Slab Happy

I’ve officially found my new favourite thing to do; work with live edge pieces. Since I got the piece of walnut a couple weeks ago, I had so much fun cleaning them up and making them into serving boards, I thought I would try making some furniture out of them too. I went back to the local wood guy close to my place and chose a fork piece of walnut. I was hoping for one with a crack in it so I could also try out the bowtie keys used to keep the crack from growing. I still have more small pieces on Wenge so I will probably use them for the keys.

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I purchased the walnut, a piece of black cherry and the guy was nice enough to give me a couple of slabs of spruce for free. They are only an inch thick but I might be able to make some shelves or something similar out of them. The black cherry was a little warpy which is why I got it for a very cheap price. Because I only wanted it to make some more serving boards, I didn’t care about the twists in the wood because they were going to get cut up anyways.

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The walnut piece was what I was really excited to get cleaned up. All things considered it was quite flat except for one of the forks. I’m going to turn it into a bench so even if I have one of the forks a little bit thinner, I don’t think it’s going to look bad.

I’ve been researching the different router sleds people have made to clean up these types of slabs. I settled on a fairly simple one using some angle iron. In the picture above I jointed some 2×4’s to setup a fairly small sled on my bench. I used this to test out the sled with some of the pieces of black cherry. Once I knew it works well, I was going to build a bigger setup to work on the walnut slab.

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Because the slab was bigger than my workbench I needed to build a similar setup that could be placed anywhere. I built mine out of a 3’x6′ piece of 3/4″ plywood. It was perfect size to sit across my table saw and workbench. I built the rails out of plywood as well and just attached them with screws on the bottom. I need to be able to break this down when I’m done and just having a flat piece of plywood that I can set against the wall seemed to be the best option. This way too I was able to screw things into the plywood to keep the slabs secure.

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Here is the sled ready to start cutting. I got myself an 1 1/2″ bottom clearing router bit to do all the routing. I tested originally with a 3/4″ bit and it took forever, even on a small piece. The angle iron is held in place by a couple grooves cut in the block to keep them straight. Then I sandwich them together with a piece on the bottom and has a bolt running through it with a wing nut to tighten. I used T bolts that way I could recess a small groove so it keeps the top secure when I tighten the wing nut and it has a low profile so the handles on my router don’t catch it.

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This was the first pass with the router on the underside of the piece. I tried to keep it cutting as little as possible so I wasn’t stressing out the router or the bit but with a piece like this, it really does have a range of heights and you don’t really see it until the router starts tearing into it. I had a feeling it was going to produce a lot of shavings but you don’t realize how much it does until you start. By the end I had a completely full garbage bag plus a ton of it sitting in my dust collector bag.

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Here it is continuing to get cleaned up. This is about pass 3 on it.

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This is pass 4 and everything looks nice and clean. It does have some slight marks throughout the piece which is where the bit passes over. I took a sander to it with some fairly rough sandpaper just to clean up all the marks and then will progressively move up to a finer grit to really finish it off.

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Once the back was done, I flipped it over and had a nice flat reference surface to then do the same on the top. I had bottomed out my bit in the sled so I wasn’t able to plunge it any further. I didn’t want to make my sled rails too high but I also wanted to be able to work up to 2 1/2″ slabs. All I did was take a 2’x4′ piece of 3/4″ ply which was the cutoff from the larger 4’x8′ sheet I started with and just screwed it down to the table and propped up the piece. This covered the majority of the slab and brought it nice and close to the rails. I took another 3-4 passes on the top and was left with a perfectly dimensioned slab. This piece will end up being a bench so I’ll post more on the actual build once I get all the planing done and start building.

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