This weekend, a great, down-to-earth couple, Jessica and David, were married. As part of their rustic wedding, Jessica asked me to make 30 wood “tree slab” centerpiece stands and one “tree slab” cake stand. It sounded like a fun challenge, so I said yes.
The project started with a trip to a local park where (with permission of course) I loaded up a truck full of wood.
Next, using a chainsaw, I cut the tops (out of the larger diameter logs) and the bases (out of the smaller diameter logs). Initially, I stacked the slabs one on top of the other with very little room for air circulation while I continued to work on the bases. However, after two days, I found that green wood + poor air circulation = mold. Back to the drawing board. A solution of one cup Borax to one gallon of water in a spray bottle and a scrub brush cleaned up/killed the mold nicely. I then spread the slabs out on the floor with plenty of room on either side, and a fan at one end to keep the air circulating. No mold! I still had to seal the slabs quickly to prevent checking. Speaking of checking (cracking): If wood dries too quickly, it tends to crack. The best prevention I found was to drill out the center of the wood slice, known as the pith. There’s a reason why this prevents checking, but I’m not an expert in this so Google it!
Next, I made a simple jig to drill the holes for the dowels that would attach the tops to the bases. I also painted the bases to slow down the drying rate so they would not crack (because I did not remove the pith on the thick bases).Glue up was pretty simple. A little glue on the dowels and in the holes and pop them into place.
SUPPLEMENT: PREVENTING CRACKING: I have had a lot of questions about sealing the wood and preventing cracking. This process worked for me, but there are about 1000 theories (exaggerated) on what works best. Here is the process in the order I did it that seems to have prevented cracking almost 1 year later. I combined a few different theories to come up with my method.
1. Cut the wood at a slight angle (notice especially on the large cake stand)
2. Drill the pith (center) out of the slabs
3. Fill the pith hole with wood filler (For looks only…This shouldn’t make a difference with cracking)
4. Let the wood air dry with plenty of circulation for a day or two
5. Coat all sides of the wood with 2 or 3 coats of shellac (I used amber shellac)
This worked for me. I have HEARD of mold developing UNDER the finish, but I made 30 with no mold. Was I just lucky? Or, did air drying them for a day or two eliminate enough of the moisture? Or, did the borax solution kill any chance of mold coming back? I’m not sure what the answer is. But, it worked. I’d be interested to see how everyone else’s slabs have turned out and any methods you used, so feel free to share on this site! Thanks!