Slab O’Walnut

About 2 years ago, my friend and I went in together on an Alaskan Chainsaw mill-we knew we wanted to start cutting our own lumber, but beyond that, we really didn’t have any green/fresh wood experience to speak of, other than splitting firewood. But we went for it anyways and as it happens my sister had a big, old, freshly dropped Black Walnut tree in her back yard that was ours for the taking, so we took it. We got our gear together and set out to make some magic. Turns out the magic trick was all the metal hidden in this particular urban tree, so…lesson learned.

All the same and partially because of all the nails, we cut pretty thick slabs, mostly 2″, but a couple 3″ ones and then the real behemoth, a 4″ thick, 28″ wide, and 8′ long megalith. The idea being that down the road I would build my dream workbench out of it. It also has some possibly real, possibly imagined sentimental value to it. My dad grew up across the alley from this Walnut tree and while he undoubtedly would have seen the tree (my guess is it was about 75-80 years old), I like to think that he was the kid who pounded in the nails in a randomly spaced pattern about 4′ up from the ground those many decades ago. In either case, it’s a part of my family now.

Here’s the delivery vehicle…today was my luck day, we were also gifted with a beautiful, rustic, Red Oak bench built my sawmill comrade. It weighs about as much as the 4″ workbench slab on the bottom of the pile.


Here is one of the 3″ slabs. As you can see, it has some wonky parts from insect damage (and nails), so I’ll be able to use this piece to make the legs and hopefully the stretchers. I wonder what other metal bits are hidden in there? You’ll note a nice long crack at the bottom, which given the ultimate use for this slab, won’t be a problem.


And here’s the real gem. She’s in great shape and holding at about 15% MC. That’s with around 2 years of drying in a horse trailer. It really could use a couple more years of air drying and moving it into the garage should help but I’m still deciding what type of work bench it will be. I’m really interested in building a chairmaker’s bench similar to what Greg Pennington built in his shop.

That however would involve cutting the slab in two as you want something you can move around 360 degrees. I think Greg’s bench top measured 26″x48″. And that sounds about right to me. Conversely some might view it as a crime to cut up such a beast of a slab and go the Roubo route instead. The jury is still out for me and so while she continues to dry I’ll draw up some different versions to see what works best.


And everything back in it’s place, like nothing ever happened, other than sweating through 3 shirts getting it all moved around.IMG_6903