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Working Thick stock

johnprose's picture

Hi guys,

This is again the place to come for creative ideas on a dilema I've encountered.

I have a customer that wants me to create a 24' long bar top with two slabs of 3" thick walnut (20" wide, 12' each)  they milled on site. I've checked the moisture content and calculated movement so there is no problem there.

The customer side of the bar is to be left live edge; that's the easy part. The other side of the bar has to have a straight edge. Also, where the two slabs join together has to be straight.

Problem: How in the heck to cut a straight edge on a 3" thick, 12' long slab on the customer's site? I don't have a circular saw with a depth cut of 3", but maybe I can rent one.  My only other thought is to rough cut the straight edges with something and then use 2" pattern bits to get it straight. (Top bearing bit on one side, flip the stock and use a bottom bearing bit.)

Any other ideas smart people?


johnprose's picture

Update (post #170730, reply #1 of 19)

After some calling around, I found that no one rents a 10 1/4" circular saw and none of my "buds" have one either to borrow. The cheapest I can find for a 10 1/4" saw is $270 from CPO for a recon Milwaukee.

I hate buying a tool for just one project, but I may have to.

Any other ideas?

RalphBarker's picture

Work in reverse? (post #170730, reply #2 of 19)

I think I'd work the issue in reverse. That is, determine how you are going to join the ends of the two slabs (e.g. two or three routed I shapes with threaded rods, plates and nuts), and install that first, so registration of the two slabs can be maintained during further work. Then, all you need is a dead-flat 24-foot workbench.  ;-)

On the practical side, you might want to plan for some adjustment capability in the supporting cabinetry, so the alignment can be fine-tuned when the joined slabs are actually attached on-site.

johnprose's picture

Edge joining (post #170730, reply #3 of 19)


Joining the ends and allowing for adjustment is pretty easy. The problem is creating that perfectly straight end where they join and the perfectly straight 24' edge.

How to cut a 3" slab and get it perfectly straight on the ends and one edge?

RalphBarker's picture

3" depth of cut (post #170730, reply #4 of 19)

Ah, I thought you had resolved that with your original idea of renting a (really-big) circular saw. (Your interim post was done while I was composing my initial response.)

Makita also makes a 10 1/4" saw (3 3/4" max cut at 90°), and a monster 16 5/16" saw (6 1/4" max cut at 90°). A 24' guide rail would be needed to keep it all straight, though, and you'd likely need to touch up the edge with a planer (e.g. a Makita KP0810 or 1912B) or long flush-cutting bits in a router, followed by some judicious sanding.

I thought special projects were excuses for buying new tools. ;-)

Westchester's picture

Thick Top (post #170730, reply #5 of 19)

Can you rent a 10 inch contractors saw and feed it through.  Or maybe cut as deep as you can with the 7-1/4 - finish up with a hand saw and plane.


robbo41's picture

Have you figured out how you (post #170730, reply #6 of 19)

Have you figured out how you are going to move this board around? Black walnut weights about 3.2 lbs per board foot (varies with MC). you have about 57.6 boad feet in each of those boards for a weight of 184 lbs. That's a lot of weight to horse over a table saw. 

I think your idea of a large circular saw is correct. Look for a Beam saw - with a blade diameter of 16 5/16 inches. Someplaces in the country you can rent one.

Alternatively, make a rough cut to get it close with a chain saw, then build a rail and carriage for your router out of wood, much like you would use to smooth a board too large to fit into your planer. These have been in FWW a few times over the years, the most recent is the December 2011 issue  which had Nick Offerman using one to surface large slabs of walnut for table tops. Instead rails built to flatten the surface, you could turn the concept on its side (the rails and carriage for the router that is) and achive a straight edge fairly easily. Don't take too much off at once with the router - less than 1/8 inch, or you get tear-out. If you don't have that issue handy, google Fine Woodworking Nick Offerman and just look at the cover image for the magazine, you will get the idea.

Good luck with your project,


johnprose's picture

Moving and ripping (post #170730, reply #7 of 19)

Moving the slabs is just muscle work, we grow em big and strong here in Ohio. No worries. I am most certainly not going to try to rip these slabs on a table saw.

It looks like the consensus is to bite the bullet and get a big circular saw, rough rip it and then gently straighten out the edges with the pattern bits.

I'll read the December, '11 article you reference tonight and see where that leads me.

Thanks, and I'll report back on the progress.

robbo41's picture

I also live in Ohio and have (post #170730, reply #9 of 19)

I also live in Ohio and have three sons who are now strapping young men. Getting them all on the same page moving a slab of wood in a very precise way - different issue - so yeah, ripping on the table saw may not be a great idea.

I am looking forward to your update on your progress on this project - any chance of pictures here or elsewhere on the web?


roc's picture

My way, might work for you (post #170730, reply #8 of 19)

Cut it close to straight how ever you like : chainsaw, multiple passes with a worm drive circular saw from both sides, or take it some where and have it cut with a bandsaw . . . you know . . . get it close


So your work is about this thick

apparently that is pretty wimpy stuff for these guys

:     )

You could cheat and use a big o' long American one but that takes all the challenge ot of it

On this one the length is getting up to what you want to plane.  Be patient for load then skip ahead to the last of the video

are you seeing a common theme here ?


Sumitsubo to layout the rough lines


a long level used as a straight edge to check and refine the edge.

Bada Boom, Bada Bing

No noise, no dust to speak of.  What's not to like ?

:   )

PS: don't have the chainsaw, don't like the multiple passes with a worm drive circular saw from both sides, can't find a place with a bandsaw (not to mention the truck to get it there but you got a move it some time )

Then no problem

(watch your toes)

Now why didn't I think of this ?


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

johnprose's picture

Forward progress (post #170730, reply #10 of 19)

Excellant ideas guys!

Robert, The Offerman idea was one I should have thought of. I already have that jig that I use to flatten VERY large (400 - 900lb) butcher blocks we make for professional butcher shops in the area. Thanks for sparking that back into my head. BTW - Where are you in Ohio?

The weight of each slab is just short of 300 lbs, so no big deal for 2 guys. Naturally, we'll never lift the whole slab at once, maybe just one end at a time. Easy as pie. We use no tractors, forklifts or other combustion engines around here, just the principals of Archimedes and our brain power. You know: "Give me a lever big enough and I'll move Rush Limbaugh." (Insert Oprah if your so inclined.)  No offense meant if you're a fan of either!

Roc, you are the Zen master of the external reference. It made for some interesting viewing.


We have decided to move the slabs to this workshop on Tuesday to do most of the rough work over the next week. We then have a firm deadline to install and complete the project Thanksgiving week for a December 1st opening.

On Tuesday, I also finalize the details on the contract, so I can give you some better idea of what this is all about including some videos after then.

Thanks guys!

robbo41's picture

John: That sounds like a (post #170730, reply #11 of 19)


That sounds like a serious butcher block - Maple?

I'm located in Fairfield County, which is South-east of Columbus, on a farm near the town of Pleasantville.

Looking forward to the videos.


johnprose's picture

Our Butcher blocks are (post #170730, reply #12 of 19)

Our Butcher blocks are sometimes maple, sometimes sycamore. Depends on the customer.

Medina County here.

roc's picture

interesting viewing (post #170730, reply #13 of 19)

:   )

Glad you don't take me too seriously.

The old dudes back in the day, pre alternating current what have you, sure worked hard didn't they !

I am looking forward to photos/video as well if possible.

All the best with your job !


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

johnprose's picture

The project begins (post #170730, reply #14 of 19)


Attached are a few pictures of the walnut. They ended up mostly being 20' long, 20" wide, and 3" thick. You can see in the pictures that we are constructing an outdoor workbench to work this stock which we will erect a tent over. Tomorrow, we'll pull each board off of the trailer. They'll roll nicely over the 1" pipe I have on the first two supports.

Now, for the project itself:

Here is a link to the new ski lodge that's being built. At 14 seconds into the video, you'll see the "S" shaped base where the walnut bar will be.  Most of the work will be done here, then transported for final assembly and finishing in 2 weeks.

BTW: Home Depot does rent a 12" circular saw only they don't know they have it. It's a Bosch 12" concrete saw that works just wonderfully if you put a wood blade on it. They didn't know that over the phone, but it was obvious once I visited and saw the saw. It's a standard 1" arbor and I have plenty of these blades.

Updates to follow


roc's picture

Mascot ! (post #170730, reply #15 of 19)

What's going on there ?  Bassett rottweiler mix ?

Does he have his own tool belt ?

Thanks for photos (side tip reduce photo file size to ~ 700 MB before up loading.  Some people have slow internet and can take for ever to load a photo of full size ).

Wow you are on your way.  Smart thinking with the Home Depot saw !


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

Zolton's picture

Tablesawing the slabs.. (post #170730, reply #16 of 19)

This might sound crazy, but have you considered upending a portable 10 inch tablesaw and running it down the slabs to create your straight edge? A 10 inch saw should be able to give you the depth of cut you need.

You could remove one or both of the extension wings in order to make the saw less wide and less tippy. And that would enable you to run one side up against a straightedge screwed to the underside of the lumber. Or you could tack a 3/4 x 3/8 strip to the slabs and run the saw's miter slot over that to ensure a straight cut.

You would probably have to add some weight to the underside of the saw in order to keep it from bucking up from the cut. And, of course, you'd have to be slightly careful. I suspect this would void any and all warranties. Plus, make sure your insurance premiums are up to date.

I've actually done something like this once - flipping a tablesaw over and using as a big circular saw, I mean. It's been a long while ago, however, and I don't remember much about it or why we were doing it. But I do know that it worked. And no one was killed in the process.


If you see a possum running around in here, kill it. It's not a pet. - Jackie Moon

roc's picture

you'd have to be slightly careful (post #170730, reply #17 of 19)

(or slightly crazy)

NO just kidding.  That's awesome.  Thinking out side the box for sure.  I like it !

Now if you could just rig up a combination of laser level and a few servo motors to follow it you could eliminate the wood strip.

I think you have invented a whole new way of doing woodworking.


I think if it were me I would hide behind the truck, er ummm herumph that is to say . . . monitor operation's progress from a strategic vantage point,  while you have one of the largest new guys give this a shot.  You know . . . just in case.  If you rig up the laser level and the servos everyone can hide behind the truck.  Before you throw the switch be sure to ask yourself . . .

"What would Red Green do ?"

:    }

Don't ask Harold he just confuses the issues with facts and stuff


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

johnprose's picture

Edging (post #170730, reply #18 of 19)

Uhhhhhh.... I don't know what to say about the upside down table saw idea. Speachless and yet amazed at the creativity.

Well, getting a straight edge turned out to be not so difficult. I just snapped a chalk line and then super tuned up my worm drive 7 1/4" saw for a perfect 90 degrees. After some practie, I was able to rip the planks straight, then flip and rip the remaining 1". There was just a little nib left that disapeared with a small block plane.

Now, I need to practice on cutting a 4' radius insde curve. Outside curves are pretty easy.

Attached are a few pics of he outside bench we created and the tent over it to allow us to work in most weather.


roc's picture

I'm Impressed With How Little You Had To Plane (post #170730, reply #19 of 19)

 >snapped a . . . line and then . . . worm drive 7 1/4" saw . . .  rip the planks straight, then flip and rip the remaining 1".<

YES !  It worked !

You sure got it lined up if that was all you had to plane.

Ink line wasn't even necessary; chalk was enough.


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )