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.