The large majority of the wood that I have is sawn in slabs. While the live edges allow more design possibilities, there are times when I don’t need them.
To process this slab, I start by aligning my straight edge just inside the bark. This results in the straightest grain with the least amount of waste. This wood is black locust, which I really like using. My sculpture, Something Like That is made of the same species.
I use a carpenter’s pencil to transfer the location of the straight edge onto the slab.
Then, I use my circular saw to make the cut. For large, heavy slabs, I prefer to use portable power tools to break down slabs into more manageable pieces. I use a circular saw when possible for efficiency, and a jigsaw for material thicker than 2.5 inches, or curved cuts (e.g. Relationship Study).
If the material is more manageable, I usually turn to my bandsaw for breaking down rough stock, mostly because it is safer to use with unflattened parts than the table saw.
Due to the dusty nature of this operation, I prefer to do this work outside, weather permitting. It creates a lot of dust, and if there isn’t a breeze carrying away the dust, I try to hold by breath for the duration of the cut. Unfortunately, I can’t hold my breath for the two-minutes it takes to cut through seven feet of 2.5 inch thick hardwood.
If the saw doesn’t make it all the way through, I usually finish with a hand saw. I find it quite enjoyable pretending to make the entire cut with a hand saw at an amazing speed.
This edge needs to be jointed to make it smooth and straight. Note that even if the cut surface is perfectly smooth and straight, I still check it a few days later to ensure that the wood hasn’t moved after being released from the rest of the slab.
Here’s the yield (minus the long piece at the back which is my straight edge). I will allow them to acclimate and stabilize before processing them further into rails and cross members for my vehicle’s roof rack.
What a Mess
As I broke down the slab, I was aware of the massive amount of dust I was creating. My circular saw, which takes a 0.069″ kerf, removed 125 cubic inches of material. That’s equivalent to a 5 inch cube – a lot of dust to throw around.
The Festool TS 75 Track Saw is starting to make a lot of sense to me. Not only does it have provisions for dust collection, the saw has over 3 inches of cutting capacity and leaves a much better cut surface. Using a rail to guide the saw allows me to make perfectly straight cuts, resulting in less clean-up. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to wash the sawdust out from between my toes.