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I want to make a very unique newel post for the indoor winding stairs of my barn house. I have a cherry log that is of ample length and approximately 10 inches in diameter.

What I am picturing is a hollowed, naturally-finished log with randomly placed and shaped holes for stained glass, as well as holes to display artistic glass marbles and other pieces made by my sons (who are professionals in that field). The post would be lighted from within, have an equally unique top, probably also lighted, and at least one secret compartment. It is acceptable to me if there is a narrow section that needs to be removed for the hollowing out process, if that piece can then be replaced as a hinged door.

I can handle the lighting, routing, holes, secret compartment, etc., but am, frankly, baffled as to the best way to hollow out a log that is approximately 10" x 48". Does anyone have any ideas about this?

  • How well seasoned is the log? At 10" in diameter the usual guides to drying suggest that it might take as long as a decade to season properly O_O – Graphus Jun 29 '16 at 8:39
  • Well, I don't have a decade to spare. ☺ Since it going good to be a rustic piece, I'd rather make it, take my chances, and either fix or incorporate the probable changes in the wood. Thanks, Graphus. – Tennessean Jul 1 '16 at 17:37
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Consider cutting in two along its length

While I know there are techniques and tools that you can use to hollow the inside of this long piece of cherry I honestly think you might have an easier time with this project if you cut it down the middle along its length first.

You could try this in one of two ways

Cross section

Working on a better picture but this should suffice for now

Straight down the middle, like in the first picture, and then hollow both sides. Or trim of one side and then hollow the larger piece. I would use a bandsaw with a good fence to make this cut in either case.

I think I would go for the second picture as you can reassemble it with common hardware once complete. You can even make you own wood plug, with the stock that you remove, to cover the screw holes.

Removing the core

If you have a table saw that can cut deep enough I would try to us that to make cuts along the length of the wood. Work slowly but not too much as you can burn the wood and hurt the blade. Make many of these cuts that are, I would think, minimum 1/4" apart.

Enough of those cuts will make it so you can easily remove the wood with a chisel. Remember that you do not have to cut too deep like my picture suggests. Just enough to satisfy your needs of course.

Depending on you cut of wood this could be beneficial as doing this could remove the heartwood from the piece and possibly discourage checking of the wood over time. This would also make it easier to add your embellishments and work with the lighting hardware e.g. mounting.

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  • I expect you are going to get other better answers but this approach could suffice depending on what tools you have available. Test with scrap stock first so that you get a feel for the suggestions here. – Matt Jun 29 '16 at 0:42
  • Matt, this is a great start. I think I will re-measure the greatest depth I can safely cut with my table saw and possibly let that determine at what point I'll make the length-wise cut to separate the log. Thank you for this suggestion, and I'll let you know how it goes. – Tennessean Jun 29 '16 at 1:05
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    Of course, Matt's answer works great if you've got a square post. If you've got a round post, hollowing it out may be a bit more difficult, but this will still get you 90% of the way there. It will leave you with differing thicknesses (cutting straight through a round log), and that may lead to issue while drying - though it would leave extra depth for the nooks. – FreeMan Jun 29 '16 at 20:49
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    @FreeMan I should have used circles for the drawings. Like you said though the logic is the same both ways. – Matt Jun 30 '16 at 12:03
  • The log is round, but the information here applies and is helpful. Thanks. – Tennessean Jul 1 '16 at 17:41

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