Round Turned Butcher blocks...any secrets?


I've always wanted one of these bad boys and stumbled upon one up in the Northwoods this weekend. Had a reasonable price tag so I snarfed it up. Nice 12-inch radius with no real cracks. Made for a nice cocktail table while "camping". We guesstimated the tree to be in the mid-100 year old range (we found 10-15 rings per inch though bear in mind..this was over cocktails<G>).
Anyway, does anyone know any background on the making of these? I'm not so much wondering about the mechanics, but more the wood stability. Are they turned green? Is the wood aged somehow? Aged after turning? I can't imagine why these things aren't cracked like an cold iron frying pan put on a hot stove.(but that's another northwoods story)
Just curious, I have the fixin's for a big arbor for a lathe and have always wanted to set it in a big block of concrete to mess around with large turnings. Do you think they were turned between centers or on a faceplate? the bottom has faint signs of a large 4 tanged drive spur of sometype.
so let me know if y'all know anything.
p.s. I'm not talking about the ones made of glued-up blanks, just real tree-trunks.
biff
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Well, make up your mind. <grin>
*Real* butcher block, for production use, _is_ made from a bunch of glued-up pieces, typically no larger than about 2"x2".
Among other things, that way you don't have significant internal stresses, So you don't risk opening splits, when you're hacking away with a cleaver.
As for "tree-stump slabs", Getting one without significant checking/splitting is _really_ problematic. Frequently the slab is cut radially into several sections (6 or more), and dried that way. then the edges re-trimmed to the proper angle , and the piece re-assembled. Done with care, that joining can be nearly invisible.
Also, thorough treatment with polyethelyne glycol can help minimize checking see <http://www.firesideloghomes.com/woodtreatmentsystem.cfm for what a log-home builder does to minimize checking/splitting in their logs.
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Robert Bonomi wrote:

As I remember, Japanese cutting boards are really cutting blocks, much like what the OP is describing. It might be worth DAGS on that and seeing what he can come up with.
Dave in Fairfax
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Another reason why real butcher block is glued is to keep it from splitting under the cleaver, something which could be a real problem if you're ham-handed. One block tries, but is restrained by the others.
I wouldn't put PEG on the block. On humid days like we've had this week, my PEG - soaked mallets are almost too slimy to hold.
ANY lathe benefits from a tailstock, but if you've got a big enough faceplate, have at it. Just tell me why you wouldn't rather rotate the cutter (rout) than the piece.
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One detail I omitted from the OP was that this butcher block is about 15 inches THICK. That would be a heck of a router.

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Drying log disks is a regular topic - search the ng.
You can't do it just by "careful" drying. Not a hope.
So either go down the PEG route (buy it wherever woodturners shop) or dry several disks as segments and joint them back together. With plenty of timber and easy working, cut lots of quartered logs, dry them, cut them to length, then cut them to 1/6th segments, then assemble them in groups of 3, joint the edge, then join them into a disk.
For a less-visible join, cut your "segments" on a chord just over 1/2 the diameter, dry them, then joint them to semi-circles and assemble.
They're also much easier to dry as logs, then saw to disks. You'll get a lot of end cracking, which you can just throw away. In a thin disk you're stuck with it.
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I understand the benefits and all of glue ups. But this piece I bought is really cool. Much more attractive and a great conversation piece. We're going to count the rings and try to date the thing so we somehow mark the piece to show historical events on some of the rings (ok, it won't be accurate but what the hey?)
I don't think PEG is the answer but maybe worth a try. Does anyone know if this leaves the wood food-safe? PEG is the stuff that blinds dogs isn't it?
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PEG is used in cosmetics and medicines. It's a laxative, like mineral oil. Indigestible and oily.
Ethylene glycol (antifreeze) is sweet but lethal in large quantities.
So what you want is a _chopping_ block type. Let 'er split and Nakashima it.
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