Simple Slab Solution

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This article is from Issue 89 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Woodpeckers Slab Flattening Mill

Woodworkers revel in building live-edged furniture, and for good reason: The finished piece can be striking, and it makes great use of wild-looking slabs. But there’s a catch. Before utilizing wide stock, it needs to be milled, and most small-shop machinery can only accommodate stock up to 12"-wide. Woodpeckers’ Slab Flattening Mill is the newest, fastest route to flat. Partner the mill with a 2-1/4 HP (or larger) router, a spoilboard bit, and a large flat work surface, and any woodworker can quickly surface slabs and other wide planks that would otherwise require professional-sized machinery.

Assembling the mill is straightforward, but it took me a few hours to work my way through the bags of parts. Once assembled, using the mill is a cinch. Attach the aluminum guide rails to your work surface, then level your workpiece with riser boards or wedges, and secure it with the provided clamping dogs. Next, set the carriage and router base assemblies on the guide rails, adjust the bit for a light cut (about 1/8"), and then slide the router back-and-forth over the workpiece.

Thanks to a few strips of super-slick UHMW tape the router base assembly slides smoothly on the V-shaped carriage rails, that in turn, glide across the guide rails. With a spoilboard bit, the jig’s smooth sliding action left a flat, tearout-free surface. The slab required additional sanding, but not that much.

My issues with the mill are minor. First, the system lacks height control. To set the stock within the narrow cutting range of the bit, you’ll need a healthy supply of riser boards. Second, milling is messy. Using a router with integral dust collection will help, but only so much. (It wasn’t ready in time for my review, but Woodpeckers now offers a dust shroud upgrade for $90.)

This system isn’t cheap, but it can be a smart shared investment for a maker space, a woodworking club, or a group of woodworkers with a common interest in slab projects.

—Tester, Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk

Overview

  • Basic kit: (2) 72" guide rails, (2) 48" carriage rails, router base, 4 clamping dogs
  • Maximum slab capacity 38 × 57" (Extra rails sold separately.)
  • Requires 21⁄4" HP router, spoilboard surfacing bit, plywood or MDF base
  • Easily disassembled for storage
  • $799.99


Protect your investment

While you’re at it, consider investing in some insurance for that expensive bit. I recommend buying a metal detector to find embedded metal before your bit does.

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