I'm planning to make a deck (~18m2) using oak railway half-sleepers (50mm thick, 200mm wide). They are fresh sawn, so they are pretty rough with splinters, etc. Is this a good idea at all? Can I sand them (with belt sander?) to a decent enough for deck finish? I've read somewhere that it's really hard to sand fresh sawn softwood - is it also the case with oak? If it's possible, assuming I have a decent belt sander, how long sanding may take - would it be hours or days? After sanding, what could I apply to improve the finish and make sure there are no splinters and the deck is "nice to touch"?


  • 1
    Oak flooring is regularly sanded with a floor sander. You may consider laying down the decking then renting a floor sander (and purchasing a couple of sanding belts) to get it flat, level, and as smooth as you'd like it to be. With an appropriate floor sander, it would probably take a couple of hours (rough guess).
    – FreeMan
    May 31, 2019 at 15:00
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    If these are genuinely fresh-sawn you wouldn't want to use them I don't think, they're going to move a lot between now and when they've air-dried as much as they're going to (down to about 14-20% MC depending on conditions).
    – Graphus
    Jun 1, 2019 at 5:42
  • Is this truly "green" wood or dried wood that has been recently cut up? I've read the question a few times and can't decide which one you meant....
    – gnicko
    Nov 8, 2019 at 20:23

2 Answers 2


Green oak at 2 inches will move 'a lot' as it dries out. If you constrain it with coach bolts or whatever, then it will split - it may well do that anyway, all dependant on the grain of the original.
Almost certainly it will twist, and that's almost impossible to stop.
All is not lost though. Sanding is out, it will just shred and clog the abrasive. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise for green timber.
Th traditional way of finishing it would be to use a blade - an adze, or you could get away with a side axe, to leave a finished surface, then affix with a single bolt in the centre of each board. They will likely curl and produce trip hazards but with your trusty adze you can trim those down when they appear. In two or three years they'l have stabilised.



Stack, sticker, and end seal this lumber until it is well-seasoned. Then take it down to nominal dimensions. It is going to move a lot if you install it green. Decks are enough work as it is; don't borrow further trouble.

Assuming you are going to use some sort of finish to help with the weathering (and even though this is probably so-called "white" oak, it would benefit from some sort of finish for longer useful life) the moisture content matters as well. Unless you are going to roll on the relatively toxic anti-rot stuff, which I think can go on green wood.

Or buy pressure treated decking already dimensioned for easy installation from your local and use that, keeping the seasoned oak for other parts of the deck construction.

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