Seasoning beech log for tabletop

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Seasoning beech log for tabletop

Postby Kevin Downing » Wed Feb 20, 2013 12:15 pm

I have a friend who has a very old big beech tree down. He reckons it is 5 foot diameter at the base. He intend to sell it but would like to keep a slice off the base for a table top. He is wondering what amount to cut off and how to keep it/ season it so there are no cracks when he get a tabletop made from it. What should I advise him?
I asked if there was rot and he said there was some up the centre. I asked if this was the reason it fell, but he said it wasnt, a gale knocked it. He said the ground was so wet that it couldn't withstand the normal winter gale.
Regards,
Kevin
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Re: Seasoning beech log for tabletop

Postby TonyH » Wed Feb 20, 2013 1:44 pm

Does he mean by "a slice" that he wants an end-grain top ? If so, consider how many tables you have seen made this way. Not many, I'll guess. Without piecing together bits like a butcher's block, I'll wager it is almost impossible without splitting.

If he means to keep a length and plank it, then obviously he needs a length of trunk a goodly bit longer than the length of the longest piece the planned table design will call for.
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Re: Seasoning beech log for tabletop

Postby Kevin Downing » Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:29 am

Yes, he means a slice. The rot up the centre would mean it is a circular table (natural edge) with a central (rot) hole.
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Re: Seasoning beech log for tabletop

Postby gavin » Thu Feb 21, 2013 12:03 pm

Kevin Downing wrote: He is wondering what amount to cut off and how to keep it/ season it so there are no cracks when he get a tabletop made from it. What should I advise him?

Your recent post indicates you wish to cut discs and not planks.
You should advise him that because wood shrinks more in the direction of the bark than toward the centre i.e. more tangentially than radially any slice will crack. Since he will believe what he sees far more than what you tell him you read on the internet, tell him to go ahead anyway and cut slices of 2, 3, 4 and 5 inches. Each slice will crack, and your advice will be proved right.
If the grain is twisted, cracks may not matter and you could fill the cracks with some filler or glue or resin. That can be a decorative feature e.g. if you add some metallic flakes to the resin, or dye. Tables need to be light enough to be movable. This makes thick slices unusable. I would guess any thicker than 5 inches will be too heavy, but he can cut thicker slices if he wishes.
Cutting dead straight is difficult and will need a chainsaw at least the diameter of the tree, or a 2-man cross-cut saw with competent hands to pull it. He may lack some of these resources, but it is always fun making the attempt. Most people want the bottom of the table parallel with the top. If he also wants this but cannot make two parallel cuts across his log, he must either give up, or decide he's happy with a top and bottom in different planes.

Store the slices under cover in the shade with ventilation and battens approx 10 mm square to separate the slices and allow ventilation.

Worst case you'll get some nice firewood.
Gavin Phillips


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Re: Seasoning beech log for tabletop

Postby pedder63 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:48 pm

I'd also suggest he oils both sides of the slices, to slow down the rate of drying. I have seen this work on a large oak slice, about 2" thick. It surprised me, but i guess if the tangential to radial shrinkage is roughly equal, and it dries evenly perhaps it might work.
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Re: Seasoning beech log for tabletop

Postby Shankar » Sat Feb 23, 2013 12:29 pm

I've seen these in Nandos but as small 2.5 ft decorative tables. They have lots of cracks in them but I think the rustic feel is part of the look and maybe you friend needs to embrace the cracks and maybe put a subframe to stop the top falling apart.

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Re: Seasoning beech log for tabletop

Postby Shankar » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:07 am

Just had a thought (unusual but true :)
If he wants best of both worlds i.e. a tabletop full of cracks and features but flat to use where the cutlery does not mysteriously disappear he could get a tempered glass top to cover the slice of tree. This would make a lovely at tabletop.

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Re: Seasoning beech log for tabletop

Postby AlexanderTheLate » Mon Feb 25, 2013 7:04 pm

Checking rarely goes deeper then 4 or five inches, so, if he cut the slice a fair bit thicker then needed, let it dry and then planed/ cut away the sides with the checks, it could work, but a fair bit of work for a table.
I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.- Unknown.
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