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Complete noob, trying to create a maple slab desk

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Forum topic by HumanDr posted 01-22-2021 02:39 PM 894 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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HumanDr

7 posts in 36 days


01-22-2021 02:39 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hi everyone!

Just to get it out of the way, I am a complete novice to wood working. I honestly probably bit off more than I can chew, but I just finished my medical residency, and after about 7 years of being hobby-less and just dedicating myself to books, I wanted to try something new. So I figured I would try to make myself a wood slab desk (since my current desk is pretty pitiful), and I am totally prepared for failure. But in any case, I found this forum and everyone seemed very knowledgeable, so I’m hoping I could get some help.

The slab in question is a maple slab, about 74 inches long x 30 inches depth x 1.5 inches thick. It was cut in September I believe, was kept in a pretty humid woodshop, then has been stored in my garage since about October. It has a split about 26 inches long on the right side (image 3 and 4). It also has two knots in the middle (image 5). It has another split on the back side of the slab, which will be against the wall and out of sight (image 8 and 9). One long side has bark still on it (image 6 and 7).

My plan so far was to use Gorilla epoxy on the knots and splits, then sand it to 220, then use a Behr water-based clear finish polyurethane finish on it.

My questions are:
1. I would like to preserve the bark, since it has been months and seems like it’s not peeling or flaking at this time. I know it might in the future, but I wanted to see if I could preserve it. What is the best way to go about that?
2. Do I need to use bowties to reinforce that split? I was planning on using steel H-shaped legs with a flat part of going spanning perpendicular to the split, to help reinforce it.
3. Is the polyurethane finish enough, or are there other products/layers I should finish it with? It’s planning on being kept indoors.

Images are here: https://imgur.com/a/s3YU9T9

Any help would be greatly appreciated!


24 replies so far

View LittleShaver's profile

LittleShaver

727 posts in 1626 days


#1 posted 01-22-2021 02:58 PM

I think you’re jumping in a little too early. That slab needs to dry for at least another year before you start working it.

-- Sawdust Maker

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

17224 posts in 3625 days


#2 posted 01-22-2021 03:13 PM

Rule of thumb I’ve heard is one year per inch for drying, so based on that bit of common wisdom you might be jumping the gun a bit. That said, the ‘hurry up and wait’ advise is provided because the slap will likely crack and/or split a bit more before all is said and done.

Filling those imperfections with epoxy is not a bad plan. Especially at the knots. Bowties can be used for ornamental reasons of course, but are more than that if the split is bad enough that you’re worried about structural integrity. And if it’s that bad, it may be best to consider ripping the slab at the split and re-gluing.

I like the steel undercarriage you’ve described. By drilling elongated holes in the underside steel strapping, the slab can expand and contract naturally over time (wood moves; can’t change that).

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile (online now)

wildwoodbybrianjohns

2646 posts in 554 days


#3 posted 01-22-2021 04:30 PM

1 year per inch of – thickness, is what I think Smitty meant. If you go for it while the wood is somewhat “green,” you just need to take into consideration the slab is likely to shrink some more when designing the base and how it will be attached to the slab. If you use epoxy to fill and the slab shrinks some, the epoxy will eventually be proud of the surface to whatever degree.

Good luck.

-- WWBBJ: It is better to be interesting and wrong, than boring and right.

View Ruscal's profile

Ruscal

73 posts in 185 days


#4 posted 01-22-2021 04:57 PM

HumanDr did anyone seal the end grain yet? It should have been done when the tree was cut to length with Anchor Seal or similar. In air drying you want the different parts of the slab to dry evenly. The end grain dries much faster than the face or long sides, which causes cracks. I guess its never too late.

It looks like your slab includes the pith area of the slab. Others can weigh in on the stability of maple pith. Based on the cracks I think Smitty’s idea of ripping the slab lengthwise in two pieces, removing the pith/split area, and gluing the slab back together creating a narrower but more stable slab would be appropriate. If that is too narrow you could include wood from another board in between the two live edge pieces, trying to find matching grain.

Either way this is a 2022 or 2023 project. Store it to dry and forget about it for a while. In the meantime looks like you have a nice big garage there to fill with a table saw, band saw, planer, jointer, drum sander, miter saw, router table, drill press, and benches. Oh and a dust collection system.

-- Have a hobby? You should have a business.

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

6628 posts in 2394 days


#5 posted 01-22-2021 05:09 PM

+1 on waiting for it to dry some more. You might want to get yourself a moisture meter so that you can monitor the moisture content. It is likely still up over 30% and it needs to be closer to 10%. Also, make sure that you store it so that air can circulate all the way around it so that moisture loss is even on both sides. if you have to remove it from the saw horses, either lean it against a wall or lay it flat with some boards (AKA stickers) under it.

While you wait for it to dry, accumulate some tools and learn to use them by making some smaller projects. Browse and search LJ for project ideas and watch some YouTube videos as well. When the slab is ready, you will have better skills (and tools) to complete it.

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

View PBWilson1970's profile

PBWilson1970

185 posts in 400 days


#6 posted 01-22-2021 05:24 PM

The 1 year/inch of thickness is a good ballpark guideline, but you can push it if you can deal with some cracking that might form.

If you don’t want to wait another year, I’d find a drier place to keep it and perhaps have a fan blow across the length of the board, making sure to raise it up so that it gets air circulating on both the top and the bottom. Matt Cremona might be one person to check out on Youtube. He deals with thicker slabs and has dried a bunch inside his house in less time than you would think.

The cracks and knots look fillable. Just be sure you use an epoxy on the thinner side so it flows down in to the cracks and seals up the entire thing. I’ve never used Gorilla epoxy so I don’t know its consistency.

For movement, I’d try giving it some solid support to keep it flat, but be able to expand during the humid and dry months. A C-channel routed in the underside with elongated screw holes should work great. Canadian Woodworks on Youtube has videos on how they keep their slab projects flat, as does Blacktail Studio.

It should end up as a great piece. It’s a nice piece of wood and I wish you the best of luck turning it into an heirloom.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

View HumanDr's profile

HumanDr

7 posts in 36 days


#7 posted 01-22-2021 08:48 PM

Thank you for all the advice everyone! I hear you all loud and clear about waiting for a bit longer, but I’m pretty stubborn so I’m just going to continue working on this slab and just deal with the consequences down the road. I learn best by doing and making mistakes, and I feel like I just need to jump in. I’m going to look into some of the techniques that @PBWilson1970 suggested as far and trying to expedite the drying process.

@Lazyman you are absolutely right, I have 0 tools. I figured I would try one project first before investing in a bunch of tools. I have been keeping an eye out for some used tools however.

@Ruscal I believe the end grain was sealed, but the slab was initially about 95 inches long and I had about 25 inches cut off, so at the very least that end is unsealed. Do you suggest that I purchase some AnchorSeal like you mentioned to seal the end? I guess the idea is that it helps to prevent end-checking and splits, is that correct?

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

3663 posts in 2805 days


#8 posted 01-22-2021 11:36 PM

That’s a good looking slab. I too would be anxious to use it.
Good Luck

-- Aj

View Ruscal's profile

Ruscal

73 posts in 185 days


#9 posted 01-23-2021 12:51 AM

Bear with me while a vent for a moment.

HumanDr, you are the second “Noob” to post a question about handling green wood this week. Your also the second “Noob” to state that while you appreciate our advise you plan to ignore it. You’re going to go ahead and work the wood green.

If you learn best by being stubborn, making mistakes, and plan on making them despite pretty good advise, why would you waste our time by asking?

Successful woodworking will require patience, if you don’t have any you may consider another hobby.

-- Have a hobby? You should have a business.

View Foghorn's profile

Foghorn

1030 posts in 393 days


#10 posted 01-23-2021 12:52 AM



Bear with me while a vent for a moment.

HumanDr, you are the second “Noob” to post a question about handling green wood this week. Your also the second “Noob” to state that while you appreciate our advise you plan to ignore it. You re going to go ahead and work the wood green.

If you learn best by being stubborn, making mistakes, and plan on making them despite pretty good advise, why would you waste our time by asking?

Successful woodworking will require patience, if you don t have any you may consider another hobby.

- Ruscal


Get off my lawn! :)

-- Darrel

View HumanDr's profile

HumanDr

7 posts in 36 days


#11 posted 01-23-2021 08:10 AM



Bear with me while a vent for a moment.

HumanDr, you are the second “Noob” to post a question about handling green wood this week. Your also the second “Noob” to state that while you appreciate our advise you plan to ignore it. You re going to go ahead and work the wood green.

If you learn best by being stubborn, making mistakes, and plan on making them despite pretty good advise, why would you waste our time by asking?

Successful woodworking will require patience, if you don t have any you may consider another hobby.

- Ruscal

You’re absolutely right. That’s a fair point! I try to see it like one of my patients. They have a problem, and I can say they need to do X, Y, and Z to make it better. They might say they’re willing to do 1 or 2 out of 3 of those, and for me that’s good enough until I see them again next time. Any progress is progress, and sometimes people need a little guidance but ultimately get there on their own. Is it the absolute best thing they could do? No. But if they’re willing to do a little, I think that’s good.

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

6628 posts in 2394 days


#12 posted 01-23-2021 06:03 PM

You’ve got a room full of experienced doctors present. Listen to the doctor man!

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

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

3663 posts in 2805 days


#13 posted 01-23-2021 06:59 PM

I’m thinking for the most part everyone is correct it’s better to let the wood loose more moisture over several years.
Winter / summer / winter /summer. Why do we do this because any cupping across the width or twist will happen then we know what or how to handle what we’re dealt.
My eyes see a slab with a very balanced grain nice lines along the edges. And no big swirling grain on a corner.
The big long crack in the middle is clearly from the closeness to the pith. That not a big deal to me.
I stand by my opinion keep the slab stored nice and flat on a surface with good air flow and start working on the base.
Always have the base ready first.
Good Luck

-- Aj

View Robert's profile

Robert

4435 posts in 2487 days


#14 posted 01-23-2021 11:22 PM

I don’t understand your thinking, Doc. You’ve got people with experience are telling you you’re about to make a big mistake, and you’re doing it anyway? Isn’t your time more valuable than that? I hope you didn’t do that during your residency!! LOL.

Slabs are notorious for cracking, splitting, cupping, bowing – any kind of movement you can think of.

So unless you don’t need a flat writing surface or your computer rocking back and forth, by all means, proceed!

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View PCDub's profile

PCDub

239 posts in 1251 days


#15 posted 01-24-2021 04:22 PM


- 1thumb

No clue as to why this comment is here. Completely irrelevant and intended to create conflict and argument.

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