STL209: Dealing with temperamental slabs

STL209: Dealing with temperamental slabs

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Question 1: 

From David:
I’m working on a maple writing desk, and I’d like to make a frame-and-panel drawer front out of solid wood.I have some concerns about wood movement. I’d like to maintain the reveal so a floating panel could be problematic. Should I attempt to pin it from the back of the frame in the center of the panel?

PS: Ben – I live in Nashville and also share your affinity for tacos from Nolensville rd. Good stuff. 

Question 2:

From Tony:
I have recently embarked on my first slab project and it’s not going so well. My wife wanted a counter installed under our very picturesque 7 ft long dining room window so we can look dreamingly out of it as snow falls in our wooded back yard all winter. I convinced her that a live edge slab would be perfect! She was reluctant…

I bought a slab of red oak from a “backyard sawyer ”. He says the tree fell 4 years ago and the slab was cut a year ago and was stickered, covered, and left to air dry. At the time I did not have a moisture meter–I own one now.  I brought the slab home and cut a couple of inches off each end. After about 20-hrs of it being in my basement shop the ends started checking and my wife was cursing me! 

What can I do now? Why are slabs so temperamental? I love the look of live edges but how does one work with this stuff without checks and cracks? 

Segment: Smooth Move

Barry– Not realizing he was leaving a part off of a piece until he finished it. Even though he cut the part out.

Ben– Not realizing he was using a thin-kerf blade and a full-size splitter

Anissa–Not realizing that half-blind dovetails are supposed to be hidden



Question 3:

Two questions from Matt:
I have a large problem.  I have become enamored with the arts and crafts style.  Unfortunately, my wife hates every piece that I would like to build. Should I leave her?  We have been married for 2 years, and I think I could live without her. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

Also from Matt:
I just finished my second project that incorporates hand cut joinery.  I am working mostly in quarter sawn white oak. I find that when assembling my joints, I am busting the corners of my tails off. Is this common, or is there a fault with my technique?  I rarely see photos that show the joinery well enough to determine if I am alone.

Matt’s humble-brag

Ben’s humble-pin

Question 4:  

From Chris:
I am interested in building out a shop where I can work sporadically on the weeknights, and spend a bit more time on the weekends.  I currently work in Biotechnology, so will more than likely always be working in big cities (Seattle, Boston, San Francisco) where space is limited.  Based on that, is it smarter to make investments in hand tools, knowing the learning curve tends to be much steeper; or invest in shop time and do more assembly / finish type work at home?


Every two weeks, a team of Fine Woodworking staffers answers questions from readers on Shop Talk Live, Fine Woodworking‘s biweekly podcast. Send your woodworking questions to [email protected] for consideration in the regular broadcast! Our continued existence relies upon listener support. So if you enjoy the show, be sure to leave us a five-star rating and maybe even a nice comment on our iTunes page.

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