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First of all, I’m SO GLAD you guys are so excited about the Ruby’s Revival project. We’re going to need lots of encouragement as we go, so I’m thrilled to see how many of you are embracing our side project with enthusiasm!
But, I must confess, that might not even be the craziest thing we’re considering right now. As I mentioned in the Ruby “before” tour post, we went down to visit K’s parents in south Georgia to help them do a lot of cleanup on their land.
Hurricane Michael had done some damage, mainly in the form of fallen trees. I spent a chunk of the first morning taking down an entire fence line (and later learned I had an audience from a watchful neighbor the whole time… creeeeepy!).
And on that land, there’s a lot of cedar and oak. I think I may have heard a faint collective “oh, what on earth does this mean?” from across the web… ?
The trees that are likeliest to fall are dead or near-dead ones. The wood on the inside of the trunks is often rotting away, which isn’t always ideal for woodworking. We cut down quite a few after they’d broken and fallen against other healthy trees (fallen trees can kill healthy trees… which could fall, then kill more healthy ones, and so on). Even when the wood from these trees isn’t usable for projects, it’s still usable as firewood, which we also need. One cedar tree in particular, we cut up into logs and lugged the majority of it home in the back of my SUV (a cute DIY firewood stand with free plans is on the way!).
For a quick refresher, I wrote a post about cutting down small trees earlier this summer if you want some tips.
Watch the video of some of the cleanup efforts:
But, when the bigger trees fall, they require a lot more chainsaw action. They also present a unique opportunity, which is where the crazy part comes in. I’m talking bowl making. Wood carvings. And even… milling down a slab for my headboard.
Milling/Slabbing Fallen Trees
You see, there’s this really hot trend in the woodworking world that I’ve come to love. When you mill a tree trunk (aka, slice up a tree into lumber), but not perfectly square it up to be a wooden board (like the stuff you see in the lumber aisle at home improvement stores), you can still see the tree bark along one or more sides of the cut. This is usually called “live edge wood” but can be a crosscut or rip cut in terms of the tree trunk itself.
- Crosscut: When you cut a trunk across the full width of the tree (where you can see the tree rings), it’s called a “cookie” (get it?). You can do the same with branches and turn them into all sorts of DIY projects — coasters, plate chargers, tree ornaments, etc. With bigger chunks, you can even make them into coffee tables.
- Rip cut: When you take a cut that’s along the length of a fallen tree, that’s usually referred to as a “slab”. And, as you might have seen me post about back when I showed you the new rugs for the master bedroom, I’ve been wanting to use a slab as a headboard. Like, really, really, willing-to-spend-a-huge-chunk-of-decorating-budget on finding the perfect slab. It can be very expensive.
So, when presented with huge chunks of wood just sitting on K’s family’s land, ready for slicing up, I got to thinking. The opportunity fell across my lap (though thankfully not literally):
Is it possible for us to slab up one of these trees ourselves?
Now, to assure you I’m not entirely crazy, I do know a few folks in the woodworking world who have already done it using a chainsaw mill, like April Wilkerson, and Aaron from Mr Fix It DIY. I know that it’s possible — whether or not I can make it happen is what I’m researching now. I hadn’t even considered it until I saw just how big these trees were.
The upside (if we were to do this is) that I could get my headboard for a greatly reduced cost and even sell off the other slabs we cut down if we don’t need them (since we could get multiple slabs from a single tree). It would be a great learning experience and tons of fun to say we did something like this for our headboard. The slab would have some sentimental meaning too, since it came from K’s childhood home and we completed it from tree to headboard, rather than just buying something. There would still be considerable labor on it either way.
Of course, there are downsides. Mainly the potential to totally screw it up in a million different ways and still have to buy a slab that someone else did correctly. It’s a lot of work just to wind up with firewood. But if it wound up not being possible to slab it up ourselves, we could still potentially get a mill to do it for us, so there’s some middle ground too (and it might still save us $). We would still have to find a way to air-dry or kiln-dry the slab before we could turn it into a headboard as well.
After slabbing… there’s still a lot of work!
Past that initial challenge though, the rest of the DIY would be the same if we buy ($$$$$) or not ($$?): acclimating the slab, removing the bark, flattening the dried surface, stabilizing cracks and filling voids, finishing, mounting to the wall, etc. So, regardless, this will be a lot of labor and time to complete. I’ve considered faux too; I simply want the real deal instead. I figure that we’ll have plenty of opportunity to think on it and figure it out between the various trips we’ll need to take in the next few months; there was too much damage to complete in one trip and we have plenty of reason to go back!
I dunno, guys. If DIYing for nearly a decade has done anything, it’s made me less fearful of whether or not I can if I just set my mind to doing it. It usually just takes research and getting the right equipment for the job. I still feel crazy at the thought, but I’m feeling brave about it, too; it doesn’t hurt that I have someone who is just as on board with the idea as I am. This last year of construction and woodworking has really made me excited about how many doors there are left yet to open.
- I want to do more small wood carvings and art pieces
- I desperately want to try a chainsaw project (like making a bowl using a chainsaw and angle grinder disks??)
- My partnership with Bernzomatic made darkening wood with fire fun
- A friend of mine showed me how to do my first weld earlier this month (recap on that soon, too)
I think 2019 is going to be one hell of a ride. I’m still behind on a lot, I’ve still got renovation taking up 80% of my brain space, but I’m excitedly thinking about the “what else” pile, too. In reality, I’ve got 6 or 7 projects that I haven’t had time yet to share, and the pub shed series hasn’t even truly begun either. So, maybe the Thanksgiving break will be a good one to tackle a few of these before 2019 creeps up too close. If you’re in the U.S., I hope you all have a wonderful holiday week and get some quality time with your families (my gift guides are on the way, plus my Christmas decorating, too).