The intent will be to route out a relief around raised lettering and chisel out a basic outdoor scene (trees...a fish...not sure yet) near the center. The relief area won't be painted, though I fully plan to stain/oil/whatever finish the entire piece to weatherproof it as best I can.
Thanks for the tip on sealing the pores. I originally posted here in the finishing forum to find out how to fill the cracks so that the weather here won't make them worse. I'm hoping that the advise on the finish will help prevent other cracks from forming. Sealing the pores seems like a good idea, but I've read a couple of dozen ways to do it and I'm a bit lost as to which method to use.
As for the "fairly dry" bit, I'm told it's been it's been drying for over a year, but I don't have a moisture content meter. I do intend to take a measurement before I start cutting into it.
Sorry if I have so many questions. I don't know anyone who does woodworking - even as a hobby. I'm asking all of these questions so as to learn from those of you who've been down this road and not make a "dumb rookie" mistake before I really tear into it.
I basically saw the piece advertised for sale and it sparked an idea. Given the rarity of finding something this size and shape around here, I jumped on it. I don't intend to even draw the lettering on it before I know exactly what I'm getting into regarding the cracks, weather protection, etc.