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How to get your wood hard...

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

I heard a rumor that if you have soft wood, you can make your own viag... er um "penetrating resin."

No I didn't type that with a straight face. Lol...

OK, mind out of the gutter, time to get on with it (get it on?!?!? No, dammit - focus!)

OK, back on topic. For real this time. Honest.

So. We're talking about live edge wood specifically. I have a piece that's highly figured and spalted, that I want to make into a bench or table. However, because of spalting and other "character" the wood isn't as strong as it normally wood* be. If we use it as is, it will dent, wear out and possibly break. We need to give it back some strength.

We can do that with penetrating epoxy, like this stuff: TotalBoat Penetrating Epoxy

It works great, the only downside is it's expensive. Like $150 a gallon expensive.

The rumor I heard is that instead of using penetrating epoxy, you can thin polyester resin with acetone and get "similar" results.

This is interesting because there are times where epoxy is overkill and/or not the right tool for the job. Also, polyester resin is generally less expensive than epoxy. In this instance, it's about 1/3 the cost of penetrating epoxy! I used a laminating resin from a local company I like, Fiberglass Supply. Here's a similar polyester resin from TotalBoat: TotalBoat Polyester Laminating Resin

What's that? Can't you just thin the epoxy?

Yes, you can thin epoxy.

I know, I know, I know...

This is where it gets more complicated though. For now just call me cheap and curious. I have leftover polyester resin so lets see what happens. If it turns out to be a disaster, we'll get back to why it might not be the best of ideas to thin resin.

Here's our test setup:

Wood test piece from the same tree as the slab I want to use, resin, catalyst, acetone, mixing / measuring containers, stir stick and a cheap chip brush.

I went all in and mixed about 60/40 resin and acetone and then added the catalyst. This may end up being too much acetone, we'll find out! Here's the first coat.

It seems to be working! The softer sections of the wood are really sucking in the resin!

One sleep later, the resin has cured.

Here's what the wood looks like, it appears to have worked somewhat. The resin'd side is noticeably harder than the other side.

Here's a quick video of the very super duper scientific tappy-tap-tap test:

Looks promising! I'm going to give it a finishing coat and let it cure for another day or three before cutting it open to see how far the resin penetrated! Stay tuned!

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