Picking up a slab

In many sheds (and parties, and sports clubs) down under, that’d raise connotations of an end of the productive side of the day, and the cracking of a few favourite beverages is about to commence.  But for woodworkers, there is also the possibility that it means just that – the acquisition of a large flat slice of timber, usually cut by someone else who has more specialised toys than in the average shed.

However, if you own (or are considering) the Torque Workcentre, it is not out of reach, as the slabbing attachment gives the typical workshop the ability to claim very useable timbers from the very trees in which it grows.

The attachment has 2 main parts – two clamps that attach to the main arm on the TWC, and securely clamp a chainsaw between them.  About 4″ of the chainsaw bar length is lost in this, so a 16″ chainsaw can slab a maximum width of 12″.  The bigger the chainsaw, the more powerful the motor, the larger the slab you can manage.

There is a block on either side of the bar (narrower than the width of the bar, so as not to touch the chainsaw teeth) that hold the chainsaw firm, and with one at either end of the bar, it is locked in tight.

The position is probably different from chainsaw to chainsaw, but a hole through to, or scalloped out area near the chainsaw would be useful so blade adjustments can be done without the need to remove the chainsaw from the jig.

I’d also like to see some form of oil reservoir mounted above the chain with a controllable feed rate, as the normal chain lubrication method being gravity fed is rather ineffective with the chainsaw perpetually on its side.  However, these are all refinements to the basic operation.

I started with a lump of camphor laurel (yes, oh Roving Reporter, THE lump of CL – you’ll have to find an alternate seat!) that I picked up for $10 a couple of years ago, and secured it to the TWC.  Although this piece is short enough to pass through a resawing operation on the bandsaw, it works well as a test piece here.  With the chainsaw bar levelled out, and the depth of cut set, I was ready for a first pass.

The first cut was set very shallow – I only wanted to take off enough to flat-spot the log, so it would sit more securely on the workbench for further slices.

As the chainsaw bit in, the unmistakable aroma of camphor wafted through the shed, undiminished by the continuous air filtration of the Microclene unit, or even the head protection afforded by the Purelite Respirator (I geared up a bit for this) – I’d have to have used a carbon filter to extract that, but it isn’t unpleasant (although my wife strongly disagreed when she made a surprise visit, committing the cardinal sin of interrupting shed time 😦 😉 )  Even a couple of hours later when I walked past the outside of the shed, the smell was still very much in evidence!

With the first cut complete, the log was flipped over for the first slab to be cut.

One of the problems I always have, is getting timber that is thick enough when I go shopping – like purchasing steak from the supermarket, they are sold so measly thin, on the (probably correct) assumption that people will buy more quantity, rather than quality (3 thin steaks sells better than 2 thick ones).  This isn’t an issue when you do it yourself, and in the case of slabbing a trunk, you can cut the slab as thick as you like.  And you can also choose whether you want regularly sawn timber, or quarter sawn.

Not an option you normally get from a box-hardware store.  For the same reason – a quarter sawn log is more expensive (more timber is wasted) and the average shopper doesn’t distinguish, other than on the price.

There are plenty of ripples across the surface from the cut, but a few quick passes through the drum sander got rid of them without a problem (I used the drum sander to avoid the snipe from the thicknesser on a short board).

Finally, it was off to the new workbench, and firing up of the Festool ETS 150/5 (random orbital sander)

Hard to see here, but a quick rub down with a wood oil (the ol’ Triton oil in this case) really picked out the details.  I didn’t actually need to oil it yet, other than my own curiosity – the board will head over to the tablesaw to cut it to size for the next project, and get whatever finish is applied to that, but I just wanted to really see how the details responded, especially the spalting, to a bit of oil.

Fish in a Barrel

It may be said to be an easy thing to do (although Mythbusters had something to say about that), but one thing you do need, is a barrel. Barrels do come in all shapes and sizes, and the one that I now have outside the shed is a perfect size for it’s new purpose – an outdoor “bar” / table.

Bar Barrel

I have used a couple of half barrels as pots for plants in the past, and after a few years the timbers had shrunk significantly, and I didn’t want that to happen to this barrel.  Even though I didn’t wait too long (a week or two (but I don’t know how long the barrel had remained empty before that)), it leaked all over the place when I filled it.  Even so, it hadn’t been too long, and within a day or so the timbers had swelled sufficiently to seal the barrel again  It was horizontal at that point, and when I put in the bung and tried to get it upright, it was significantly beyond me – massively heavy.  I don’t know what the volume of the barrel is (I know, I could make some measurements if I could be bothered), but in the end I had to drain a lot out and stand the barrel upright.  Now with a central bung, it would be impossible to fill the barrel again, so I finally decided that a hole in the top wouldn’t hurt.

I tapped that hole with my Carbatec thread cutter, and screwed in a length of threaded dowel I made.  I also drilled another small hole through the side from the top, so if (when) it rains and fills the top, it will have somewhere to drain.

The barrel manufacture is quite impressive – each piece is unglued, and yet they sit nicely together.  The walls and top are a lot thicker than I expected.

At some stage I might do something about dressing it up – perhaps giving it a treatment with oxalic acid (to remove the dead timber cells) and oil, but at this stage it can simply remain a functional, outdoor shed bar.

%d bloggers like this: