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Hi Guys, new to the forum here.

I recently aquired some burl slabs from a co-worker. 1 is yellow cedar, and the other is red cedar. They were laying with around 20 other large burl slabs in her garage. Most of them were labelled 1998, so they have been drying for quite some time. I have been doing some searching so see how I will go about finishing these..

First off, the large red cedar burl: I am looking to make into a coffee table. It is around 42" wide and 5"thick. The first issue is that when the burl was cut with a chainsaw, the person did more than one cut. The one side of the burl is not level. It has a 1/2 inch ridge that is higher than the rest. I know that planing this is a bad idea due to tearout, but also a lot of material to take off with a belt sander. Also being so large, I wonder how I would get such a large surface level with a belt sander... As for a drum sander, the slab weighs around 80lbs, so I think that might be out of the question...

Anyways, so if anyone has some insight on how to maybe level this and also maybe decrease the total width of the slab, that would be great.

Now for the finishing... I would like to keep both burls as natural as possible. The red cedar will have to be protected because of it being a coffee table... What would you guys suggest?

As for the yellow cedar, I am not sure what I have in mind for it, but i will likely do an oil finish....

Anyways, any input would be greatly appreciated. I have a bit of experience in a shop. Built a few small storage cabinets and boxes, but not too advanced. I have access to a full shop at a friends house as well.

Sorry for the long winded scatterbrain post, but thanks in advance for all the help!
 

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I know nothing about finishing so I'll let those that know something answer that.

To level it, you need a router sled. A quick search on WWT gave me this thread which shows a router sled. I'm sure you can figure out how to build something similar to fit your needs.
 

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There are lots of opinions and threads on finishing. For a burl table top I prefer an oil finish like Minwax Antique oil finish. I'd keep soaking or wiping 2-3 times a day until it is suitably built up. Some touch up sanding and eventually polishing leaves beautiful and mildly water resistant finish.
Softwood sands easily so Sanding to 320-400 would make the best looking and you will have to decide on a filler first If needed.
Lacquer or poly have their followers: neither of them need as much sanding.
I often use lacquer on the legs and apron as it is fast and needs much less sanding (180+-). If you have a spare piece you can do trials or even an area of the bottom/back of the board. Epoxy is the most water resistant but expensive and a lot more work.
 

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I was planning on posting a link to my thread on the router planer jig I made, but Miller beat me to it!

A couple things to know about that method. It is your best option, but you will still be left with a lot of sanding to do after. With it being end grain you'll need some patience. Also, invest in some klingspor sanding pads. It will cut your sanding time in half.
 
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