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How do I turn rough sawn walnut into a table top Answered

Hi all,
I've recently got a job as a chainsaw operative and at our yard recently there have been some 3'x5'X2" rough sawn lengths of seasoned walnut. I've bought one home to find making it smooth is harder than I first thought... I've got a few odd tools in the shed, like a rotary sander, some chisels and a few planes (but I don't know how to use them.)  is there a fairly quick proper way of doing it or is it just a case of sand the hell out of it? There are a few deep scratches but it's mainly small scratches and general unevenness. I would really appreciate if someone could give a fairly detailed process and description of The tools I'll need.

thank you all for your time.


I've seen Izzy Swan build one of those, I want it so bad!

thanks for the help guys, all very useful... I know an old boy with an electric plane I can borrow so I think I'll start with that and just see what works. Thanks again all


2 years ago

All great suggestions here!

If I had to use a sander for this, it would be a belt sander. Start with something like a 20 or 40 grit to really cut down the wood quickly. I've used a rotary with fiberglass, it can be made to work (again, 20-40 grit to start), but it can't sand with the grain.

An electric hand plane (planer) works well for removing wood fast, but they don't really work like a normal hand plane. Harder to control, and don't "automatically" leave you with a flatter surface, like a smoothing or joiner plane would; they sorta work like a block plane. Any long-bodied plane will "magically" only take off the high (proud) areas (until the work piece is very flat, then it'll start biting in everywhere).

Real hand planes work great, if they are sharp. The iron (chisel) shouldn't be set deeper than a hair; and the flatter the work, the shallower the bite. Still--they can work pretty fast and are exact. Not much need to sand afterwards, either. Short planes (like a block plane) have the bevel on the iron facing up (they almost "chop" end grain), long planes have the bevel down (shallower angle; they shave). Getting a plane truly sharp will be more of a challenge than using it.

The tool most useful here will likely depend on how rough that planking is...

look for a wood store that will let you rent an electric plane. I've used one a couple times and they make scrap wood look amazing Good luck!

Some woodshops have a similar machine called a thicknesser, which does the planing for you - feed the wood in one side, it comes out the other side with the top surface planed flat.

Walnut is surprisingly tough (it's called hardwood for a reason!) - cutting 1mm thick walnut veneer on my laser takes the same settings as pine three times as thick.

Sanding the hell out of it will eventually work, but if smoothing it off defeats you, slabs of walnut like that are worth genuine money to furniture makers (see the ebay link for a table less than half the size of your slabs).