This helpful conversation is excerpted from a thread on a previous version of blademag.com. It's posted here for reference.
What is your preferd method of stabilizing wood for handle's & or sheaths?
2 methods I use,,,After completeing the knife and the handle is sanded to the point that I am stisfied,,,I sink it into a can of mixed boiled linseed oil and turpintine,,,50/50 mix for a few day. Thes after removing,,polish off the till dry,,,wait another day for it to dry and you will find there is a light coat of oil again that is sticky,,polish this off and a light buff wiht a clean rag and it sould be stbilized for a long time. This doesnt make a real shiney finish but it does harden a fair ammount and still has a natural wood feel to it. This is the meathod I like for everyday working knnives. 2 when the knife is allmost finished and rthe handle is sanded to a 220 grit,,sink into a jar or can of minwax wood hardener for a few days. ,,remove and wipe clean. A day later you can sand to a 400 grit or higher. This will take more of a shine when you polish on a buffing wheel but not as good as a vacume stabilized handles. I like the first method best but this does make a little bit harder handle if thats what you are looking for. I dont care for vacume stablized handle slabs s I have had a few in teh past cack or chip on me but I do realize some folks like that mirror shine to the complete knife. For a hard use working knife use the first method,,,for a lighter duty knife where a light shine is desired,,,use method 2 and for teh high shine,,,send your handle material way to become professionly stabalized. unless you make a proper stabilizing setup
My preferred method is using minwax wood hardner.On plain slabs(this will darken the wood,about as much as putting a bit of spit on the wood)I will put slabs in the wood hardener.A shallow dish works fine. I then use a foodsaver to vacume solution into the wood. I like to leave the wood under vacume for a couple of hours then, revacume the whole shabang once more & leave overnight. After removing the vacume bag the next day,The wood hardner will dry in about 2 hours. I like to give it 24 hours to dry to be on the safe side.The food saver will not have enough vacume pressure to do wood blocks,only handle slabs. I will on thicker sections (wood blocks)|work the wood to about the almost finished size then run it through the vacume of the foodsaver. then after all is done I will give a last rubbed coat of the hardner before final sanding & buffing. I have also used this process with Watco danish oil with good success.
Knife Guide Issue features the newest knives and sharpeners, plus knife and axe reviews, knife sheaths, kit knives and a Knife Industry Directory. Get your FREE digital PDF instant download of the annual Knife Guide. No, really! Click Here to Get Your Free Issue