Working with Live Edge Wood

If you watch any TV shows about home remodeling or read any home decor magazines, you will notice an increasing popularity in live edge wood. What is live edge wood? It’s when the natural edge of the wood is incorporated into the design of the piece. When my husband Jeff started designing our basement, he knew he wanted live edge wood to be included in the plans. He has done a lot of home projects over the years, but never really did anything like this with wood. He decided that this would be his perfect opportunity.

Pieces of wood suitable for this type of work can go for a lot of money – up to $40-$50 per linear foot. Lucky for me, not only is Jeff pretty creative, but he’s also good at being thrifty. Well, maybe sometimes it’s not good for me that he’s thrifty, but in this case it was. He went online in search of places in the area where he could purchase long slabs of hard wood. Thanks to Facebook tracking internet search activity (it seems they are always looking and listening), an ad popped up in his feed one day about a place near Harrisburg that has open mill days every few months. So Jeff marked it on his calendar and got up early one Spring Saturday morning to see what he could find. This wasn’t some huge business. It was just a guy who owns a tree trimming business and mills some of the huge hardwood trees into 2″ slabs of wood that he sells for much less money than most places. The catch here is that when you purchase from him, the wood isn’t dry yet. So you must dry it out yourself or find someone with a kiln.


This is one of the big slabs of black walnut. It was 13 feet long and probably weighed close to 200 pounds because it was still wet inside. You would probably want to go the kiln route if you were making fine furniture like a table, but Jeff just wanted to create a bar-top and a few shelves so he opted to dry it himself. He tarped it and put it on our patio and on warm dry days we would remove the tarp and let the sunshine and air on it. It started drying and getting lighter in weight, but remember how much rain we had this Spring and Summer? Yeah, so on the advice of a friend, Jeff moved it to the basement and created a tarp tent with the wood and a dehumidifier. He routinely tested the slabs with a moisture meter and in just a few weeks, it was ready to go!


This is what the wood looked like after it was dried out. Jeff purchased a draw knife to remove the bark (what don’t they sell on Amazon?) and started the sanding process. He used a hand-held sander which was pretty tedious. Not to mention, Black Walnut dust is considered toxic, so he had to be sure to wear a mask as to not breathe it in. He needed some wood for another project and decided to visit a local mill. For a nominal fee, they ran his pieces through a planer and it made a huge difference. It really brought out the beautiful grain of the wood and saved him hours of work! Below are pictures of all of the gorgeous (and expensive) wood slabs and the planer that saved Jeff hours of work.

Now the real fun was starting! The wood was ready to be put to use! Jeff started creating our bar-top.


After the bar-top and shelves were set, it was time to choose a finish. After doing a lot of research, he decided on Rubio Monocoat. He used a squeegee to apply it, then buffed it for a smooth matte finish and it made the wood look even more gorgeous.


This was definitely a time-consuming project for Jeff, and probably not something for someone who isn’t handy or artistic. His many hours of hard work paid off and now he has created something beautiful. Just in time for football season and the holidays!