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The Process of Creating Live Edge Wood

The rich contours of natural wood edges give tables, benches, and other projects a sculptural quality, almost as much art as furniture. Thankfully, anyone can build such stunning projects because doing so requires only basic techniques and tools.

Another great thing about building these types of organic projects: There's really no right or wrong way to do it. No two slabs will be exactly alike, making each project unique. Simply let the natural shapes, and the tips here, lead you through design and building.

To make live edge wood, craftsmen find logs that have knots or other unique features. Then they follow these steps to create beautiful live edge slabs:

  1. The logs are exposed to the elements for natural coloring. This process could take years, depending on how quickly that type of wood naturally breaks down. Logs felled during spring and summer give up their bark easier once dry, and have more unusual coloring due to higher moisture content. Search out logs with multiple knots, burls, limbs, and other unique characteristics. To create even more character in your wood, allow the logs to lie on the ground or in a stack for a year or two uncovered. Exposure to weather increases the chances of getting spalted streaks and color variations.

  2. The wood is then dried, sometimes for years, so that it does not warp over time. Bark contains grit that dulls blades quickly, so remove as much as possible before firing up the mill. Start with a sharp blade, and keep extras on hand. Cut slabs a minimum of 2" thick to minimize warping. Saw thicker slabs for specific purposes or projects. If you want to use the warp-prone pith (the log's center), cut it as a 4–5"-thick slab, as shown at right. If the slab warps or splits later, remove the pith and make two slabs with single natural edges—great for shelves and mantels—or glue them together to form a wider slab with two natural edges.

  3. Finally, the dried wood is cut straight through to create slabs. Air-drying maintains the best color of your wood; kiln-drying, although quicker, tends to even out subtle differences in wood tones. After cutting, don't leave the slabs stacked for more than a day or two without sticking (adding spacers to promote air circulation). Place slow-drying thicker slabs at the bottom of the stack so down the road you can access the thinner, drier slabs without dismantling the whole stack.

  4. Live edge slabs are finished to protect the wood from scratches and water damage.

Cutting straight through the log without removing anything first creates a live edge slab. Think of cutting logs like cutting an apple. If you are preparing an apple for pie, you skin it, remove the core, and then dice it. If you are cutting it to eat, you might leave the skin on and cut it into bigger chunks, but you would still remove the core. Now imagine that all parts of the apple were edible. You might decide to slice the apple straight through. Each slice would look different with a variety of widths among them. Live edge slabs are cut in this way.

We take our work seriously to produce high quality wood slabs. Make that first purchase from Signet Slabs!


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