued my shop time more than the money I might save. My point is I highly recommend this kind of set up. The size of pot would depend on what you think you'll be stabilizing. I went with a large sized pot because I wanted as much flexibility as possible. I would encourage anyone with the time and skills to consider making their own vacuum chamber -- using this basic design as a model.

    HTH

    David
    David Walser
    Mesa, Arizona

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Walser View Post
    Earl -- Here is a link to the current version of the chamber I use. This one is aluminum, mine is stainless steel. Also, this one costs about twice what I paid for mine! The company also sells lids, with a silicone gasket, should you source your own pot. (A sturdy aluminium stock pot should work and cost a lot less.) https://shopbvv.com/collections/wood...vacuum-chamber

    At the time I bought mine, I realized I could save some money by sourcing the glass for the lid and other items locally. However, I was still working 60+ hours/week as a tax CPA and valued my shop time more than the money I might save. My point is I highly recommend this kind of set up. The size of pot would depend on what you think you'll be stabilizing. I went with a large sized pot because I wanted as much flexibility as possible. I would encourage anyone with the time and skills to consider making their own vacuum chamber -- using this basic design as a model.

    HTH

    David
    Amazon has the 5 gallon pots with glass lids, gauges, & valves for about $129. They also have many others, some with pumps, for reasonable prices. I think I'm going to pull the trigger on something. I do have a diaphragm pump attached to my lathe. I was originally thinking I'd just add a manifold to it, but it's really not in a convenient spot and the pump is effectively bolted to the lathe. Thanks to everyone for their inputs.

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