Did you have to cut down a tree and want to re-purpose it into something new?
If you answered yes to that question then this blog post is for you!
Find out how you can turn fresh cut wood into a food safe platter!
So, first things first, you have to cut a tree down. We had a bunch of trees in our front yard that needed to be removed and thankfully my brother cuts trees for a living and my husband has made it quite the hobby.
Using a chainsaw, cut the tree into slabs or “cookies” as some call them. The thickness is up to you but I would suggest keeping them around 1-2 inches because the thicker they are, the longer they will take to dry out.
We had around 15 in total. Two of them were quite large (around 18 inches across) and the rest were around 10 inches across.
Most importantly, you will need to purchase Pentacryl. This is a wood stabilizer that allows the wood to dry out slowly and avoid cracking. If you do not use a wood stabilizer then your slabs will most likely dry out too quickly and crack.
All in all you will need: Wood slabs, Pentacryl, brushes and rags, large cardboard boxes, a hand sander with various grit sandpaper, tack cloth and mineral oil.
Very soon after the wood has been cut you will want to apply the Pentacryl as to avoid any quick drying. If you do not have time to do it directly after cutting, spray the wood slabs with water and cover them in plastic or put them in sealed plastic bags out of the sun. I would suggest only doing this for a short amount of time to avoid mold growth.
When you’re ready to apply the stabilizer wipe down all of your wood slabs and remove any moss or debris.
Your goal is to completely saturate the wood with Pentacryl. You can do this by soaking the slabs or brushing on many coats. Our slabs were too big to be soaked so we used a brush. Apply Pentacryl in coats until the the wood no longer soaks up the stabilizer. I applied the Pentacryl until I saw it soak through to the other side of the wood. Make sure to apply to the bark as well.
The wood will appear darker and “wet”.
Now that the wood is soaked, you will begin the SLOW drying process, and I mean SLOW.
Not like a few weeks kind of slow… more like a few months.
I thinks this is why people opt for long engagements.
Now, you want to put the wood into an area with no direct sunlight, little air movement or heat source. We chose to put our slabs into a loosely closed cardboard box in the basement. You can submerge the slabs into container of wood shavings or tape cardboard to the open ends of the slab as well.
As I said before, this process will take a few months. Some say that you can assume about 2-3 months per inch thickness. We cut ours in October and they were all completely dried by April.
Every so often I would suggest checking on your slabs to see how they’re doing. When I checked back around a month in, a couple of the small slabs in one box were covered in white mold. This box was closer to our furnace and I assume it was too warm and had too much moisture. We threw these away and focused on the remaining slabs. I read that you can use a bleach solution to clean the slabs and stop mold growth but I didn’t want to chance it since we would eventually be using these for food.
After waiting for your slabs to dry out completely (YAY!) you get to the fun part… And by fun part, I mean not so fun part… sanding these things until they are completely smooth.
Begin by using a coarse grit sandpaper (we used 80 grit) and work your way down to a fine grit (we used 150 by the end) this will get them smooth like a baby’s bottom.
NOTE: If you are lucky enough to have access to a planar you can just run them through and make them flat and even. Unfortunately, we are not that lucky.
Here is a photo of one of our largest slabs after it was sanded down.
Once your slabs are sanded, use a tack cloth to remove all of the dust.
You will then begin applying mineral oil.
There are different types of mineral oil so make sure you purchase one that is food safe if your slabs will be in contact with food. It can be bought for a couple dollars at CVS because it is often used as a laxative.
Apply the mineral oil to the rag and rub along the grain of the wood’s surface. We used a rag and kept it in a plastic baggie so that we could use it again and again without it drying out. You will continue to apply mineral oil until the wood will not accept any more (similar to how you applied the Pentacryl). However, you will let the wood dry in between coats instead of all at once. For example, we applied it once every other day for one week and then once per week until the slab would not take any more oil. This took around 5 weeks or so, a little longer for the thicker ones.
The wood took on a beautiful natural color. Over time, you will re-oil the wood to keep it nourished – similarly to how you oil wood cutting boards.
You can choose to seal the wood with beeswax for better water resistance but we chose to leave them as is.
Lastly, we added a couple foam pads to the bottom so they wouldn’t scratch anything and would be slightly lifted off the table surface.
They looked incredible at our wedding and we are so excited to use them as charcuterie boards or as chargers!