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Last week I had an old cherry tree that was looking a bit worse for wear cut down in my garden. I asked the tree surgeon if he'd cut me a chunk so I could make a little coffee table/bedside table. Size 1 - 6cm deep by 37cm diameter 2 - 7cm deep by 37cm diameter Images - you can see that where there was seeping it has turned a bit mouldy.

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There are 2 pieces but the large one had a gash down one side from the chainsaw. I would like to dry them, sand, wax and add metal pin legs. I paint a fair amount but my DIY skills, especially with wood work are limited. I have a small hand held electric sanding mouse. Can any one recommend any tips for me. How long should I leave it to dry in my home? before sanding? Do I need to put anything on it to prevent cracks.

Looking at it today one piece already has a line down the middle... I should have put this post up last week :(.

Thank you for any tips or advise.

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I think it all depends on what you're trying to achieve in a final look...

If you need the top to be perfectly smooth (no cracks, no blemishes), there are ways to do that, but they involve some fairly serious woodworking tools and time.

If you're willing to go a little more rustic and accept the wabi-sabi of it all, then get a belt sander and flatten the top; apply linseed oil; get some legs on (preferably 3 rather than 4, with a slight degree of adjustability); and let the natural checking process begin.

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Short of soaking them in PEG-1000 solution, they will crack as they dry. That stuff is supposed to prevent drying shrinkage - it also makes for a weird waxy sort of feel and can add fun to finishing. Ideally you would have started that last week ;-)

If you have a crack starting, you can use that as the place to start a cut from the outside to the pith (center of growth rings) in the hopes that that cut will absorb all the shrinkage and prevent other cracks. The dried section ends up looking like a pie with a slice out of it.

Your odds of pest infestation would go way down with removing the bark (which will likely fall off eventually anyway.)

As for flattening, the best approach (IMHO) is to use a router sled, which is a fixture that allows a router to move in a defined plane above the workpiece, which is supported against movement/rocking while it's not yet flat on ether side. Then you flip it to sit on the just-flattened side and use the sled again to make the second side flat and parallel, without needing absurdly large shop tools that don't work well on a round end-grain slab anyway.

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