All You Need to Know About Live Edge Wood

Macro closeup wood after coating with epoxy resin. Process of making a craft resin and wood table

Live edge wood is a popular way to add unique pieces to your rustic decor. Lumber is typically cut straight, sanded, and smoothed before it’s used. Live edge wood slabs, on the other hand, look more natural. The edges are left rough and unfinished, the same way they came out of the tree. Demand for the slabs has grown steadily since the 1940s. Here we’ll tell you everything you need to know about live edge wood and how you can use it.

What is live edge wood?

If you take a trip to your local lumber store, you’ll find stacks of boards that are all the same size and shape. Their goal is to be as uniform as possible to make it easy to find standardized dimensions and have a clean-looking end product. Live edge wood is almost the exact opposite. Its charm comes from its uniqueness. It’s still cut into planks, but the edges aren’t sanded or finished. The slab looks like it came straight from the tree and no two are alike.

What type of wood is used?

Trees of all types make beautiful live edge wood slabs. Most of the time, though, they’re made of less common woods. It’s a great way to utilize cuts that might otherwise be considered unusable. Salvaged and reclaimed pieces are common. The focus is on aesthetics and there’s no worry about whether the lumber can be planed and sanded evenly. The type of wood you need depends on your project.

What are live edge wood slabs used for?

Originally live edge wood was used for sturdy pieces of furniture such as tables. One of the earliest known uses was by the American settlers. Limited hand tools meant they needed to use the wood as-is once it was cut down, so tables and other surfaces had live edges. George Nakashima is credited for reviving the style in the 1940s, focusing on the aesthetics of the furniture he built. Today, live edge wood slabs are used for almost anything. Tables, benches, shelves, countertops, sideboards, and more can be custom-made with live edges. Some people simply use the slab as decoration.

Is live edge wood hard to work with?

There are some challenges with live edge wood. The pieces are so varied that there are no catch-all solutions. Holes, cracks, voids, splits, and other irregularities are common. Some people leave this as part of the rustic aesthetic while others choose to fill them. Resin is a popular choice for this, but it can be time-consuming and difficult to work with. Less experienced woodworkers might have a hard time with the varied edges, grains, and textures.

Where can I find live edge wood?

One option is to cut your own slabs. Though rewarding, this can take a significant amount of time and effort. The easiest way to get live edge wood slabs is by buying them. Lumber Yards in person and online are good places to look, and they should be able to help you find the best piece for your project. At Reclaimed Secrets, we supply upcycled, sustainably sourced salvaged wood in a wide variety of styles. A large selection of colors, textures, cuts, and sizes means you can find the perfect piece for your DIY project!