Cactus Juice Pen Blank Stabilizing Weight Gain Test Results - by Curtis O. Seebeck

Purpose:

Test the apparent weight gain of various different species of wood pen blanks using Cactus Juice Test Material: 1"x1"x5.5" pen blanks

Test Method: Each blank was dried overnight in a toaster oven set at 185° F to assure oven dry status (0% moisture). The weight of the blanks before impregnation was recorded and the blanks were then all placed in a vacuum chamber, weighted down, and submerged in Cactus Juice. Vacuum was applied to 29" Hg (indicated on gauge which is 99.6% vacuum at my elevation) until all air bubbles stopped coming from the blanks, approximately 1 hour. Vacuum was then released and the blanks were allowed to equalize for 30 minutes.

The blanks were then removed from the vacuum chamber, surface dried with a paper towel, and the weight was recorded again. The blanks were then wrapped in foil and placed in a pre-heated toaster oven at 200° F for approximately 1.5 hours. Once fully cured, the blanks were removed from the foil and all Cactus Juice that cured on the outside of the blanks was scraped off and the weight was again recorded. The results follow below.

Cactus Juice Polymerization Protocol Test Results

Purpose: Test various different methods of polymerizing pen blanks impregnated with Cactus Juice

Test Material: 8 1"x1"x5.5" punky spalted hackberry pen blanks

Test Method: Eight punky spalted hackberry pen blanks were selected that had similar beginning weights. The weights were recorded and the blanks were subjected to vacuum impregnation similar to the test above. Once the blanks were fully impregnated, they were surface dried with a paper towel and the weights were recorded. One blank was then wrapped in tin foil, one was wrapped in tin foil and sealed in a food saver vacuum bag with vacuum, and one blank was left bare. These three blanks were then placed in a toaster oven preheated to 200° F for one hour.

Next, one blank was wrapped in foil, one was wrapped in foil and sealed in a food saver vacuum bag with vacuum, one blank was simply sealed in a food saver bag with vacuum and no foil, and one blank was left bare. Since water transfers heat better than air, a pot of water was brought to a par boil at approximately 200° F and all 4 blanks were placed in the hot water for 30 minutes.

Lastly, one blank was wrapped in foil and sealed in a food saver bag with vacuum. This blank was placed in a pressure vessel and 200° F water was added. Pressure was applied to 40 psi and this blank was allowed to remain under pressure in the hot water for 30 minutes.

After all blanks had been removed from their respective heat sources and allowed to cool, they were removed from the foil and any Cactus Juice that had polymerized on the outside of the blanks was scraped off. The bare blank that was polymerized in the par boiling water was placed in a toaster oven. The Cactus Juice had already fully polymerized so this was just to remove any water absorbed. The weight of each blank was then recorded. The results are shown below:

Weight in Grams

Cure Type Dry Vac @ 24" 70 PSI Cured Gain % Gain
Oven Bare 32.7 89.1 89.7 73.4 40.7 124.5%
Oven Foil 31 88.3 88.8 72.6 41.6 134.2%
Oven Vac/Foil 23.3 86.8 86.9 69.4 46.1 197.9%
Water Bare 27.3 87.5 87.9 75 47.7 174.7%
Water Foil 26 87.6 87.8 72.3 46.3 178.1%
Water Vac/Foil 24 86.8 87 71.1 47.1 196.3%
Water Vac 30.2 88.5 89.3 73.8 43.6 144.4%
Pressure Pot 29.3 88.7 88.8 77.6 48.3 164.8%

This test seems to indicate that the best % weight gain occurred with the blank that was wrapped in foil and sealed in the food saver bag with vacuum and then heated in the toaster oven. However, a test using more blanks with each polymerization method would need to be done to insure accuracy in the data. It is my opinion that the blanks wrapped in foil and placed in the toaster oven give excellent results with minimal extra steps necessary. This is my recommended method of polymerizing pen blanks impregnated with Cactus Juice.


Cactus Juice Soak vs. Pressure vs. Vacuum Test Results

Purpose: Test various different impregnation methods with Cactus Juice

Test Material: 3 equal weight distributed sets of 4 spalted pecan pen blanks 1" x1" x 5-1/4"

Test Method: Approximately 25 spalted pecan pen blanks were placed in an oven at 185° F overnight to assure oven dry (0% moisture) status. After removing from the oven, the weight of each blank was recorded on the blank and 3 weight distributed sets of 4 blanks were selected. The first set of blanks were placed in a container and submerged in Cactus Juice for 24 hours and allowed to soak. The second set of blanks were placed in a container and submerged in Cactus Juice and then placed in a pressure vessel at 70 psi for 24 hours. The third set of blanks were placed in a Cactus Juice Stabilizing Chamber and processed according to my directions with a 99.6% vacuum.

Upon completion of the various steps above, the blanks were removed from their respective containers and surface dried with a paper towel and their weights were recorded. The blanks were then wrapped in foil per my directions and placed in a pre-heated 200° F oven for 1.5 hours. The blanks were then removed from the oven and any excess Cactus Juice that cured on the outside of the blank was scraped off and the blanks were weighed again. The results are shown below.

The amount of loss during the polymerization cycle was also calculate and is provided below.

The above test results show that you can achieve descent results just by soaking your blanks in Cactus Juice. The data shows that a vacuum impregnation process provides the best results, however. One interesting observation is the difference in the amount of loss between the 3 different methods. Clearly, the vacuum process has the least amount of loss and is expected due to the physics principles utilized vs pressure. When impregnating with pressure, you are compressing the air within the blank rather than removing it. When the blank is heated, the air within the blank expands slightly and pushes more of the resin out.


Video showing the differences in density between a piece of Cactus Juice stabilized vs unstabilized spalted pecan.

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