Presenter: Damon Barron
Damon Barron from Carolina Urban Lumber / Treecycle America presented at our September meeting. Live edge slabs are very popular and Damon has delivered 4 tables just in the last month and has completed more than 290 to date.
We learned that in our region, bark will come off of the piece about 99% of the time. The only exception to this is when a tree is felled in February and when not working with wood more than 12 feet above the trunk. This the period when the tree is dormant and the live part of the true essentially forms a glue that helps the bark stay on a dead tree. For this reason, Damon removes most of the bark from his tables.
Preparing a piece involves cleaning the edges where the bark was located. The easiest and best solution is to use a stiff bristle brush after removing the bark with a putty knife and mallette.
In flattening a slab, one of the most difficult things to work are knots. They are always present and will usually result in some form of movement in the wood while it is drying. Sometimes it will crack. Other times, it will crack the entire slab if it is in the right spot. These can also cause the wood to curl. When working with a curl, it is generally a good idea to take the same amount of wood off both sides of the slab. Otherwise, a cup will form due to the change in the wood stresses. Leaving a slab in the sun will also result in a cup.
Damon shared a story with us of a large slab he put in the sun which resulted in a huge cup and it took a number of days of flipping the slap to resolve the issue, but he was eventually able to get the cup reduced enough to finish the piece. The sun can do a lot of damage and can create a lot of extra work in dealing with large slabs of lumber. The choice of wood does make a difference. Cedar almost never warps and rarely moves. It also has a very low moisture content so it is an ideal wood for these projects. Large slabs require a lot of drying and therefore patience. Keep it out of the sun, wind, and rain. Once the moisture content is down to 20% put it in the kiln. Never put different sizes in the kiln at the same time because they will dry at different rates.
Live edge slaps are very heavy and will require a hefty base. Damon uses metal frames for most of his tables, but trestle bases are also popular. When fastening the legs, it is important not to over-tighten the screws and washers. The weight of the slab will generally keep it from moving and the screws are simply there to insure it stays in the right place over the legs.
The picture to the right shows the various levels of sanding that Damon performs on his pieces. This demonstrates a rough CNC surface, 25 minutes Rough Sanded, 25 minutes of 80 grit sanding, 25 minutes of 120 grit sanding and finally 35 minutes of 150 grit sanding before wrapping up the finish.
Damon finishes his work with a two-part conversion varnish, but will sometimes use a water-based varnish instead.