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Thread: Best power tool for cutting slabs?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
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    San Diego, CA
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    Question Best power tool for cutting slabs?

    Hello all, I've been lathing for a few years now but am getting into a broader range of woodworking this year. My question is - what is the best power tool to cut a piece of wood at least 1ft all around (1ft x 1ft x 1ft... just an approx, these will be uneven log or heartwood pieces).... into 1in thick slabs? Without wasting a bunch of it?

    See, I usually work with exotic hardwoods, so that chunk of wood could cost me over $200 to purchase. So I really need to minimize wood loss when cutting.... therefore anything that wastes 1/3rd of the wood is out. My goal is to produce things like serving paddles and small stands. But, having little experience with tools other than a lathe and etc, I don't know what could do that. The only thing I could think of was a mill, but they are huge and wayyy out of my price range. So any tips would be amazing!

    The tools I have are:
    • Lathe
    • Drill Press
    • Table Saw
    • Scroll Saw (new this week, but obviously way too narrow for the job)
    • Planer (which will come in handy AFTER the cuts!)
    • Misc smaller tools, i.e. drill, belt sander, router, dremel, wood burner, etc.

    I could budget up to $250 for another major tool. I'd raaaather keep it under $100, but I'm realistic enough to know that's probably not gonna happen! But I just don't know enough about anything other than lathing to figure out what I need to get this done. So, any advice is very appreciated. Thanks!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
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    I don't have a good answer to your question, but welcome to the forum!
    Cheers,
    Roger


    The other member of Mensa, but not the NRA

    Everyone is a self-made person.

    "The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their veracity" -Abraham Lincoln

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    North West Indiana
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    Sahara my first thought for the cross cut is a chop saw. But then cutting it lengthwise would be extremely dangerous. It isn't within your budget unless you build a sled for the table saw and cut them to length. Then a bandsaw will have a very thin kerf and do well in cutting it down to size.

    I edited my answer to include what Roger says, "welcome to the forum"
    Jon

    God and family, the rest is icing on the cake. I'm so far behind, I think I'm in first place!

    Host of the 2015 FAMILY WOODWORKING GATHERING

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Tokyo Japan
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    15,807
    Use your lathe.

    Glue a nice thick block on one end of the block of wood, then mount the piece on a large faceplate with a lot of screws, bring up the tailstock to capture the block.

    Next round off the block so that you now have a 1' wide by 1' long cylinder.

    Make a dovetail groove in the face of the tailstock end to fit your chuck, and part the whole thing off with a parting tool.

    I have a nice 1/16" parting tool that works well.

    I know you might lose closer to 1/8", but the surface would be flat, if you use a bandsaw or something, you will not have a perfectly flat piece of wood, it will wobble, and the will cost you more wood than the kerf of the parting tool, IMHO.

    Does that make sense?
    Last edited by Stuart Ablett; 04-20-2016 at 02:01 PM.
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Yorktown, Virginia
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    Welcome to the family, Sahara. Glad you found us and hoping you will post some pictures of your work. If the slabs/chunks are all less than 16" my first choice would be a bandsaw, something like the Laguna 18 HD. Knowing that option is out of your budget range, I would look for someone in the local area with a big band saw or with a band mill ( http://woodmizer.com/us/Services/Find-a-Local-Sawyer ). It's not quite clear to me whether these are cubes or long beams. You could actually slab a cube with a hand saw, but you would work up a sweat in a hurry. A beam would need a band mill. Any other options would use a chain saw and that would waste a lot of wood.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    The Gorge Area, Oregon
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    4,699
    Bandsaw without a doubt but for slabbing that size your budget is unfortunately off by about 10x unless you get a really really really good deal on a used one (around here even used ones that reliably slab 12" go for close to $1000, you'd want something bigger/stiffer than the usual 14" jobbies). If you're feeling really handy you might check out Mathius Wendel's homemade rig https://woodgears.ca/bandmill/ there are other homemade bandmills out there as well, beware that without adequate guards they're a really good way to loose a limb.

    About the only thing I know of course to your budget would be a kerfing plane (basically a short saw blade with a guide) and a frame saw (Blackburn tools sells blades and other parts http://blackburntools.com/new-tools/...ade/index.html your could also get a flat piece of r52 hardened 1095 flat plate from someplace like McMaster but you'll kill $30-50 worth of files with the initial shaping). You'd be in great shape when you were done with all the cutting anyway

    The lathe idea could work but parting in that far would be... exciting. I'm not sure I'd want to tackle it hand held, maybe some sort of captive rig. Hand held seems like a good way to throw a tool across the room.

    Practically speaking your best bet is probably to find a friendly sawyer who can cut it on thier band mill.

    Also welcome to the forum.

  7. #7
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    To cut lengthwise with a power tool will require a large bandsaw or a band mill. Or simply using a hand saw and lot of elbow grease will work. A chain saw might do it but most chains do not do well cutting with the grain and you will have a large kerf. I used to use one man cross cut saws. When sharpened properly they cut very fast and do the job well. Actually, I would ask around your area for someone with a band mill. That would make your cuts in minutes with a minimum of fuss.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  8. #8
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    Sahara, I misunderstood, thought you were cutting slabs into 1'X1' square. So I would change my answer. 1' diameter logs, 1' long, I would suggest splitting with a steel wedge. Then use a froe to split into the sizes you can use.
    Jon

    God and family, the rest is icing on the cake. I'm so far behind, I think I'm in first place!

    Host of the 2015 FAMILY WOODWORKING GATHERING

  9. #9
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    I'd agree with Jon, a splitter would do the job if the grain is straight.
    Darren

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
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    San Diego, CA
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    Thank you everyone!

    Yeah, that's what I thought. I had hoped there was some tool or way of rigging that I had overlooked. The big band saw is definitely out of my price range. Unfortunately I had already looked around in my area for people who'd be willing to cut it for me, and came up blank. I'll try again. Honestly though, transportation is an issue, since I can't drive (no depth perception) and I live in the boonies. I get most things delivered.

    I'd rather not lathe it round, since most serving platters are square-ish, that would waste a lot of wood. (That and I'd be pretty nervous trying to part something that thick on the lathe.) A handsaw would kill me, I work with the hardest woods (ebony, lignum vitae, etc) and I don't think I have the muscles to get through a block like that by hand! And on a lot of these pieces, the grain isn't strait (I have a nice piece of olivewood burl sitting and waiting, for example).

    And thank you, everyone, for the welcome!
    Last edited by Sahara Sjovaettir; 04-20-2016 at 09:04 PM.

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