How to Finish Live Edge Wood Slabs
Live edge wood projects add a unique and natural touch to any living space!
Live edge refers to the natural, curved edge of a tree trunk or branch that is normally removed when a log is milled into lumber. Maintaining the live edge has become increasingly popular over the last decade. Woodworkers around the world covet this material for their building projects. The expression “no two pieces are ever the same” is actually inaccurate when it comes to live edge wood! When a log is cut into slices, it is called a flitch. When two sequential slabs are put side by side, they are mirror images of each other. This is a very popular technique called book matching which we will chat about later on.
When purchasing live edge wood, generally speaking, the cheaper options are still drying and are unprocessed. By ensuring your wood has been properly dried, you give your project the best possible chance for success, and you can use it almost immediately. Wood movement is real! Perhaps we'll go into more detail on that topic in a future blog post.
Now that you know what live edge wood is, let’s chat about finishing live edge wood.
How to Finish Live Edge Slabs
Ensure your live edge slab has been properly dried and is flat. The majority of the live edge wood slabs sold at KJP Select Hardwoods come pre-flattened, so it's rarely something you need to worry about. It should be noted that all of our slabs have also been properly kiln-dried. If your slab does need flattening, you can do so by using a tool such as the Woodpeckers Slab Flattening Mill Pro. Alternatively we offer a flattening service with a very quick turnaround.
We recommend removing the bark. Chances are it will fall off naturally if you try to keep it on, so you might as well remove it now and clean up the edge. This can be done using a sharp chisel. Slowly and delicately, peel off section by section. You'll likely find this process quite satisfying!
The live edge of a slab is most commonly positioned on the outside portion of the project. This is commonly seen in tabletops and charcuterie boards. That being said, an increasingly popular project is creating an epoxy river table. You essentially put slabs into a mold with the live edge portions in the interior of the project and then fill the empty space with coloured epoxy. Either way, the finishing process is the same. Below are a couple of examples displaying different ways of showcasing live edge wood. You can browse for more inspiration on our Epoxy Resin / River Tables page.
How to Sand Live Edge wood
The first step to finishing a live edge slab is sanding. Start by softening the edges prior to sanding the live edge slab. If the live edge is particularly rough, you can use a grinder to speed up the process. Give the sides an excellent sand, ensuring that there are no sharp edges. No one wants to ruin their clothing on the side of a live edge table! Then you'll want to grab an orbital sander such as a Festool ETS EC 150 (the powerhouse choice in our workshop) and really take your time sanding the top surface of your live edge slab. You'll generally begin the process at 80 or 120 grit and work your way up to 220.
Live Edge Slab Finishing
How to seal Live Edge Wood
If you've chosen to keep the bark on, you'll want to seal the live edge. Start by vacuuming the edges to try and remove as many loose pieces as possible. Using a clean brush, you can apply epoxy to the edges to help adhere the bark to the slab. This won't guarantee that the bark will stay on, but it's your best bet. We would recommend UVPoxy for this step.
How to finish a Live Edge Slab
Using an oil finish like Rubio Monocoat Pure, you can seal and finish the wood in just one coat per side. It couldn't be easier! Using an oil applicator, apply one coat on the top surface and use a lint-free rag on the live edges. Wipe off any excess within 15 minutes. After it has dried, apply a coat on the bottom surface of your project. Wait for it to cure, and voila. You have just finished your live edge wood project!
Frequently asked Questions About Finishing Live Edge Wood
What happens if I can't find a slab wide enough to make a table?
That is where the concept of book matching comes into play. By laminating sequential slabs from a flitch together, you will create the illusion of a one-piece tabletop. For a cheaper alternative, you can also split a live edge slab and laminate matching or complimentary boards of lumber in the middle. We have a helpful video on our TikTok channel chatting about that topic.
I want a live edge wood table in my house but I'm not a woodworker
We would love to help! Take a browse at our Live Edge Table section for more information.
What is the most popular live edge wood?
Walnut, Ambrosia Maple, and White Oak seem to be trending these last few years. They are all timeless and elegant choices. At KJP Select Hardwoods, we have a wide variety of slabs ready to ship to your doorstep!
Finish Your Live Edge Project with KJP Select Hardwoods
Now that you have the knowledge of how to finish live edge wood, you’re ready to tackle your next project with confidence. Let us help! We have an assortment of wood finishing products for every application. Finish your live edge slab with the best finishes and techniques in the industry.
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