I have a 6'x 3' table made from old railway sleepers that is very pitted. I would like to remove approx 1/2" from the top to smooth the surface (we keep tipping over wine glasses!). Final surface doesn't need to be dead flat or level. I'm guessing that a block plane / scrub plane is the fastest way, but does anyone have any better suggestions?
you will be forever doing it that way. you need a gantry router. if you don't have one, just do this.
1) put largest diameter bit your router will run (for most, this is approx 1 1/2") then bolt your router to a large flat piece of oak or maple stock with the bit projecting down through the board. thicker the better, but it will have to work with your bit.
2) screw or nail 2 rails to your top. they will attach on the side of the long edges of the table, tops about 1/4" higher than the highest point on the table. the more time you take to make them flat and planar (no, not planer - look it up if you need to), the better the final finish will be.
3) place the router/board assembly on to the rails. essentially you have built a super wide base plate for your router. you simply pass the router back and forth, sliding transversely across the workpiece, and down the lenght of the rails to cover the whole surface.
- try to take no more than 1/4" at a pass - you won't cook the bit
- put as little downward pressure as you can. just let the routers weight hold it down. flexing the board will result in variable depth of cut.
- use wax on the side rails to prevent sticking or binding.
when you are done, just run a belt sander over the whole surface to get any nicks or high spots you miss, and to give a smoother surface.
Me, I would put it on a ShopBot table, and use that to level it. But I would say take it to a pro woodworker to have him plane it and run it through a door sander. However, that will destroy its character.
Instead, epoxy the table top. Or urethane it if UV or sun exposure will be an issue. You know, like you see at trendy restaurants where the table top is 1/4" thick poured clear plastic with interesting things captured in the plastic. You finish with a smooth surface.