Stabilizing Wood Landing Net Handles

Handle blanks in oven

Today I would like to tell you about the stabilization process that is used on many of our custom wood landing nets.  We use stabilization process for a variety of reasons including strengthening soft of “punky” wood, filling voids, making it impervious to water and even injecting color.

While no part of the stabilization process is difficult, it is very time consuming and there is definitely a process that must be followed to ensure complete and full stabilization of a wood blank.

The first step is to make sure your wood blank is completely dry.  Green (or fresh cut) wood will certainly have a lot of moisture in it but even kiln-dried wood will contain moisture.  As wood is allowed to sit in the open atmosphere, it is constantly absorbing or releasing moisture in response to the air around it.  To get all of the moisture out of a blank, I place it in a toaster oven for at least 24-hours at a low temperature setting.  As soon as the oven process is complete, I take the blanks out and put them in bags that are vacuum-sealed.  This allows the blanks to cool to room temperature without reabsorbing any atmospheric moisture.

Net Handles in vacuum bag

The next step in the process sees me submerging the dried blanks, now out of their vacuum packaging, in a vacuum chamber.  The fluid the blanks are submerged in is a special stabilization resin that can be clear or colored.  A cap prevents the blanks from floating and then a vacuum pump is attached to to the chamber.  Once the pump is activated a vacuum is created and bubbles start flowing…..

Vacuum Pump and Chamber

The bubbles come from the air inside the blanks and it is amazing how long air flows out of a blank.  We are talking hours & hours.  Once the bubbles finally stop, the vacuum is released and over the course of another set of hours & hours, the resin inside the vacuum chamber is pulled into all of the voids, nooks & crannies inside of a blank.

After the resin has been allowed to fully penetrate the blank, it goes back into the oven so the resin can be cured.  The cured resin is hard as acrylic and you can saw, sand and machine as needed.  We no longer need to worry about expanding or contracting wood and we have a piece that will last forever.

Northkill Tackle uses the stabilization process on all of our Premium Scout fly fishing nets and a few of our Guide landing nets as well.

A dyed and stabilized burl is the focal point of this Guide net:

Dyed and stabilized burl handle

Here is a video showing the vacuum chamber in action:


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