Best way to turn a massive 5" cookie into a massive 2" cookie?

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Forum topic by Pete Tevonian posted 05-31-2010 05:28 AM 1478 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Pete Tevonian

78 posts in 2946 days

05-31-2010 05:28 AM

Topic tags/keywords: slab cookies siberian elm question router

We had a 60’ Siberian Elm taken down on our property, of which I’ve retained 330 bd ft as lumber, and two large-to-giant cross-sections of the trunk. One of the cookies, from the base of the trunk, measures 46” x 30” (roughly amoeba-shaped) and the other, from about 20’ up the main trunk is about 24” round. Both are 4” to 5” thick.

I’d love to make a coffee table out of the big one, but 5” thick is just too much. I want to cut it down to be thinner—maybe 2” thick when it’s all said and done—but I’m not sure of the best method. I’ve seen some folks recommend/use a router sled that can ride across a frame, to nibble away the wood to create a flat surface. That would seem fine for basic flattening of a rough slab but using that approach to cut away a 3” thickness of hardwood this wide/long seems like an endless task. Am I missing something?

My other thought was to create the same kind of sled, but for my circular saw. I would cut a cross hatching of 3” deep kerfs, and then going back with handsaw or chisel to chop out the remaining pins. But that’s a lot of end-grain sawing or chiseling. Is this an insane plan?

Who has a better method/idea? My first thought was to have the sawmill use a 50” chainsaw, but they weren’t confident the chainsaw wouldn’t mangle both pieces in the process…

Anyone successfully tackled a task like this?

Thanks in advance for any guidance!

-- Pete in Wilmette, IL

7 replies so far

View thatwoodworkingguy's profile


375 posts in 2958 days

#1 posted 05-31-2010 08:01 AM

Hand power plane?

-- ~Eagle America~ ~Woodcraft~

View Ger21's profile


1075 posts in 3159 days

#2 posted 05-31-2010 02:47 PM

Sorry for thee off topic post, but is the lumber any good? I’ve got 3 siberian elms that need to come down, and they’re pretty big. The last 2 I cut into firewood. Really, really nasty trees, btw.

Someone with a 5ft CNC router could do it for you, but it would probably cost at least $200.

-- Gerry,

View bent's profile


311 posts in 3697 days

#3 posted 05-31-2010 03:15 PM

i’ve got a couple of walnut pieces like that (45” diameter x 6” thick). i found an old 2 man saw at an auction that was in perfect shape for $10. my plan is to make a jig to guide the blade so i can get nice straight cut down the middle. then i’ll clean up the faces with a router sled. i’m not sure if this will work, but it’s what i’ve got planned for some future project.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3102 days

#4 posted 05-31-2010 03:31 PM

FWIW – I happen to own an old 2-man buck saw. I used it once just to see how well it would cut. I was impressed. I think bent’s idea of using a 2 man saw with a jig to guide is a great idea.

If you can find a 2-man saw, I advise you clean up the rust as best you can and put a lubricant on the sides. I also advise you to sharpen the saw well before you start and you may want to stop and sharpen again half way through.

By the way – You and someone else will get a good workout.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3014 days

#5 posted 05-31-2010 05:32 PM

I second Hersaf! They have some great, great cutters and I have a couple of the ones Rick linked to… they would definitely do the job pretty easy.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Pete Tevonian's profile

Pete Tevonian

78 posts in 2946 days

#6 posted 05-31-2010 06:36 PM

Thanks for the great feedback.

The bandmill is, I think, the preferred option—clean cut and very little effort. The only trouble is finding on big enough and convenient enough. If I were in Vermont or North Carolina, I doubt it would be that tough, but in the Chicago suburbs they may be more scarce.

I thought of the two-man saw, I just wonder about the effort to get it sharpened and then who I could bribe to man the other handle. That may be a lot of pizza and beer. I’ll look around to see if I can find a saw and sharpening option that’s cost effective.

I’m not clear on the Her-Saf cutters option. I understand they are insert router bits, but wouldn’t I need many many passes to remove the amount of material I’m talking about? As a finishing/flattening tool, that sounds like a good option, though I have a hankering to put my new Low Angle Jack plane through its paces.

And finally, I have two gallons of Pentacryl for preserving the wood, once it’s cut down. I’ve heard wondrous stories about its magical powers to reduce wood shrinkage/splitting. I’m excited to see if they can possibly be true.

-- Pete in Wilmette, IL

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Pete Tevonian

78 posts in 2946 days

#7 posted 07-07-2010 06:22 PM

As a followup to this topic: I took the thick cookies to the sawmill and had them use their 50” chainsaw on them. The chainsaw is mounted with a guide rail on two posts that are attached to the chainsaw’s bar. The rail then rides along an aluminum ladder that is nailed to the wood slab. So basically, the chainsaw can float along at a set distance away from the ladder, but staying parallel. Then two operators, one holding the saw handle and one holding the post at the end of the chainsaw bar, can guide the saw through the slab.

End result: A nice 2.5” thick slab with mostly flat and parallel faces.

-- Pete in Wilmette, IL

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