They go by many names: tree cookies, wood cookies, live edge cross-cut slabs, wood disks, wood slices, wood rounds, tree rounds, wood slabs, circle cut slabs, log slices, log cookies, natural edge cookies, etc. But whatever you want to call them, they are very popular for a wide variety of woodcrafts, such as making a wood slice centerpiece, wood coasters, live-edge tables, display panels, or other wood slice art projects. Before you can turn a wood cookie into whatever you have in mind for your particular project, however, you’ll first have to cut them from a tree, dry them out correctly, and then do the finishing work, all of which I’ll be sharing with you in this blog article.
Step 1 – Cutting your Cookies
The first step is obviously actually cutting your wood cookies out from a tree trunk, a log, or a tree limb. Naturally, it’s best to do this from a downed tree that’s already at least somewhat dry instead of live, green wood. Depending on how big your wood cookies need to be, you can cut them out with a table saw or hand saw for small to medium-sized cookies, or a chainsaw for larger ones. No matter what you use to cut them out with though, it’s important to try to make your cuts as even and as uniform as possible, which greatly cuts down on the work of having to level them out later.
Step 2 – Drying your Cookies
The next step is to properly dry or season your wood cookies. I did a video a while ago on the method I use for drying out large slabs of live edge wood, and that method also works great for smaller slabs of wood such as cookies.
Wood cookies are notorious for cracking and falling apart in the drying process, so the first thing you’ll want to do, as soon as you possibly can after cutting them, is to coat both sides of the cookie with woodgrain sealer such as Anchorseal. You can also use plain latex paint for this purpose, but it doesn’t always work quite as well as the sealer. So put a good heavy coat or two on one side, let it dry, and then do the opposite side.
Next, I place ¾” to 1-inch thick sticks in-between the cookies to allow for good airflow, stack them all up with a heavy weight on top to help eliminate warping, and then place them in a dry, well-ventilated area to start the drying process. Now as a rule of thumb, it takes one year of drying time per one inch of wood thickness. However, you can greatly accelerate this, especially if your cookies are thinner, by continually running a fan on your stack of wood, which will dry them out in a matter of weeks or months…again depending on how thick they are. I run a cheap box fan on medium speed in my wood drying area year-round, which doesn’t suck up too much electricity, and again, greatly speeds up the drying process.
If you’re in a big hurry and don’t have weeks or months to wait for the wood to season properly, you can simply coat your cookies with a fairly heavy coat of shellac, polyurethane, or paint right after you cut them, which should hold them together for the immediate future, however, they very well may still crack and fall apart down the road.
The next issue is the question of how to know when your wood is dry and ready to use. The most accurate way to do is to use a moisture meter. Keep checking the moisture level of the wood until it stabilizes and holds steady at the lowest number or level you can get for several weeks or months in a row. There’s no magic number to look for, however, the key is for that number to stabilize. Once you get the level down as low as you can go for an extended period of time, that’s probably going to be as low as it will go, and thus it’s ready to be used. But again, this will take several months, to even several years, depending on how thick the wood is and the environment in which you’re drying it in.
Step 3 – Leveling your Cookies
After your wood cookies are good and dry, you’ll most likely need to level them out some, depending on how accurately you cut them. To do this, you can use a planer (either manual or electric), a power sander, a router sled, or anything else you have handy that will simply remove high areas of wood and flatten them out nicely.
Step 4 – Finishing your Cookies
Even if you’ve done all you can to ensure that your cookies dry out correctly, they still sometimes unfortunately crack. However, all is not lost. On small to medium-sized cracks, you can use some wood filler (either plain or with some stain added) to remedy the situation, and on larger cookies, you can use bowtie/butterfly splines, or epoxy to hold the wood together and keep it from cracking further, which can also give your project a unique look.
After getting your cookies patched up with filler – if need be – and all nice and flat and level, you can finish them off with a good sanding, as well as cut them out with a jigsaw to make an even circle or some other desired shape.
And finally, depending on what you intend to do with your wood cookies, it’s important to apply some kind of a finish or seal coat, whether it’s shellac, mod podge, epoxy, polyurethane, paint, or an oil finish of one kind or another.
So there you have it, that’s a quick overview of how to make wood cookies for whatever projects you may have on deck. Check out the video below to see and learn more.