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A local sycamore came down and pictured is the 20" diameter "slab" the town's chainsaw guy was nice enough to cut on the spot. But it's thick and too heavy. My wife can't handle it. I wanna slice it in half the long way and have 2 circular "tree trunk" cutting boards, just lighter and thinner.

Some local woodworkers I called can't seem to do it. Maybe something about the diameter being too large. What's a couple ways to accomplish this whether local pros would have the equipment or something an amateur like me could possible do himself.enter image description here

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  • The Zircon Metalliscanner m40 will detect hidden nails. It even finds near rebar in concrete. Your local re-sawer may have a metal detector if they routinely saw found/heritage wood.
    – John Canon
    Oct 18 '20 at 4:25
  • Are nails in live trees common? Why do you think there are nails in this green wood from a tree that just came down and was bucked up for removal with a chainsaw ?
    – Alaska Man
    Oct 18 '20 at 18:07
  • You could saw this in half using any decent hardpoint panel saw (the type of saw sold in every home center/DIY outlet, with induction-hardened teeth). If you're in the UK the Predator saws made by Spear & Jackson come recommended by many users. This should be understood to mean one could, I don't know if you could accomplish this with little or no experience, plus holding the wood securely for the cut (while being easily repositioned) will be very difficult to impossible to arrange.
    – Graphus
    Oct 19 '20 at 7:24
  • Re. the potential for splitting, you have actually been extremely fortunate that this hasn't split already. The great majority of simple trunk slices like this will split, even with care taken during drying (which I presume this didn't get) it's sometimes impossible to get more than about a 50% yield.
    – Graphus
    Oct 19 '20 at 7:29
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    @AlaskaMan it has nails in it because it has nails in it. It has nothing to do with being green. It has to do with decades of unknown provenance. When cutting urban lumber you always assume it has nails in it because "low probability, high consequence". This means you either reject most felled timber you don't know the pedigree of, or you switch the blade to one that can handle hitting a nail and proceed with caution. This is why some yards accept urban timber, and some don't.
    – jdv
    Oct 20 '20 at 0:13
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What you are asking is to "resaw" this into more usable lumber. This comes with some challenges:

  • It's ~20 inches in diameter, which is pretty large.
  • It's urban lumber, and no one wants to risk hitting a nail with their expensive saw that can resaw 20 inches.

There are a few ways you can resaw this, and one requires finding someone with lumberyard equipment willing to risk hitting a nail. There is equipment intended to cut slabs that might be able to slice this lumber (essentially a high-powered horizontal band saw), but it isn't common in the home shop. You'd have to call around at local lumberyards and ask if they resaw small jobs of urban lumber. Some places specialize in resawing urban lumber so you might get lucky.

I suppose a large enough band saw that had a large enough throat could do it, but that would be a really big band saw. And then you'd have to hold the lumber in a pretty dangerous jig. And then you might still hit a nail. So, you need to find someone with a 24in band saw who is willing to put in the time to jig this up safely and risk breaking a blade. You'd be expected to cover the cost of the blade, I expect.

If you have a good friend and some patience you can try to resaw this the old fashioned way: with a "two-man" saw (otherwise known as a "misery whip") but that would take some dedication and a lot of sweat equity on your part. And you'd have to buy or borrow the saw, and know how to use it.

Put plainly: you need to find someone with special equipment willing to do this work and take the risks, or you have to do the work yourself.

Be aware that cross-sections like this are very unstable the thinner you make them. It'll start to check and crack, and there will not be anything you can do to stop it. This is why large blocks like this are usually quite thick.

Honestly, you should do what everyone does who has a large cross section like this as a chopping block: put it somewhere semi-permanent and don't move it. A board like this is intended to be used in a more commercial setting, as it can take a lot of abuse and be scraped down as it wears. Find a place for it in the kitchen prep area and live with it.

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  • Listen to this answer, especially the part about thin cross sections being unstable. If you cut your block in half, you'll have two pieces that will both be very likely to split just from seasonal movement or to break if you ever drop them. Go back to your local woodworkers and commission a more manageable cutting board and put this one away for special occasions. (But rub it down with mineral oil to help protect it first.)
    – Caleb
    Oct 19 '20 at 6:53
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Beautiful piece of wood. If your true end goal is to double your wood, then @jdv seems to have covered the subject thoroughly. If your end goal is to make it light enough so your wife can and will use it, then I have a different idea.

I'd flip it over and using a router, I'd just hog out wood until I had a perimeter wall 3/4" to 1" thick and leave enough for a cutting top thickness of 1" give or take. With some creative work holding you could probably rout a couple of finger grooves on the outside of the perimeter wall to make it easier for your wife pick up, if that doesn't alter the current appearance too much. Either way, you'll likely cut the current weight in half, at least.

Once turned right side up again, it should appear as the very nice slab that it is now.

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There may be a way to use an Alaskan Chainsaw mill to cut it in half, if you can secure the piece from moving.

If not you could find a mill-work shop that is willing to run it through their planer; of course this gets you only one slab.

I am not sure why there would be nails in green wood from a newly fallen tree but you could use a metal detector to ensure there are none.

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  • There's a semi-famous story, probably repeated by Fine Woodworking, possibly apocryphal, about visiting a local sawmill somewhere in NE US. Someone is trying to find out if he can get the tree out of his yard sawed into lumber and one of the locals looks at it and says "naleinitsumwhere" in his thick rural accent. It's urban lumber, there's a "nail in it, somewhere".
    – jdv
    Oct 19 '20 at 0:39
  • Why would there be a nail in it? Some bored neighborhood kid 20 years ago... No other reason whatsoever.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 19 '20 at 11:09
  • I don't know how anyone else hasn't flagged this already but you're not likely to find any shop willing to send this through their planer!!
    – Graphus
    Oct 24 '20 at 7:22
  • Heh, yeah. With saws you can find a shop that'll use a bi-metal blade that can hit metal and survive. But finding someone to risk their planer will be a looooong shot. Maybe if they are brave and have a set blades that use carbide inserts they are willing to shatter!
    – jdv
    Oct 24 '20 at 13:51

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