gobigblue

finishing a live edge wood slab

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i want to get a nice desk top for my work from home office desk.  24"x 48" so its pretty small.  im saving a ton of money doing all the basement finishing diy so im willing to splurge on this, but not willing to spend 3x the cost of the slab to have it planed/sanded/finished.  doing a little research it seems pretty straightforward.  i can get a piece of kiln dried oak or pine close to the measurements i need for <$200, i think.  whats left to do besides knock some bark off, sand everything until smooth, then lacquer or poly?   seems too easy.  the same wood slab if i buy it "finished" costs upwards of $500.  

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I have made several live edge tops.  Got the slabs at Exotic Lumber in Annapolis.  They needed minimal work.  Used a drawknife to remove the bark.  Random orbit sander on the top.  A slab will have a lot of movement with humidity.  What does the rest of the desk look like?  How you attach it will make it more/less likely to split.

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On 10/6/2017 at 1:14 PM, richie c said:

What variety of pine are you talking about that you can get in a 24'' W cut and how thick will it be?, Tamarack maybe? 

i dont know the specifics, im still kind of in the planning stages.  pine might have been book matched.  width im open too anything from 1-2".  

 

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hand planing and a scraper are really nice and as mentioned fastening to desk carcass is critical to allow for movement of top so it won't crack

 

pine sap is really a drag too

 

length x width x thickness 

Edited by thinice
2nd thought

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There are other things to take into consideration:

Is the slab cupped?  if so you may need to build a router sled to flatten it, since you likely wont be able to fit it in a thickness plane due to the width. 

Is it dry?  Depending on how thick it is, it may not be as dry as you need it to be, I would let it sit for a week or two in the environment it will live to neutralize the moisture content

Any cracks/splits/checking that you need to address?  If they are of concern you may need to do an inlay (like a bowtie) to stabilize them, if there are deep cracks you want flat with the surface, you may need to fill them with epoxy

 

I just did some maple shelves and am part of the way through a walnut table, the shelves were quick, I could put them through the planer and jointer (on the wall facing side) the table, I've spent more time with a sander working it flat and smooth than I spent on the shelves from start to finish and I had less than 1/8" of cupping to work out, I couldn't use a router sled since it was the crotch of the tree and it would have destroyed it

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2x on nitsuj's comments on flattening (a run through the supplier's double-sided planer won't take out cup or twist) and adding dutchmen and/or epoxy to deal with cracks/checks/splits.  

 

I recently did a reclaimed oak beam for use as a fireplace mantle - the checks/cracks/worm holes/nail holes were nearly infinite sources of dust and dirt.  Many rounds of compressed air and vacuuming were required.

 

Also, consider Waterlox for the finish - very easy to use and repair and leaves a close to the wood finish, but only if you can let the piece dry/cure for a while before moving it into occupied space (very stinky until it's cured).  

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I would have the place you buy it from run it through the planner if they have one,make life easy on yourself.I've been using Formby's tung oil finish which works really well and easy to apply.

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picked up a nice spalted maple slab the other day.  cut it in half, and built a sled for my table saw to cut a straight edge for joining, and quickly realized it wasnt flat.  now im going to build a router sled to flatten it, but only have a 1/4" router.  basically have 2 pieces, the front with the live edge, and the back piece cut square on all 4 sides.  should i join the 2 piecves and run the sled over it all to flatten, or flatten the 2 pieces and re-cut and fasten. 

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does anyone in the union county area own a 1/2" router they are looking to sell, or lend out for a case of beer and free router bit?  my 1/4" trim router as nice as it is is going to take for freaking ever and/or destroy this piece of wood.  working from home today, got it all set up and shimmed and rock solid and ready to go, about to hit the power switch and the mrs calls down OK IM PUTTING THE BABY DOWN FOR A NAP NOW.  its so cold out and i have no motivation to pick everything up and do it outside.

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This is where Harbor Freight tools shine, that once in a blue moon use. I'd never buy them for the everyday job, but I have things like a 3" belt sander, plate biscuit joiner, oscillating saw, and especially their air nailers that are fine. And once you have a real router you'll find other chores for it. They just sent me a 25% off coupon, and you can always download a 20% off their site.

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12 hours ago, gellfex said:

This is where Harbor Freight tools shine, that once in a blue moon use. I'd never buy them for the everyday job, but I have things like a 3" belt sander, plate biscuit joiner, oscillating saw, and especially their air nailers that are fine. And once you have a real router you'll find other chores for it. They just sent me a 25% off coupon, and you can always download a 20% off their site.

usually i would agree when it comes to grabbing HF stuff, except when its something that could seriously injure or ruin a piece im working on.  also, there are used 1/2" collet quality routers available on craigslist for much less than a new one at HF.  i picked up an air stapler for wire mesh under my shed for short money and it worked great.

Edited by gobigblue

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