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  • Matt Shields

(Almost) Always De-Bark Slabs

When working with live edge slabs, removing bark is a crucial first-step. I usually perform this immediately after bringing slabs to my shop, regardless if they'll be used in a project that day or stored for later use.

Kilns are brought to 140 degrees towards the end of their drying cycle; this practice kills insects in all parts of the wood slab.

Once dried, insects may re-colonize certain parts of the wood. The bark and vascular cambium are the most common areas to find surprise guests.

The bark can be quickly removed with a draw knife.

There are a few exceptions to this. Wood harvested in the winter has firmly-adhered bark. The sapwood and vascular cambium swell with water in response to the cold, dry environment, tightly clinging to the bark. In the summer growing season, water flows more freely between tissues, so there's less gripping-action applied. Bark that falls off a tree in the summer will quickly grow back.

There are a few ways to preserve bark on slabs. Pentacryl and sucrose solutions are used to prevent cracking in disc-cut (round 'cookie') slabs by slowing down the drying process. A side effect of this is improved bark retention. Additionally, bark can be stabilized with superglue or epoxy. I'll cover these topics in more detail in a future blog post.

Stay dusty, friends.

-Matt Shields

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