If you’re looking for wood to work with, you may have heard of live edge wood.
This type of wood has many uses and can make stunning furniture, decor, and other wood projects. The natural look and feel of live edges can make any woodworker excited for their next project.
In this post, I’ll explore what live edge wood is, some examples of live edge wood, and much more. Let’s get started!
What is Live Edge Wood?
Live edge wood slabs are pieces of wood that still have the natural edge from the tree they came from.
Most of the time, this includes the bark. Slabs don’t sell in typical lumber sizes, like 1×2 or 1×3. The size depends on the width of the tree. Many admire the wood for its natural beauty.
Live edge design is becoming more and more popular in the average living space. The natural look and edges make for a unique look that easily beats conventional woodworking pieces. If you want to work with a slab that comes right from the trunk of a tree, try out live edge wood slabs.
How Much is Live Edge Wood?
If you want an unfinished slab of live edge wood, it will cost you anywhere from $20 to a few hundred dollars a slab from the most affordable suppliers.
The price often depends on the length of the slab, the type of wood used, and the thickness of the piece. Giant slabs of rare wood can cost hundreds of dollars and are highly sought-after.
A finished piece of live edge wood will cost even more. Most craftsmen purchase unfinished slabs and finish them by themselves to save a little money in the process.
Why is Live Edge Wood Often Expensive?
Live edge wood can be expensive, costing hundreds of dollars for nicer pieces of wood. Why is it so expensive? What makes live edge slabs stand out from traditional wood utilized in a wood project?
Live edge pieces are unique, labor-intensive, and highly sought after by skilled artisans on the market. Each slab is distinctive and has a unique personality. When you invest in a live edge wood piece, it’s almost like you’re investing in a painting.
Live edge wood also cannot be made in bulk.
Manufacturers cut it one at a time and transfer the heavy product to a place of sale. The price tag goes up because of this manufacturing process. If you want a natural look, you need to be ready to pay a little more for it on the market.
What Products Are Made from Live Edge Slabs?
You have your live edge piece, and you’re ready to work. What are some of the things you can make with alive edge design? What products are available to you?
A few of the most common items people make with live edges include:
With work, you can have these in your house or you can consider selling them to make money woodworking.
Let’s talk a little more about the specifics of each of these products. No matter what you want, live edge slabs make for an appealing natural accent.
Tables, especially coffee tables, are some of the most popular things to make with live edge wood slabs.
You can even make a live edge dining table if the wood exposed look fits the aesthetic of your home. A live edge design will make any experience at a table more rustic and natural in feel.
A great way to accent the natural edge of a live edge table is to affix metal legs to the bottom of the wood slab. The combination of natural and man-made products will make an excellent contrast in a room.
Often, one side of the table will be left untouched. This action makes it easier to finish the wood slab. Live edge tables are the best products to take on as someone working with wood slabs.
Live edge furniture can transform any home with the right design, even with something as simple as a coffee table or dining table.
Check out the video below to learn how to make a live edge table!
If you don’t have a lot of wood to work with, you can make a bowl out of your live edge slabs. Woodturning is one of the best ways to start woodworking, as it’s a little less intense.
A bowl makes out of a live edge wood slab produces a product that is truly a work of art. The edges of the bowl will be textured and fun. There will be a unique grain that runs through the side of the bowl. Whether you’re making a set or just one, the end product is worth it.
If you get good at the process, you can even sell your handmade bowls on Etsy to start a woodworking business. There’s a demand for unique products with natural edges, so this can be a great woodworking project for beginners.
If you don’t want to make a table or a bowl, you might try to form decor with a natural edge wood. These might include candle holders, wooden signs, and everything in between.
Live edge slabs work well for rustic decor because the wood grain makes every piece unique. If you want a rustic feel in your house, make decor out of a live edge slab.
Last but not least, chairs are excellent furniture to make out of live edge wood slabs.
Bar stools, especially, can look good if made with a natural edge. If you cut a little circle out of your slab, you can finish it and attach metal legs to provide the ultimate place to sit. You can make one as an accent or multiple.
Expert crafters can make solid piece chairs out of live edge wood slabs. If you want a gorgeous piece of live edge furniture, carve a chair out of the wood slab of your choice.
What Challenges Come with Live Edge Wood?
If you want to work with live edge pieces, it’s critical to be ready for the challenges that come with the material.
Because of the raw state of the wood, there are a few tricky aspects many woodworkers find rough to deal with when they craft.
A few of the challenges you will find with live edge wood include:
- Holes: Many pieces often come with holes inside, which you will need to fill.
- Cracks: Cracks can appear in a fresh slab of live edge wood.
- Voids: A void will make the working process much more difficult.
- Bark inclusions: Bark inclusion causes a little ‘v’ to divot into the slab.
- Inconsistent grain: Grain isn’t always consistent in live edge, which makes it tricky to cut in a solid piece.
- Curling and twisting: Traditional lumber is treated to prevent curling and twisting, while live edge wood is most often not.
- Epoxy finish troubles: Epoxy finish doesn’t do well with all wood. You will need to test it on a small section of your piece to see if it could cause a chemical reaction.
Of course, these troubles can be avoided with research and careful selection of the best piece. Buy from a manufacturer that takes the proper air drying process for their wood and ensures quality.
Where Can You Purchase Live Edge Material?
Where can you go if you want to purchase a live edge slab? Many stores offer live edge slabs for your use. Let’s talk about a few of the best you can buy from as a crafter.
These are excellent places to purchase live edge material:
- Home Depot
- Smaller, local wood supply stores
If you want a product made of live edge slabs already finished, you can shop in locations like Etsy.
The big-box retailers typically have live edge slabs for affordable prices. Still, check out local stores to see if you can get a better piece of wood for a better deal.
Can You Finish Live Edge Wood?
Wood finishing defends the surface of a wood product with a finished layer and is critical to keep your furniture lasting. It also gives a glossy look to a wood piece, ideal for wood used to build basic furniture, bar stools, and tabletops.
If you want to finish live edge wood, there are a few steps you will need to follow:
- Gather supplies
- Sand the wood
- Pick a finish
- Fix any flaws
- Finish the piece
First, you will need to gather the necessary supplies for the project. Set up shop outside or in a place where some wood dust and finish won’t har anything around you. Once you find that spot, you need everything else.
Here are some of the necessary supplies for finishing live edge wood:
- Stopping agent
- Live edge wood
- Varnish applicator brushes
Sand the Wood
The first thing you need to do with your live edge slab is sand it, even if there are issues like holes in the product.
Many want to address the flaws first, but sanding is the best initial move. Lightly move a piece of sandpaper across the surface without pressing too hard for the best results.
When working with live edge wood, the ideal sandpaper is 120-grit. This texture will rough up the edges enough to be workable without harming the overall look of the material. Once you’ve sanded everything down, you’re ready to move forward.
Pick a Finish
Next, you will need to pick and test the finish you want to use on the wood. Ensure the sandpaper has hit every section and flip the wood over. The first side you put finish on should be a side nobody will see (so you can test how it looks and adheres).
Test the finish on the wood. It could have a chemical reaction that you may not like. If this is the case, you will need to invest in a new finish before applying it to the entire product. Keep testing it on the unseen side of the wood until you find a product that works well for your piece.
This step is technically optional, but finishing live edge wood can make for great long lasting furniture.
Now, it’s time to fix the flaws.
Take epoxy or another filler and plug up any holes that might alter the integrity and look of the piece. For live edge tables, it’s best to have a slab of wood that is free of faults and flaws. Once the holes are filled, let them dry for at least twenty-four hours.
When the filler dries, sand it down to match the surface of the wood. Once you have a flat surface, you’re ready to move on to the final step of the process.
Finish the Piece
You should have a finish at this point that will not react to your wood and give you the appearance you want. Add the liquid with care and precision. It’s best to stick with a thin layer, as the wood is delicate. Cover every exposed surface. If there are areas that won’t be visible to the average viewer, you can leave them alone.
Once everything is on, you should let the piece dry. It shouldn’t take too long for everything to solidify.
Issues to Look for When Purchasing Live Edge Wood
If you invest in live edge wood, you want to ensure you get the best product for your money. There are several faults to look for in live edge wood. These can help you determine if the pieces and company are worth your investment.
Here are the top three items you should keep an eye out for in this material:
You won’t be making beautiful charcuterie boards or furniture with these flaws in the product.
Bugs can take a beautiful piece of wood and wreck it in no time. If you get a live edge slab with bugs, you will take the critters home and receive material with little to no integrity. Some bugs can even lay dormant until you make the piece into something like a table. After a while, they will awaken and burrow out of the wood.
The best course of action is to assume your wood has bugs. You can heat or chemically treat the wood to kill any living things that might be inside. It’s better to be overly cautious in this case for your project.
Wet wood is not fun to work with, no matter your experience level. If the wood you’re interested in is wet, don’t purchase it. Moist wood, also known as green wood, will warp and twist as it dries. By the time it’s done, it will look completely different.
A good moisture meter can help you determine the moisture content of a piece of wood. From there, you can determine whether you want it or not. Moisture isn’t something to mess around with if you have minimal experience with live edge slabs.
Rot and defects almost always come with interesting pieces of wood. Ensure you check to see how flat or soft a piece of wood is before you purchase it.
It’s possible to get rid of rot and defects if you love the unique look. Still, it’s vital to know what you’re getting yourself into with the piece. There will be extra work involved if you need to improve the integrity of wood and rid the piece of rot and decay.
Final Thoughts on Live Edge Wood
Live edge wood is a unique material that’s easy to fall in love with based on look.
The grain is almost always one of a kind, and it provides a rustic feel to any living space that you can’t easily get with traditional lumber. Live edge wood slabs can be expensive, but they’re well worth the extra cost for the finished product that will appear at the end of the construction process.
There are endless projects you can make with live edge wood including furniture, decor, or other wooden projects.
There are many types of live edge wood, so find what works for your project and get started!