Activated Cactus Juice has a shelf life of 8-12 months at room temperature. If kept in the refrigerator, it has been reported to last for 2 years. The thing about Cactus Juice and shelf life...once the shelf life has been exceeded, it will NOT cure or go hard. It just gets to where it will not cure properly or at all. If that happens, contact me and I can send me activator if you have enough to deal with and you can rejuvenate it. I DO NOT recommend trying to activate less than the entire container you purchase. The activator is a semi paste by weight and needs to be fairly precise (within a gram or two). You would have to precisely weigh it to get the proper ratio and even then, you can run into issues. My policy is that I have a 12 month shelf life guarantee from the date it ships. If you try to activate only a portion, you are on your own and I will not cover it under any kind of warranty.
You can always cure your blank without foil. That way, any bleed out that occurs will drip away from the blank rather than pool in the cracks. Just make sure you leave space between the blanks in the oven so they don't cure and stick together. Also use a drip pan to catch the bleed out.
Either Harbor Freight pumps will be fine. Save your money and go with the cheaper one. Actually, I prefer a Robinair 15310 for an expensive vacuum pump. Robinair has been in the vacuum pump business for a long time. Sure this model is still made in China but at least it is made by a company that makes vacuum pumps rather than a company that sources cheap tools! It sounds like you have all the necessary parts to get you up and running in short order! Be sure to read my article "Vacuum Explanation" in the Help Center under the Cactus Juice Stabilizing Resources section. It has a lot of information on vacuum and vacuum pumps.
I do not sell vacuum pumps. I just can not get a good enough price on what that I would be willing to put my name behind. Sure, I could import cheap China made pumps but my name and reputation is more important to me than making an extra buck! Be sure to read my article "Vacuum Explanation" in the Help Center under the Cactus Juice Stabilizing Resources section. It has information on vacuum and how it relates to stabilizing as well as information on picking a pump and even a list of various pumps that will do the job well.
It is best to avoid oily woods as the oil in the wood can be pulled out during vacuum and affect the chemistry of the Cactus Juice.
You are always going to get some bleed out. That is just part of the process and nothing you can do to eliminate it. Drying your wood and making sure your oven temperature is truly at 190-200° F verified with an oven thermometer in the oven will reduce the bleed out but not eliminate it. As for the question on the moisture meter...you need to forget about the meter for stabilizing. Moisture meters send an electrical current between the pins and measures the amount of electrical resistance in a piece of wood. The higher the moisture, the less resistance. However, a typical pin meter is factory calibrated to the specific gravity of Douglas Fir. In order to get an accurate reading, you need to correct the meter reading for the species you are working with. Your meter manufacturer should have a chart with conversion factors. One other point, no moisture meter is accurate below 5% moisture content. For stabilizing, we really want to be closer to 0% so your meter is pointless as it is not going to give you any usable data! Also, I do not know how Cactus Juice affects the resistance of the electrical current put out by the meter but would guess it will give you a high moisture content reading that has nothing to do with the moisture content in the wood!
Penetration is a function of time and vacuum. If you achieve full vacuum until the bubbles stop coming from the wood, then allow the blanks to soak at atmospheric pressure for a minimum of twice as long as you pulled vacuum, you will get complete penetration regardless of the size of your piece. Larger piece will take longer under vacuum though.
Acrylic can indeed be used for a lid IF it is sufficiently thick enough. Cactus Juice, in direct contact with the acrylic for extended periods, can case a slimy film to build up on the acrylic but you lid should not be in direct contact to begin with. Some chamber manufacturers claim that Cactus Juice will cause the lid to crack due to "fumes" but they do not understand the chemistry of Cactus Juice. There are no "fumes" from Cactus Juice, even under full vacuum. Most acrylic lid failures are caused by insufficient thickness of the acrylic.
If you can regulate the heat of the grill to maintain 200° F, it will be fine. The trick might be maintaining the necessary 200° F cure temperature. Going hotter will not hurt the resin but will cause more to bleed out when it cures.
I do not currently offer chambers any larger diameter than 6". I may offer other sizes in the future but don't have any specific plans at the moment.
I primarily work with Central Texas woods as that is my passion! I have not personally done Wenge so I can not speak to it specifically. If it is oily, it is best left unstabilized. Otherwise, treat it just like any other porous material. Pull vacuum until the bubble stop, then release vacuum and allow to soak 2x as long as you pulled vacuum.
No! Cactus Juice is designed specifically for use under full vacuum. There is nothing in Cactus Juice that will "boil" or vaporize under full vacuum when using it below the use and storage temperature of 85° F. Cactus Juice can boil if the temperature of the resin is above 93° F which is outside the maximum use and storage temperate of 85° F to begin with. Also, a quality vacuum pump does not contain any rubber (or other material) seals that are in contact with the air stream and do not contain any plastic parts in the actual vacuum cartridge. Some of the cheap import pumps do but even then, Cactus Juice will have no effect on them unless you suck resin into the pump.
I have not personally done leather but I do have customers who have with good success. There is no way to give vacuum or soak times since there are too many variables involved. It should be treated just like wood or any other porous materials. Vacuum until the bubbles stop coming of of the leather, then soak twice as long as you pulled vacuum, minimum.
Unfortunately, you are being given bad information. Cactus Juice does NOT have any "vapors" that are getting into the pump. Cactus Juice is made for full vacuum applications and will not boil (turn to vapor) under full vacuum unless the temperature of the resin is above 93° F which is above the use and storage temperature of 85° F to begin with. Also, good quality, made in USA vacuum pumps such as JB pumps do not have plastic vanes to begin with. Some of the cheap imports do, though. Damage to the vanes on cheap pumps is NOT caused by Cactus Juice. It is typically cause because folks did not follow the recommendations of properly drying their wood to begin with. Any moisture left in the wood will be boiled of of the wood under deep vacuum. This moisture will have sap components and other volatile components that can gum up a vacuum pump.
I would not worry too much about it unless you have a lot of resin in there. If so, I would unscrew the fittings on each and and pour out as much as you can. Then pour some soapy water in, shake it up, and pour it back out. Then rinse with fresh water and reinstall the fittings with teflon tape.
There is no way to even begin to guess at this without seeing and feeling the wood. I would probably start with a ratio of 1/2 oz per gallon and run a test piece through completion. Then cut that blank in half length wise and wet the surface to see the color. If it is not dark enough, add more dye and repeat with a new piece of the same species. If it is too dark, add un-dyed Juice and repeat.
Yes, I can ship all over the world and do so on a daily basis.
I recommend BunaN or Butyl rubber. If you have a tire shop near by, check in and see if they have a used tractor tire innertube. If so, cut it open so you have a large flat piece and then cut a donut shape where the inside of the donut is smaller than the inside of your chamber and the outside is larger than the outside of your chamber. Then you can simply lay that on top of the container, set your lid on, and start vacuum. You may have to push down on the lid some to get it to seal but once it takes off, you are good to go. If an innertube is not big enough to get a complete piece out of, I would order some 1/8" BunaN from the internet. You do NOT want any joints in your gasket for the best results.
Anything porous and not oily can be stabilized including wood, bone, antler, horn and rock (yes, I said rock!). A lot of my customers stabilize antler with great results.
Soak your blanks in your first color with no pressure or vacuum, just let me soak. You will have to experiment with how long based on the wood you are working with. Then cure your blanks in the oven as normal. After they have cooled down do a normal, complete vacuum process with your second color.
Yes I can and have shipped to Japan many times.
I am sorry you had problems with storage of Cactus Juice. I am not sure who told you to pour it into a mason jar and seal it up but they were dead wrong! Cactus Juice does not evaporate and does not need to be sealed up. Actually, sealing it in a glass jar is a sure fire way to experience exactly what you have experienced. It is complicated why it happens but it sure will just about every time regardless of the temperature. Pouring into a plastic container, even with a sealed lid is fine since plastic will allow some air to get thorough. This is covered in my directions on using Cactus Juice here: https://www.turntex.com/product/cactus-juice/cactus-juice-resin-and-dyes#directions In the future, please disregard the information you read on other sites or see on youtube. There is a LOT of bad information out there!
The resin you mention is a copycat of Cactus Juice and is the same basic chemistry. Mixing the two will not be an issue assuming your other resin has not been contaminated by using it with oily wood.
My vacuum chambers are made from material of more than sufficient strength to handle a 99.995% vacuum without failure.
First, if you are using an oil filled rotary vane pump as recommended, don't worry about the wear and tear on the pump. They are made for continuous use and are not harmed by running for many hours at a time. The reason to keep the pump running is to keep the air moving from the wood. You are only creating a vacuum in the empty space above the blanks. If you close a valve and shut off the pump, the air coming from the blanks moves to that empty space and the level of vacuum starts to drop. If vacuum level is dropping, air flow is also dropping. You may not see it on a typical gauge but if you use a precision, micron gauge, you will see the vacuum level start dropping immediately after shutting off the pump. Think of it this way...place a straw in a coke and start sucking. As long as you are sucking on the straw, the coke is flowing. If you suck on the straw enough to get the coke to the top of the straw and then hold it, the coke stops moving. The same thing happens in the chamber in simplistic terms.
Keep the pump running and you will reduce your amount of time under vacuum compared to pulling a vacuum and then shutting off and holding it, then starting again, etc. Maximum continuous vacuum equals maximum continuous flow of the air from the wood and reduces the time to get the air out. The more air you get out of the wood, the more resin you can get back in when you release vacuum and allow the blanks to soak.
I personally have never used the bag but if you have been able to do a bowl with it, you should be able to do the same thing with your board.
Yes, it works fine for bone and antler. Pretty much anything that is porous and not oily can be stabilized including wood, bone, antler, rock, plaster, etc.
I have MANY customers who regularly stabilize giraffe bone, antler, and other bone with Cactus Juice with no issues. I have not personally ever done it so I can not say with absolute certainty that it will not crack. However, based on the feedback from my customers who are using it for this application, I feel confident in saying you should be fine!
There are two main things that cause excess bleed out when stabilizing: wood that is not dry and cure temperature that is too high.
First, make sure your wood is at 0% moisture. The way to do this is to cook the wood at 220° F for a minimum of 24 hours. Then take the wood out of the oven and immediately place it in air tight containers or ziplock bag until it is cool enough to stabilize. Second, make sure your oven temperature is 190-200° F when curing your blanks. Do not trust the dial on the oven. Use a separate oven thermometer inside the oven (note, a meat thermometer is NOT an oven thermometer).
If you are going to cast your stabilized blanks, cure them without wrapping them in foil. Foil does nothing to keep the resin in the wood. The primary reason for using foil is to contain the bleed out so you don't get the mess in the oven and to allow you to stack your blanks together without having them glued together when cured.
When you plan to cast the blanks, you can use a drip pan under the blanks to catch the bleed out. I like to use bamboo skewers under the blanks to raise them up off the bottom of the drip pan. Orient the blanks so that any areas that are likely to pool up with the resin as it bleeds out are facing down. That way the bleed out will drip away from the blanks and you will have little clean up. Make sure your blanks are not touching each other when using this method. If they are touching, they will glue together and you will not be able to easily get them apart.
I always prefer stabilizing punky wood before casting. The main reason is that with punky wood, if you cast first, the pressure will push some of the colored resin into the wood causing color bleed. I prefer the junction between the wood and casting resin to be nice and crisp and stabilizing helps seal the punky wood so you do not get the color bleed. One suggestion when stabilizing before casting though...don't wrap the blanks in foil. See this Q&A for more info
The Pump Saver is an item that I have been making on a limited basis over the last year or so. When I redesigned my website, I decided to offer them to the public. I just have not had time to get some pictures taken and create the product in my system. I have a number of new products coming out soon that will be added.
If your colors are not coming out vivid enough, you are not using enough dye. It takes a lot of dye to get good color in the wood regardless of the dye you are using. Please see the Description tab on the Alumilite page for dyeing techniques.
No, you can not stabilize green wood, the wood needs to have a maximum moisture content of 10%. Oven dry (0% mc) will give the best results. Green wood is saturated with water and has very little air in it. Stabilizing displaces the air in the wood with Cactus Juice by "removing" the atmospherically compressed air with vacuum and then filling the space that was filled with air with Cactus Juice when you release the vacuum. Since water is not compressible, vacuum is not going to easily remove the water from the wood and as a result, you will get very little resin back into the wood.
I can not give good advice on this since I have never personally stabilized Bocote. I do have customers who have done it with success, though. You could always try placing a piece in your vacuum chamber with a paper towel under it and no resin. Pull a vacuum for a while and see how much oil is coming out, if any. I am sorry I can't be of more help with this but, as you can guess, it would be nearly impossible for me to test all of the different species of wood out there for issues like this.
Yes, the wax covering of your blanks will certainly affect the uptake of the Cactus Juice. The best way to remove it without changing the size of the blank is to submerge them in a pot of boiling water. The wax will melt and float to the surface, then you can skim it off and remove the blanks. You will need to get them dry again before stabilizing. If the blanks are oversized, you can also cut a little bit off of each side and both ends to remove the wax.
While you certainly can pour it back into the original jug, I recommend never mixing used and virgin Cactus Juice except as needed to fill the chamber. The reason is if you contaminate the Juice in your chamber, say by doing an oily wood, when you pour that Juice back in with virgin Juice, you may ruin it all. Another scenario that has happened with a customer is their power went off while the vac pump was running. This caused the vacuum in the chamber to suck the oil from the pump and dump it into the chamber. He did not realize it and when he was one stabilizing, he poured his excess Juice back into the container with fresh Juice. The oil from the vacuum pump contaminated the entire batch and it would not cure.
You can store you used Juice in any container that is not air tight. My preference is the quart paint mixing cups with the plastic snap on lids you can get at any good hardware store. Your distilled water jug will be fine too.
Cactus Juice will not freeze and is not affected by the cold. I ship to the frozen north all the time in the winter with no issues!
Yes, Cactus Juice will work fine on bowls. It may get expensive, though, due to how much resin they will take up. Since stabilizing punky bowls is primarily just to to make them turnable, I would suggest just getting a large enough container and just soaking the blanks. In my testing, punky wood will typically double in weight just by soaking. This will not be as well stabilized as if you used vacuum but for the purpose of being able to turn and finish them, it will be just fine. They will be hard and turn without tear out, they just may not be as resistant to moisture as a vacuum stabilized blank. The advantage of just soaking is you will use a little less resin and you don't have to try to get a large vacuum chamber.
No, you do not need to wrap them in foil. The primary reason for wrapping in foil is to contain the mess when some of it bleeds out (part of the process) and to allow you to put more blanks in the oven at one time. If you do not wrap them in foil, be sure to not stack them on each other or you will end up with a bunch of bowl blanks glued together! Also be sure you have a good drip pan under the blanks to catch the bleed out and prevent it from getting all over the inside of your oven!
That is a very open ended question! There are certainly other dyes that will work with Cactus Juice. I am not able to test everything that is out there of course. I would stay away from most other liquid dyes since the liquid portion could affect the chemistry of the Cactus Juice and cause it to not cure properly. If you wanted to test a particular dye, get a cheap shot glass and fill it with your dyed Cactus Juice. Place that in a preheated oven a 200° F for 1 hour and if it cures mostly hard, it should be ok.
That said, there are many "dyes" out there that are actually pigment based. Due to the particle size of the pigment, the "dye" portion will not penetrate the wood and will just remain on the surface. Some powdered aniline dyes, like the StickFast dyes, will do ok with the Cactus Juice. They can be a pain to work with though since they typically will not fully dissolve in the Juice. If this is the case, I recommend mixing it in and shaking it well, then let it sit overnight and shake again the next day. Then let it settle for a few hours and strain it through a coffee filter to remove the solids that did not dissolve.
In order to claim that any item is food safe, testing has to be done on that item by a lab that specializes in food safe testing. Cactus Juice has not been tested for this purpose for a couple of reasons. For one, the cost is over $2,000 from the estimates I have been given (yes, I have checked into it!). And two, even if I did get it tested, it would ONLY apply to the cured Cactus Juice or the particular species of wood I stabilized and had tested. It would NOT apply to your blank unless you used exactly the same species! That said, once cured, Cactus Juice is inert and very similar to Plexiglas. I will have to defer to your judgement from here!
I have not had reports of any issues with polyurethane finishes on stabilized wood and have not had an issue myself. Now granted, I don't use it very much on stabilized wood as I much prefer Deft lacquer since it dries much faster which means less chance of dust getting in the finish.
Once Cactus Juice has cured, it is inert and very similar to Plexiglas so there would not be any chemical reaction going on. Make sure you wood is 0% moisture content before stabilizing as discussed in the Tips for Best Results sheet you got with your order and make sure they are curing. If there is any wetness on the blanks when you take them out of the oven, they are not cured. Other than that, I don't really know what to tell you as I have not had the issue and have not had it reported to me by anyone else.
Any of the Titebond glues will work fine with stabilized wood or stabilized to non stabilized.
Stabilizing your material will certainly make thing much better than trying to do it with CA! Not only will the cost be less, it will also do a better, more thorough job. As for melting...Cactus Juice is heat resistant to 390° F and does not gum up sanding belts for the knife makers out there who use it similarly on a daily basis.
This does happen from time to time and I believe it is related to the temperatures during shipping during the winter since it is seldom an issue in the summer. If you are not in a hurry, allow your Juice and activator to sit overnight, then shake well the next day and it should dissolve. If you are in a hurry, you can get a piece of window screen and pour the Juice through it which will trap the undissolved parts. Then simply crush the particles through the screen and pour some Juice in the screen again to wash the particles through. Another option is to place a smaller quantity of Juice in a container with the undissolved particles and place this in your vacuum chamber. Pull a full vacuum on it for a few minutes, then pour it all back in the jug and shake well. The vacuum will help wet out the undissolved particles and they will then mix properly.
Yes, I can and do ship to Canada on an almost daily basis with no issues at all. I ship via US Postal Service so that you do not incur the heavy customs brokerage fees typically collected by UPS or FedEx.
Drying green wood can be tricky, depending on the species. I would start out by leaving them larger than you need to allow for shrinkage and warping. Then you could simply place them on a shelf in your shop for 6 months to a year. If you need to speed that up, there are many ways to do this. You can make a hot box with a 100 watt lightbulb for a heat source and allow the blanks to stay in there for a week or so. You could also do the same with a toaster oven if it will go low enough. I would be looking to keep it around 100-120° F. You could also look online for directions on drying wood in a microwave. Many folks have had good success with that method. Regardless of what method you use, once you get them "dry", you need to further dry them to oven dry state in an oven at 220° F for a minimum of 24 hours for best stabilizing results.
My chambers are named JuiceProof for a reason! They are impervious to the Cactus Juice and will not discolor or lose clarity over time with exposure to the Cactus Juice and Alumilite dyes.
The pump needs to running the entire time to keep the vacuum at the fullest level. My chambers do not even have a valve between the pump and chamber for this very reason. As soon as you shut off vacuum, the level of vacuum inside the chamber begins to slowly go down. You are actually only creating vacuum in the space above the Cactus Juice in your chamber and as the air flows from the point of higher pressure in the wood to the point of lower pressure in the space above the resin, if the pump is not running to maintain that lower pressure, it begins to drop and equalize. If vacuum level is dropping, the air moving from the blanks to the lower pressure above the blanks drops off as well. Keeping the pump running keeps the pressure above the resin at is lowest level, maintaining the proper flow from the wood. In other words, keep the pump running for best results!
No, I do not manufacture Cactus Juice myself. I have it manufactured for me by an ISO 9001 certified large chemical company to my specifications. It is not simply a re-packaged product like some competitor is claiming. It is unique to TurnTex Woodworks and the exact formula is not available to anyone else anywhere in the world. Some competitors claim to manufacture their own resin. I do not consider mixing a few ingredients in a container as manufacturing. The chemical company that I use actually reacts and truly manufactures each component that goes into Cactus Juice. This is all done to very strict standards in large batch size to assure uniformity and consistency under the guidance of staff chemists with extensive knowledge and research in this specific type of chemistry. The reacting and manufacturing of this type of chemistry is something that takes a substantial investment in equipment and is not something that is easily done in a shop somewhere. I am provided a COA (Certificate of Analysis) for every delivery that show that each batch has been analyzed in a lab to meet the exacting quality standards required.
The vacuum chamber could be used for any vacuum application. You would want to place the resin in another container and then place it in your vacuum chamber. You WOULD NOT want to pour the resin directly into the chamber since it would be very difficult to clean it all out. Using solvents to clean the chamber will damage it and void the warranty.
Cactus Juice forms an emulsion in water. It is very easy to wash out the chamber with regular dish soap and water. I wash my chamber out after every use. The resin has a viscosity of around 8 CPS meaning that it is about the consistency of blood or kerosene (sorry, only measurement that I could find that compares!) and it does not set up unless it is heated up. You will not get any build up in the chamber.
Absolutely! I CAN indeed ship to Hawaii via USPS Priority Mail. A USPS Shipping Specialist at USPS confirmed that what the MSDS says is correct and that there are no shipping restriction per DOT or IATA meaning it CAN ship via air!
I have checked with the US Postal Service and from the US side of things, there are no restriction in shipping international. However, You would need to check with the customs officials in your country to make sure it is ok to be imported. I can say that I have successfully shipped to a lot of countries with no issues at all.
NO, I do not believe a hand pump will work. In most cases, depending on the wood of course, you will need to vacuum for at least an hour, usually more. I also am not sure that you would be able to develop enough vacuum. I would suggest looking on Craigslist, E-bay, or local pawn shops for electric vacuum pumps like the HVAC technicians use. They are going to generate about the best vacuum you will be able to get for the money.
Sure, a vacuum generator can work for wood stabilizing. However, many of them out there will not pull a full vacuum and thus, not provide the best results. Remember, when doing vacuum stabilizing, the objective is to remove as much air as possible so you can displace it with Cactus Juice.
There is a company out there selling a vacuum generator for stabilizing. The thing that is not mentioned is that they are only rated to 24" Hg of vacuum at sea level. This equates to an 80.2% vacuum which means you can only remove a maximum of 80.2% of the air form the blank. The more air you can remove, the more Juice you can get back into the material.
My preference, without a doubt, is an oil filled rotary vane vacuum pump. They will typically pull a 99.9% vacuum and will do a better job of stabilizing. If you have not seen it, please read this article I wrote on vacuum and how it relates to stabilizing: Vacuum Explanation
Yes, the unabsorbed resin is certainly re-usable. Some woods may discolor the resin but that would be up to the operator whether or not to use it. You can always add dye to any discolored resin and it will mask the discoloration.
It is really not possible to estimate how much resin each blank will take since that completely depends on the blank itself. A general avergae is somewhere around .2 to .3 ounces per cubic inch. In other words, a blank that measures 1" x 1" x 5" averages somewhere around 1-1.5 ounces of Juice per blank.
You may get descent results submerging the blanks and letting them soak for a week or so. I have done testing on pen blanks where I did some with vacuum, some with pressure, and some just soaking. The vacuum blanks did the best of course, with a 300% weight increase but the soaked blanks still had a 200% weight increase. The pressure blanks did not do any better than the soaked blank. If you are getting descent penetration with Minwax Wood Hardener with that method, then you should get similar penetration with Cactus Juice but the results will be much better since it hardens to form a hard acrylic and does not have any volatile solvents that have to flash off, leaving the little bit of resin behind like Minwax.
Yes, that helps. However, you can do it easily by pulling out a long piece of foil, then wrap the first one so it is completely covered. Then add another and cover it, and so on. The first blank will have numerous layers of foil and then it goes down from there. This is demonstrated on my instructional video.
The shelf life for MesquiteMan's Cactus Juice is 6 months under normal conditions. You can increase that life considerably by keeping it in the refrigerator. The Tech Data sheet says to store it below 80°F.
It depends on what you are talking about. If you mean things like mica powder, then no, it will not color the resin. Liquid dyes will to varying degrees of success. Some liquid dyes will work but in some instances, you will need so much liquid dye that it will affect the cure of the resin. I have tried Transtint dye with limited success (mostly disappointing) and have found that the dyes made by Alumilite (available in the Cactus Juice section) work the best since they are very concentrated and they are reactive dyes meaning they react and cross link with the resin, thus not causing any cure problems. Other dyes will work I am sure but have not tried everything out there.
It does give off some odors while curing but to me, they are not bad odors. I would not want to "cook" them in the house but I don't think a basement shop would be an issue with it getting upstairs.
Most any wood or other porous material can be stabilized. You will have to decided if really hard or dense woods will give you any benefit by being stabilized. If you are knife maker or call maker, stabilizing dense woods may make sense because the stabilizing will help reduce wood movement due to moisture changes. For pen makers or other who can put a CA finish on their completed items, thus sealing them against moisture absorption, it may not make a lot of sense to stabilize those hard woods.
It is best to not mess with trying to stabilize oily woods. On some woods with high oil content, the vacuum process can actually pull the oil out of the wood and then it can mix with the Cactus Juice. If the concentration is high enough, it can affect the chemistry of the Juice and cause cure issues where it may not cure properly.
Your blanks should be cured right at 200° F (90° C). It is advised to use an oven thermometer to double check the temperature of your oven. If you are using a toaster oven, the dials are notoriously inaccurate. Curing hotter will not hurt the Juice but it will cause more to "bleed" out when curing. Keep it at the recommended temperature for best results!
This is one of the million dollar questions in stabilizing! There is no set rule since every piece and species of wood can be different. Cactus Juice itself only takes 6-8 minutes at 200° F (90°C) to cure. However, the internal temperature of your wood has to reach this temp before it begins to cure. A larger piece of wood will take longer than a small piece of wood. Densities affect the cure time as well.
My suggestion is to put them in the oven for a couple of hours and then put on some leather gloves, take them out of the oven, and peel some of the foil back. If you see any liquid, immediately put them back in and cook for another hour. If you see solidified Juice, you are good to go! Don't let them cool down and then check them. If you do that and find liquid, your blanks are now ruined. Once you interrupt the polymerization process, it can not be effectively re-started by heating again.
Err of the side of caution and leave them in longer. There is no maximum amount of time. I have left some in the oven for 5 days! Other than the hurt to my wallet on my electric bill, nothing else happened. Cactus Juice is heat resistant to 400° F (204° C) once cured so leaving them longer will not hurt a thing. I frequently put mine in the oven before I go to bed and take them out in the morning. Then again, that is why I forgot them for 5 days!
Your wood needs to be less than 10% moisture. For the best results, it should be oven dry or 0% moisture. The only way you will get to 0% is to artificially dry your wood. Even wood that has been sitting in your barn for 25 years will have moisture in it due to ambient humidity. I place all of my wood in my oven at 220° F for 24 hours minimum to get it to 0%. You may be able to dry them for less time but I don't like taking the time to keep weighing it to see when it has stopped loosing weight so I go 24 hours at least. Bigger pieces will take longer. Then, when you take them out of the oven, immediately place them in a ziplock bag and seal them up to cool down. This will prevent the hot, super dry wood from immediately starting to pick up moisture from the air as it cools. A side benefit is that if your wood does still have moisture in it, it will usually show up as condensation on the inside of the bag and you will know they were not at 0%!
Penetration issues are almost always caused by not letting your blanks soak! Remember, while you are pulling vacuum, you are pulling air from the wood and very little Cactus Juice is going in. The vast majority of the resin uptake occurs AFTER you release the vacuum and it does not happen right away. My rule of thumb now, after years of experience, is to let my blanks soak for at least twice as long as I had them under vacuum. In other words, if you pulled vacuum for 2 hours until the bubbles stopped, open the valve and release the vacuum. Then let them soak at atmospheric pressure for 4 hours at least. Longer will not hurt the Juice or the blanks in any way. I frequently leave them soaking overnight.
Cactus Juice has a guaranteed shelf life of 12 months at room temperature (below 85° F) from the date it is shipped. You can extend the shelf life significantly by keeping it in a refrigerator.
If you Cactus Juice is pat its stated shelf life, don't panic and throw it away! First, we need to test it to see if it is still good. You can either run some blanks and see if it cures properly or if you don't want to take a chance of ruining your wood, you can perform a gel test. To do this, take a redneck beaker (shot glass!) or any other glass beaker type container and fill it with Cactus Juice. Put it in a preheated oven at 200° F (90°C) and wait 1 hour or so. It should now be cured. Let it cool down and see if it is mostly nice and hard. If it is like jelly, it is past its shelf life. If it is mostly hard with some rubbery areas, this is normal and you are good to go.
If it is rubbery or does not cure, then it is most likely past its shelf life. However, don't throw it away! Contact me and I can sell you some more activator that you can add to bring it back to fresh condition!
When you see frothy like hard bleed out or bleed out that is white or opaque on the outside of your blanks, this is an indication that your wood still had moisture in it. Have no fear, the blanks will still be good, just maybe not quite as good as they would have been with less moisture. Read the FAQ on moisture content to learn how to deal with moisture in your wood.
I would advise against curing your Cactus Juice in your home oven. There is a period of about 10-15 minutes that it gives off some smell as it cures and some find this offensive. Also, it is a bad idea, in my opinion, to use any chemicals in the oven you use for food!
Of course I highly recommend using the Alumilite dyes that I sell or that you can buy direct from Alumilite.com. They are reactive dyes that are made to cross link with plastic resins with a full bond. If, however, you don't have any or want to use something else, I would advise using a powdered aniline dye.
I do NOT recommend using a alcohol based dye or any other liquid dyes as the liquid portion may affect the chemistry of the Cactus Juice and it may not cure properly. I have used water and alcohol aniline powdered dyes and mixed them straight into the Cactus Juice without the liquid and they worked fairly well. It may not all dissolve properly so you may need to strain the Juice but should get enough for good color. Honestly, it is not worth the trouble to me so I still say to use the Alumilite dyes!