tree trunk table with or without bark ??

1 Apr 2011
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United Kingdom
Hi all.

Ive been given a slab of tree trunk just over 2' wide & 8" thick and am going to make a coffee table with railway sleeper feet (... Yes it's going to be very heavy). The bark is still on the trunk and am wondering if to leave it on or take it off. I was worried that even with loads of coats of varnish on the bark, it will still be a weak point or do you think it will look better without. Not too sure what to do for the best.

Any advice appreciated

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First of all make sure it's dried out properly as two things may happen: -

1) the wood will split/crack as it shrinks
2) there will be loads of beetles or insects in your home when the spring or summer comes as they will emerge from the bark

Apart from that, it's your call I would imagine.
It's been in the garage for about a year so I'm guessing it should be dry by now ?? Other that than then, once sanded, I'll give it a Hoover and varnish/seal it to stop all the insects getting out
Hate to say it, but I would dose it thoroughly with insecticide for the bugs in it and the ones that may attack once you have finished.

I only say this because a friend gave me a piece of timber from a wood with the bark on it and months later there were beetles all over the place. I could not work it out until one day I pulled out the log and there were small exit holes all over the bark. Mystery solved!
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Air drying of timber is approx 1 inch a year to dry to 20%, the bark may increase this time, and this is a very rough rule of thumb. In a heated building it will dry down to 10%, and so will further shrink and crack.

The timber will shrink, and the bark will not, this means that as well as some fissures opening up, some of the bark may fall of, it depends on the type of tree.

You don't say if it is hardwood or softwood?

There are bark boorer beetles, I think you can guess what they like.

And there are beetles that attack the sapwood of hardwoods wether they are wet or dry (because hardwood sapwood contains starch).

Also as it will still be "wet" you will get pinhole beetle, but this doesnt really do much damage.

Treat it, but the bark will stop the treatment getting into the timber, and it may already have insects inside, which the treatment won't kill of, the treatment may stop further re-infestations however as they borrow the surface as adults.

Varnish will not stop beetles already in the timber from emerging, it generally stops new infestations from occouring, because the beetles don't "See" past the varnish, and so don't see that it is timber.
The sleeper legs will require same treatment and drying, this oak coffee table shrank 10mm across the width while in central heated room.
The sleeper legs will require same treatment and drying, this oak coffee table shrank 10mm across the width while in central heated room.

That table's gorgeous.. what was the cost of sleepers, and is it just joined with biscuits?

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