Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: corvallis, Oregon
1) once the wood is cut, you want to paint, wax, or otherwise seal the cut ends to reduce moisture loss through the end grain. Failing to do that will very likely result in extreme checking.
2)the general rule of thumb for air drying is 1 year/one inch of thickness. Conditions will vary that accordingly.
3)milling and drying wood is not something I do, personally, except for a small amount for my own use. I've known a few people around who do it and some are pretty good at it. I have learned a lot from them, but it is not my own first-hand experience. I can tell you this much, I got some 13" diameter apple logs some years ago. Apple, like madrone, is infamous for its twisting while drying. I sealed the ends well, propped them up off the ground, and let the logs sit out through an Oregon winter. In the Spring, I brought them in to get milled, then I stacked and stickered them and covered the stack with a tarp in a non-heated shed for about 8 months. After that, they moved into my shop, where they sat for another year or so, still stickered. The result was practically no checking at all, some amount of cupping and twist, but nothing I couldn't lose because I had milled them thickly enough, expecting that.
As for clamping, I would think that would work if you can manage it, at least as well as anything else can. And I've yet to meet a sticker that didn't leave a stain. Since this is a small batch run for personal use, wax paper is cheap. You can wrap your stickers with it and that ought to prevent staining.
Most countertops are about 1 1/2". You can do 2", but you must bear in mind that appliances are made to fit under 1 1/2" counters, at a 36" counter height. If you go 36" countertop height with 2" thick counters, you won't get a dishwasher under it. So adapt accordingly, if you go 2".
BTW, whereabouts are you? I'm in Corvallis, OR.