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How To Choose A Live Edge Slab

Live edge furniture for home decor is extremely popular these days, and for good reason. The results are beautiful! It is one of our favourite design elements to incorporate into our bed frames and we are constantly seeing new and creative ways to use it for furniture and home decor projects.

If you have done some shopping for live edge slabs for a DIY project, you know that it can be a little confusing and challenging to select the right cut and piece for you. If you are new to purchasing live edge lumber, it can seem like there can be extreme differences in price for what looks like very similar pieces of wood.

So what is the difference between a slab that costs a few hundred dollars compared to a slab that costs a few thousand dollars? How can two pieces that are the same type of wood, and about the same size differ drastically in price?

Time is the big factor. And by time, we mean how much time you will spend preparing the piece for your task. Let’s say you want to build a small desk, and you would like the top to be flat and smooth so that you can print on it. Choosing a rougher cut of wood is going to result in a lot of time planing, sanding and prepping the piece so that it is in the condition that you need. However, in the end, you will end up with a piece that looks and functions the same as an expensive slab, you will just have paid for the slab with your time instead of your cash.

It’s important to realize that when you are comparing two slabs that are the same wood, difference in price won’t necessarily be determined by the quality of lumber. Typically the “best” cuts of lumber go to veneer, and then the next “best” cuts go to dimensional lumber. After that, we are left with the live edge cuts, which are broken down into “A”, “B” and “C” cuts. Qualities like straight and a consistent grain are often what’s deemed “best”. The good news is that for most live edge DIY projects, you are looking for the exact opposite of best! There is no reason to be afraid of a “C” cut if it is the piece that calls your name. Cheap doesn’t mean poor quality in this circumstance. Character and uniqueness are a good thing. That might mean you have to get a little more creative with your design though. But that’s half the fun!

Another huge factor to consider is if the wood has been dried or not. Occasionally you can find someone who has a small portable mill who is selling cheap, undried rough cuts for a fantastic price. These can be exceptional deals if you are willing to invest the time drying (it can take over a year if you don’t have a kiln), planing and sanding to get it ready. If you need your project by a certain date, you might be better off spending a little more money. Using a piece of wood that hasn’t been properly dried can lead to cracking and shrinking later.

The type of wood you are using needs to also receive some thought. For example, if you working on a countertop the harder the wood the better. Hardwoods and rare exotic woods are always going to be the most expensive. They take a long time to reach maturity and often times have to travel great distances to get to you. For this reason, these woods often aren’t the best choice for the environment. Colour is another factor that impacts the type of choice you use. If you need a darker colour, a softwood is not going to be an option. But let’s say you want to build some live edge picture frames. In this case, softwoods or even some pallet wood with a rough unfinished edge might be an ideal (and free) option.

Generally speaking, with live edge cuts you pay for how finished the cut is, how versatile the cut is, and how rare the tree it came from is. None of these will necessarily make your project any better. So hunt around and don’t feel like if you don’t pay top dollar that you aren’t getting the right piece for you.

Now that being said, when you are looking to purchase a piece of live edge furniture, remember that the craftsman either paid a very handsome sum for the piece of lumber, or he gave up a week or two of his life sanding and prepping the piece. Because no two pieces of live edge are the same, it can’t be mass-produced and thus is always going to be very labour intensive to produce a finished product.

The thrill of finding the right piece of wood is a good part of the fun of live edge projects. If you have any question or are looking for tips, don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us. We’re always happy to help.

If you have questions about our live edge furniture, contact us by clicking here.

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