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I've got a great looking walnut slab that I'm looking to turn into a wood-river coffee table. This slab is 2.5" thick, which gives me the thought of slicing it in half, thus having twice the material and possible twice the tables from it.

Is this even advisable to do? If it won't be a problem, what is the best way to go about it?

Slab dimensions are ~2.5' x 5' x 2.5"

  • If the end goal is to make river tables the slab is going to be ripped down the center anyways...If you rip it down to two 1' 3" wide boards resawing is a much more reasonable proposition. If you cut two more inches off of each board you could even do it on a normal 14" bandsaw. Is there some reason you want to resaw the whole slab? – SaSSafraS1232 Jan 29 '19 at 17:50
  • @SaSSafraS1232 the slab is actually about 10 feet long. I’m keeping the other 5’ section whole for another project. So, yea, was looking to have the one section cut in half so that I could get more out of it. I don’t see a compelling need for a 2.5” thick coffee table. Was hoping to get it cut so 1 piece would be the wood river and the other would remain whole for yet another project. Though I suppose I could simply do two River tables – Hueco Jan 29 '19 at 18:22
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Just to clarify, as I understand your question you want to turn your 2 1/2" thick slab into two slabs that are each the same size but 1"+ thick?

This operation is called "resawing". Typically this would be done with a bandsaw, however most home-shop bandsaws max out at around 1' of resaw capacity. For your slab you will need something with a much bigger capacity (30").

  • You could find someone with a proper milling bandsaw, such as a Woodmizer. This is probably the easiest thing to do if you're really intending to do this just for one slab.
  • You could put together a chainsaw milling setup (also know as an "alaskan mill"). This would get the job done, but I wouldn't be surprised if you end up spending $500-1000 if you don't have a chainsaw already. You'll also lose a lot more to the saw kerf compared to a band saw.
  • You could attempt this with a handsaw, but it will be a lot of effort, and I think you'll have trouble keeping it tracking straight in the center. Most panel saws max out around 26". Working from both sides you might be able to get through it with this, but it'll be difficult.

Also, you should expect to have some wood movement after you resaw. This will probably cause you to loose a substantial amount of thickness when you go to flatten the two new slabs. It is entirely possible that you will not have a usable board after it's flattened.

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  • This is what I was thinking. May have to take it to a lumber yard / find someone locally who can help – Hueco Jan 29 '19 at 1:45
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    @Hueco, just to let you know resawing a slab comes with a reasonable risk of ending up with two pieces of unusable wood. Regardless of whether you do it by hand or if it's done on a resaw or suitable bandsaw the release of tension could cause both pieces to warp. The wilder the grain the greater the chance. Even if the wood is free of tension subsequent drying (the interior of boards is always higher MC than the surface, and the thicker the piece the greater the gradient can be) can again lead to warping, and/or cracking, if you don't dry it carefully, i.e. stickered and weighted. – Graphus Jan 29 '19 at 6:16
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    to add to what @Graphus said, in my limited experience, slabs are often sold thicker than you might expect compared to regular lumber for just this reason. I've lost about 3/4" when taking slabs from rough to flat and surfaced. For resawing I would expect to get <3/4" on each half after surfacing if I started out with a 2.5" slab. That might be fine for you, but just a warning! – aaron Jan 29 '19 at 13:36
  • @Hueco the concerns about resawing are very valid. Take it to a local custom lumber yard and get their input on it too. They do this work daily and will be able to give you a better idea of what to expect based on your particular piece of wood. Bring in a list of questions (among them the points Graphus & aaron raised) - you'll most likely get a lot of help and make some new friends. – FreeMan Jan 29 '19 at 14:01
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    These concerns are a good point. I was thinking more about if it was possible rather than if it was a good idea when I wrote my answer. I've edited it to include this. – SaSSafraS1232 Jan 29 '19 at 17:46

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