Tool: Slab Flattening Mill
Cost: Basic mill for $799.99, Extended mill for $999.99
There’s no denying the popularity of live edge slab furniture (I’ve even seen full slabs wrapped in plastic at the big box store). Just add legs and you’ve got yourself a coffee table. However, if you don’t purchase a pre-flattened slab, your first task will be to make a flattening jig. While building this jig isn’t the most difficult task, there comes a time when you need precision and reliability that doesn’t leave you wondering. I found the Woodpeckers Slab Flattening Mill to be a pretty incredible system.
The extruded aluminum rails are robust. Their profile leaves no possibility for sagging (my main concern with plywood jigs). Once the rails are secured to your worktable, they are rock solid.
The carriage that rides upon the rails uses the same extrusions as the base rails. Everything slides on top of the extrusions where they peek to a V-shape. The supplied guide blocks have a mating surface with UHMW tape that enables effortless sliding. After testing, it made sense to use this kind of slide over a more complicated bearing solution with the amount of dust and debris kicked around by the flattening process.
The plate that supports the router is substantial. It’s built to accommodate up to 3 HP routers (we tested it with a Festool 2200) and has the necessary holes and bolts to accommodate more than 13 of the most popular full-size models. (It felt so luxurious to have the necessary bolts prepared for me in a baggy.)
In use, the mill makes flattening a slab a simple exercise. The carriage can’t rack across the rails because everything is locked together by the guide blocks. Essentially, you’re providing the X and Y movement and pacing the feed of the cut. There isn’t much room for error.
Two considerations: Make sure you have a router bit extension on hand (the router sits just out of reach of the workpiece for the average bit). And second, the standard rails have a slab capacity of 38″ x 57″, less than then you’d predict by looking at the carriage system (but clearly stated in the manual). The extended version comes with extra rails that can be added to the length or width, 62″ x 105″ or 38″ x 129″.
The price on this mill doesn’t make it an impulse purchase for many of us. However, if you’re regularly flattening slabs with a router or are in a multi-person shop setting, this could be an outstanding next step after a homemade jig.