If yinz keep up with my furniture builds, you know that I’ve been creating a ton of live edge projects lately. I love the raw, rugged look of a live edge slab and the way it accentuates the natural beauty of the wood. As the perfect mix of modern and natural, live edge furniture really knocks it out of the park in terms of design every time in my book.
But here’s the thing, live edge furniture does have its own set of difficulties. Live edge slabs are the blankest of canvases you can be handed and therefore require a bit more knowledge and preparation than other wood types. Lucky for you, I’m here to break down five important tips for making better live edge furniture. From wood stabilization to design tips, you’ll be more prepared than ever before with these little tidbits from yours truly.
If reading isn’t really your thing, I’ve made this a video too. You can thank me later.
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If you grew up with a wood-burning fireplace, you know that the wood you use has to be dry enough to burn properly. The same goes for furniture - not because you’re going to catch it on fire - but because moisture in wood causes it to expand. If your wood changes size too much, all your hard work can be thrown out the window and your project could be ruined (womp womp).
This is a problem cheapskates like myself encounter frequently when buying wood from guys on Craisglist; you want to make sure the wood is dry enough. To combat this, buy yourself a moisture meter that tells you how dry your wood is prior to use. Be sure to block plane out a section of the wood before checking, and make sure your wood is dry enough before starting.
Even if your wood is dried to the proper moisture level, the size of your wood can still change - or your wood can warp - due to changes in temperature and air moisture levels. That’s why it’s important to do what you can to stabilize your wood with either a chunky metal base or a c-channel. I use metal bases in a lot of my builds because I love the look of industrial furniture, but some builds are better suited for a wooden base and c-channel.
You can make your own c-channel or buy one in store. To install, simply route out the grooves for your c-channel and inset threaded inserts for installation. I love you use button-capped screwed with a washer for my c-channels for smooth and stable construction.
Not to get all hippy-granola on you, but you really need to listen to your wood when planning the design. I’m not talking about voices. I’m talking about the natural character, channels, and defects in the wood. These characteristics are what makes each slab unique from the next, so you might as well make the most out of them.
One of my favorite ways to accentuate defects in my slabs in by creating inserts. A bowtie insert, for example, not only adds a fun detail to your project, but helps prevent indents and channels from growing even larger over time. The wide outsides of the bowtie hold the slab in place to maintain the natural beauty of the wood. Also - if you just like the look of a bowtie - you can add them as your heart desires.
If you watch my videos, you know that I’m really into epoxy resin right now and use it in a bunch of my builds. The project that kind of put me on the map was this sweet epoxy river table with a bit of a finger in it (because like I said, I like to play up the natural shape of the wood). As epoxy river tables become even more popular, I also like to use epoxy to fill in natural cracks and indentations. What’s cool about epoxy is you can dye it any color, allowing you to really personalize the look of any project.
Picture this: you spend hours and hours planing, sanding, shaping, and adding details to a gorgeous live edge slab just to half-ass the finish. For a lot of the live edge builds I’ve seen, this is the reality and it makes me cringe.
Finish your live edge slabs the right way. Start off by prepping the surface with a good sand. Start at 80 grit and work slowly. If you want to make sure you’re getting a good, even sand, scribble pencil lines all over. You’ll make sure you’re not missing any part of the table while going slow enough. If you go too fast, you’ll make swirl marks in the wood -- which just isn’t a good look.
Once sanded, pick a finish that’s right for your application. Staining and finishing your wood by hand should be done with specialized finishes and can lead to a spectacular finished product. In other words: stain safely, and stain right.
If you liked these tips, check out some of my latest live edge builds:
Want to try this build out for yourself? Download the digital plan now for step-by-step instructions, measurements, and a detailed look at how to punch this project in the face.