Success With Large Slabs
From flattening to butterfly keys, how to handle one-of-a-kind pieces of wood
Synopsis: Chances are, you’re used to shaping wood to fit the project, whether you’re carving ball-and-claw feet or shaping molding on a router table. But when you work with a large slab, you have to turn that practice on its head. The slab shapes the project. The slab is the star. Turning these unique pieces of wood into furniture requires a special set of skills, from buying the slab to handling it safely to flattening it and shaping its edges.
From Fine Woodworking #206
Normally, when you build a piece of furniture, you shape the wood to fit the style—ball-and-claw feet, cove moldings, raised panels, and so on. But when you work with a slab, you have to shape your woodworking technique to fit the wood. The slab is the star, with all its seeming blemishes—swirly grain, knots, splits, and sapwood—adding to its character. You may think of a slab as a thick piece that’s very long or very wide, or both. Or, you may think that a slab must have a live edge. That’s not always true. A slab can be small (or smallish). It can have four sawn edges. It’s any piece of wood too big for your planer and jointer, with unique characteristics that you want to preserve and highlight, rather than remove or resaw away.
Like Hollywood stars, slabs can be temperamental and difficult to handle. Our furniture-making business builds period and contemporary designs. We’ve worked with plenty of slabs over the years, so we can show you how to make them behave.
You won’t find slabs at every lumberyard, so we’ll begin by talking about where and how to shop. Then we’ll explain how to move big pieces without injury, the best techniques for flattening slabs and…