Cutting live edge slabs is an art to many woodworkers. There is nothing more satisfying than building a customer or yourself a live edge dining room table that will last them for years to come. However, DIY live edge slab milling is growing in popularity among skilled woodworkers and DIYers.
To do this, one will need a chainsaw sawmill. These can range from around $30 for a DIY mill, up to thousands for a professional slab mill.
At Lancaster Live Edge, we cut our live edge slabs using a Lucas Mill, as pictured below!
Cutting Slabs With Your Slabbing Mill
Using a slabber mill is simple. The Lucas Mill we use was purchased with rails and a framework. Because of this, the process to mill slabs is simple. To do so, we:
- Place the log inside the frame and level it
Logs can be place parallel to the frame so they cut straight. They should be leveled prior to cutting so the logs are the same width the on each end.
- Lower the blade to your desired height
We typically saw our slabs 12/4, which means they’re 3″ thick before they’re dried.
- Start the sawmill
After your mill is started, it’s ready to use.
- Push the blade through the log
The chainsaw mill blade will cut through the log, creating your first slab.
- Repeat steps throughout the log
Repeat the steps above as your work your way through the log. A forklift may be needed to move the slabs after each one is cut, as they are heavy.
Cutting With A Portable Chainsaw Mill
If you have a portable chainsaw mill, your process will be a hair different. For these sawmills, the rails mount directly to the log and a chainsaw will slide along these. You’ll want to be sure to use ripping blades on your chainsaw.
This alternative method, though cheaper, is not as efficient as a larger stationary chainsaw mill. For this method, you’re limited to smaller slabs based on the size of the chainsaw bar you have, and you also will spend more time setting up the mill. This is the route most DIYers go for slabbing. We recommend researching your specific chainsaw mill to determine the best instructions for slabbing your logs.
What Type of Cut Is It?
When cutting live edge slabs, the log is “livesawn”. Livesawn refers to logs that are cut from the outside diameter, through the heartwood. It incorporates the full range of characteristics such as color variances, grain pattern changes, and more. This cut is the widest cut available on a log as it goes from one side to the other.
How Long Does It Take To Turn A Log To Slabs?
Turning an entire log to slabs takes anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on the size of the log, how thick you cut the slabs, and how experienced you are. For beginners, it may take longer.
That time, however, is just for the cutting. To properly dry your slab so that it can be used for a woodworking project, you’ll have a few years in the process. We stack our slabs on flat wood sticks so they air dry for about 2 years, then we put them in a kiln. This ensures they’re properly dried when we go to use them for our projects. A general rule of thumb is to dry your slab for 1 year for every inch thick it is.
Flattening After Cutting
Flattening your slab should be done before you finish your piece. At Lancaster Live Edge, we use a woodmizer slab flattener that uses a router head to remove small amounts of the slab until it’s equally flat across the entire piece.
For smaller slabs, you can buy a flattener that attaches to a regular router, which will allow you to flatten the slabs. There are numerous manufacturers of these.
In both cases, a router will slide along a track system removing the high spots on your slab.
Buy Pre-Cut Live Edge Slabs
Cutting live edge slabs isn’t cheap. Typically this requires equipment that many woodworkers won’t have in their shop, such as a chainsaw mill, flattener, and more. If you’d rather buy live edge slabs then invest in the equipment needed, we can help. Simply shop our inventory online or send us a message to see the slabs we have in stock. We have hundreds of slabs that are kiln dried and ready to use!
Nolan is the Marketing Manager for Lancaster Live Edge. When he isn’t working on our marketing initiatives, he’s in the shop building tables and furniture with the team. Prior to working with Lancaster Live Edge, he worked for a digital marketing agency for nearly 4 years. His family owns a custom building company and he’s helped build everything from custom furniture to home additions. Nolan has been woodworking for nearly 20 years.