Not finished yet, but thought I would chronicle my latest project, and things I have learned along the way.
Found a guy on FB Marketplace selling live edged slabs. One of the pics really spoke to me, a "cookie" from a Red Elm tree, over 100 years old, size is about 3'x4'. Talked to the seller, has a neat operation, he mainly uses city trees that are being taken out for a reason. The guy is about 120 miles north west of me in an area of OK that is mainly farming, cattle, wind farms, and oil fields. He kiln dries the pieces, de-bugs them, and then surfaces them on his CNC router.
You can see that his router has some tear out on the strokes, takes a bit to sand those out.
An add on project to this is something my Daughter has been doing. She started "printing" tree sections, it is really cool, she wants to print this piece as well from the back. Turns out I decided to buy her one too, so she could print it, and make a table as well. Here is one of her prints.
This is her slab:
Getting her one allowed me to stabilize mine with some strips in the back, it was a little flimsy with the cracks in it, and moving it around the shop I didn't want it to completely separate.
I laid some poplar strips into the back which sufficiently stabilized the piece, then I decided to add some bowtie keys to the front. I started down the path of routing the keys with a jig. Bought the Rockler jigs, set them up for a test, and didn't like the proportion of the keys, nor the rounded corners. So I decided to do it the old fashioned way. I drew out my bowtie, made a template, and cut them out of Walnut.
After watching a lot of videos I determined that I needed a marking knife to mark the cut for the bowties, Amazon had one here the next day and I started marking. The knife is a bit of a PITA as it wants to follow grain, so I switched to a wide chisel while I had the bowties hot glued to the slab. Once I had them marked I used a forstner bit and randomly drilled holes to remove material before routing, then routed the pockets leaving about 1/8" to remove with the chisel. I found after the first one that I would sneak that down to 1/16" or so as it take a long time to remove the material.
There is a lot of finesse in cutting the pockets, and I quickly realized how dull my chisels were. Slapped a 600 grit belt on the 6x48 sander and they now cut like butter. I also realized it is easy to go just a little too far on the cut leaving a gap, so I took an old, poor quality import chisel and flattened the end to tamp walnut dust in the gap with some glue.
This is where it sits right now, 3 down, one pocket really close.
I have watched dozens of epoxy pour videos at this point, I have the epoxy, and picked a mahogany powder for coloring. In addition I am trying to work out a finish combination that doesn't darken the slab too much and wash out the beauty of the growth rings. In this pic I have Watco natural with spar var over in the center(too dark), and water based poly with spar var over it(to the right lighter), and some epoxy below that(too dark). A lot of the slab folks are enamored with Rubio Monocoat, I'll have some today to test.