cutting up fallen oak tree

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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!

cutting up fallen oak tree

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.

long view of taking down fence

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!).

taking down long busted fence from storm damage

carrying fence panels

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… ?

oak logs across fence line

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.

fallen oak tree in Georgia

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.

floating king bed with gray comforter white pillows leather pillows tribal pillow and moroccan wedding blanket

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.

cutting down trees in Americus-5

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.

fallen trees and lots to cut up

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!

charlie enjoying the wooded area while cutting down trees in Americus-2

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 think 2019 is going to be one heck 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).

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    1. She ran ALL OVER their land for two straight days. I think she was eager to go home. She’s used to being a city dog and looooooved running around, but she crashed HARD after all of that exploring. She’s going to have to do some adjusting. And I 100% agree — she’s always doing something that makes me appreciate her quirkiness and adorable goofball behavior.

  1. Sarah – I have also seen where it can be cut into a huge mantle for the fireplace too OR just to hang on the wall as a shelf. You can chink it with a chisel or crowbar and then burn the places where you put a dent in it. Makes it look vintage. I don’t think you’re crazy for doing this! Kudos to you for wanting to try it. You could make small tables and sell them to offset any cost for the headboard. Good natural hardwood that’s usable is very hard to find. Mother Nature did you a service!

    1. Ooh, I’ll look into those options as well! Thanks for the comment, off to search the web for images of those examples! (And thanks too for the vote of confidence!)

  2. Instead of trying to DIY the sawing, you might consider finding someone with a Wood Mizer portable sawmill to come to you and saw the logs. My dad did this with some beetle kill ash and the price was quite reasonable.

    1. Thanks for sharing that link! I am definitely considering a half-DIY type deal if the chainsaw mill option seems to difficult. The challenge with portable millers is that the wood we want to slab up could be too wide to put on one of those, and dragging it all the way to a mill that could handle it would nix most of the cost savings. I think the “hard part” in my mind is the patience it will take to wait for the lumber to dry once it’s cut down. Still researching though and your link has helped with more info! I think it could be cool too to use some of the smaller slabs for a DIY countertop in the vintage camper project. So many things to think about!