How to handle an fresh cut red oak cookie round?

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Forum topic by jimintx posted 08-31-2019 02:38 AM 1523 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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934 posts in 2555 days

08-31-2019 02:38 AM

I would sure appreciate reading some ideas of the various ways to handle getting this “cookie” ready for use as a top. Many thanks for whatever suggestions are offered.

A neighbors old red oak had fallen into a death spiral, and needed to be taken down. I tipped the tree crew, and they cut me a cookie from the trunk. It averages 36 inches diameter, and is about 3 inches thick. I had in mind getting it a little thicker but this is what the guys were able to get cut for me. As it is, I can only just barely lift it.

I want to use it as a table top that will be outside under a covered patio. I am near the Texas coast where there is plenty of heat and high humidity, and only a week or so a year here the temps get to the freezing range.

I am more concerned with how to treat, or dry, or coat the wooden top.

I have seen a number of ways to get the top of it flattened enough to be a nice table, so that is definitely of interest, but not my immediate concern.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

18 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


3591 posts in 2768 days

#1 posted 08-31-2019 02:53 AM

Usually we seal the ends of green wood to slow down the cracks the form on the ends of boards.
Because water leaves the end grain so fast the wood will split up to 6 or 7 inches long.
Your piece is basically 3 inches of long grain.
So we know it’s going to split and crack.
Find a dark cool space to dry it. Hopefully there will be something you can still work with when its dry.
Good Luck

-- Aj

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile


2381 posts in 517 days

#2 posted 08-31-2019 06:20 AM

Anchorseal both ends. If you cant get that, some woodworkers use thinned latex paint. Plenty of air, and time.

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: The Big Bang: Nothing - exploded into Everything. Thanks to Nothing.

View ibewjon's profile


2218 posts in 3763 days

#3 posted 08-31-2019 02:16 PM

Shellac is a better water barrier than latex paint. Zinnszer BIN is a white shellac based sealer that is used as a vapor barrier. Cleans up with household ammonia.

View jimintx's profile


934 posts in 2555 days

#4 posted 08-31-2019 04:24 PM

I appreciate these notes.
This piece being a flat round, or cookie, doesn’t really have ends in the traditional sense, but it of course has the two large surfaces. I realize they could be “painted” with something, as indicated so far.

I have read something about soaking these type cookies in alcohol or PEG. I don’t know if that will do anything or not, and either will be complicated due to size and shape, and a bit pricey. Any one have a thought on this approach?

Thanks again.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View Aj2's profile


3591 posts in 2768 days

#5 posted 08-31-2019 06:09 PM

It does have ends Jim. 36 inch wide ends.
There no way on earth that will stop cracks.
Because as the cells loose moisture they shrink.
As the circle gets smaller and smaller cracks have to form because there’s spaces.

It a good way to learn about wood movement.
But I wouldn’t spend any money it’s a losing battle.

Good Luck

-- Aj

View LesB's profile


2791 posts in 4413 days

#6 posted 08-31-2019 06:48 PM

PEG is probably the only thing that will limit the damage from splitting. It displaces the water which is the primarly source of the drying stress. A cross section that large just has too much stress developing as the water leaves.
Of course you can let nature do it’s thing and work with the cracks the best you can.

-- Les B, Oregon

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile


2381 posts in 517 days

#7 posted 08-31-2019 08:57 PM

LesB offers good advice, you will most definitely get checking on that cookie, so to let it happen and work with what nature offers you might be fun?

For example:


BTW, this olivewood bowl is a rockstar on pinterest. Maybe youve got a potential rockstar there too? Just roll with it.

Rock and rule.

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: The Big Bang: Nothing - exploded into Everything. Thanks to Nothing.

View jakeshouse's profile


1 post in 508 days

#8 posted 09-01-2019 01:08 AM

I dry blocks for turning in animal feed bags,it is a slow process though. It will mold and stain but will work out once you start the finishing process. House wrap will work for larger pieces of wood.

View KTNC's profile


178 posts in 1226 days

#9 posted 09-01-2019 02:02 AM

Hi Jim:

Funny thing … I just had a Oak Tree break and fall down in my yard too. The diameter of the trunk is 45”. I never heard of PEG (polyethylene glycol) before but googled it and ran across this 22 page document. I haven’t read it all, but it looks very thorough. Maybe it’ll help.

I’ve been contacting local sawmills but so far no one is interested. One thing I learned from one of the local experts is that if the tree is leaning as mine is, the lumber is less desirable because of the internal tension. It tends to warp more than if the tree was standing straight. He also said it’s better to use it for slabs than boards.

That’s a 10 foot ladder leaning against the tree.

regards, Kerry

View jimintx's profile


934 posts in 2555 days

#10 posted 09-06-2019 06:46 PM

Thanks everyone. I gave up on any type of soaking.

For now, I have it wrapped in a plastic drop cloth and am letting it sit in the shade. Outdoors in Housotn, the humidity is almost always at 70% or more, and that i sure the case for the next few months. I have the idea to see how it goes with letting it slowly dry out.

I think some cracks will be ok, and they can be bow-tied or filled or even left alone.

Since this cost me nothing to obtain, I have nothing much to loose with trying to tune it into something.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View BobAnderton's profile


312 posts in 3760 days

#11 posted 09-06-2019 07:05 PM

You might wish to watch Matt Cremona's video about sealing cookies as well as this one.

-- Bob Anderton - Austin, TX - Nova 3000 lathe, Alaskan Mark III mill, Husqavarna Saw

View tywalt's profile


107 posts in 1134 days

#12 posted 09-06-2019 08:13 PM

Jim, timely question. I’ve just cut up 3 red oak cookies that have been sitting in my shop for a little over two years now. Ranging from 38-44 in diameters. They came out of WV on a trip to the in-laws early summer 2017. I’ve been testing a few different methods to see if I could get one table top out of of them (because I’m suborn and have to learn the hard way). One was covered in Latex house paint, one Shellac and one Anchorsealed. To be honest, they were back in a corner and I had forgotten about them and went to stick a moisture meter in them last week. In moving them off the sticks, all three were split in at least halves. All around 11% which is about as low as air dry gets over here in Austin.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try, but just sharing some of my experiences.

The Latex paint didn’t work for me at all. I had 4 solid coats of some old grey paint (granted the paint was old) and that bad boy had split from edge to center in two places within 4-5 months. I painted inside the cracks when I noticed it but the damage had been done at that point. No additional cracks though that is no surprise as the majority of the shrinkage had already happened.

Shellac seemed to do well. I put 4 heavy coats on when I started the experiment and applied a coat every month or so for a few months… until I forgot about it. Upon inspection last week, two hairline cracks from edge to center that split as soon as I moved the cookie and one large crack starting in the center that broke through as soon as it was moved. Had I been more patient, I think this one could have been bow-tied and saved.

Anchorseal had the best results and was the largest piece. One large split with a ~2.5” gap at the edge end that didn’t quite hit the center but when moving it off the pile, the cookie split neatly in half along that crack. I haven’t actually chopped this one up yet as I am considering a “humpty dumpty” resurrection… but 2.5” is a big gap to try to span/fill.

In closing, I sure am glad to have that corner of the shop back… but now I have space for a new tool. Hope you have better results than I did!

-- Tyler - Central TX

View ibewjon's profile


2218 posts in 3763 days

#13 posted 09-06-2019 10:54 PM

Ty, could you rip a couple straight edges and make them whole again? Put some tennis across the joint? I always use anchor seal. Latex paint is not rated as a vapor barrier.

View Lazyman's profile


6317 posts in 2357 days

#14 posted 09-07-2019 02:43 AM

One thing you can try is to cut it in half or even wedges before you dry it. This relieves the stress so that is less likely to crack or at least less severely. Once dry, you glue it back together. What you are basically doing is precracking across the entire disk in a predetermined way. If you could rive it apart instead of cutting, you can fit it back together and get almost invisible joints, though that might be pretty tough to do on a 36” disk.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Snipes's profile


459 posts in 3215 days

#15 posted 09-07-2019 04:22 AM

Cookies dry good in the fire and you won’t notice any cracks..
That cookie has some big growth rings, which equals more splitting in my experience.
Red oak will rot quite quickly in a bag..
Vacuum kiln is your best bet..
Good luck

-- if it is to be it is up to me

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