Live Edge Design How To's
Here is where Chris Wilson lead designer & owner of Live Edge Lust opens up on how he crafts some of the most beautiful live edge designs in the industry. This exclusive look inside an artist mind will inspire you to create a beautiful, professionally crafted functional art piece. The most fascinating part about working with live edge slabs is that no two pieces are exactly alike. This beautifully crafted by nature substances provides you with the creative freedom to design your very own, unique art piece.
Lets Talk Dirty
You may be asking yourself where do I even begin? I remember asking myself that exact question when I first started. Lucky for you we've already done the homework, from day one we knew we wanted to be supportive of ethically sourcing our live edge slabs, no forest raking, no pirated wood, no logging companies involved, thats why we took to extensively researching companies and countries who source their lumber in such a way that you and I can feel good about giving these incredible trees a second life.
We chose Costa Rica, the number one environmentally conscious country in the world. Costa Rica is a leader in setting goals and implementing laws to protect the environment. When purchasing a live edge slab from us you can feel good about where and how these beautiful giants were attained. While most of our inventory is sourced from Costa Rica we have access to mills across the US who we trust when sourcing domestic species, we are lovers of all kinds of wood so if there is something that you are in search of and its not in our hand selected inventory please send us a message with what you're LUSTING for.
Whats most important when choosing a live edge slab? It's the quality of care taken prior to putting the slab(s) up for sale, all of Live Edge Lust wood slabs have been kiln dried for several months in state of the art kilns assuring a completely eradicated of moisture slab of wood.
The best advice we can give you on this task is to ask your supplier what the moisture content is in the slab. "Green wood" is going to be a term you hear a lot when looking for live edge slabs, if you hear or see the word green STOP do not buy, this term means the lumber has been milled in to slabs but has not gone through the drying process. Trusting a supplier is not always the best route, if you're buying online and can't physically check the slab in person make sure they send you a photo of the moisture content reading of the specific slab(s) you are interested in purchasing. Typically anything under 12% moisture content is ok to buy and work with, anything above 12% should be strayed away from unless you're okay with hanging on to the slab until its dry enough to work on.
Live Edge Lust pays extra to have our slabs kiln dried fully before they ship. Its always a good idea to let any wood, no matter where you buy to acclimate to your shop or garage for a minimum of 10 days prior to working, even if it has been kiln dried, wood is a living breathing specimen that will continue to absorb any ambient moisture thus allowing for moisture to make the wood crack, cup, twist etc. upon acclimating to the current condition of your work space.
Begin by picking out one of our live edge slabs for sale. For larger designs such as conference tables, countertops and/or dining tables use the "Full length slabs section" For smaller creations like coffee tables, end tables and/or nightstands, check out our "Cross cut slabs" Want me to bring your idea to life? Great! Message me here.
Once you've selected your slab and have it in your shop acclimated a minimum of 10 days you can now decide to have your slab surfaced. Whats surfacing a slab? We have all our slabs CNC'd prior to working on them, assuring that the slab is dead flat. Its always a good idea to ask your supplier if the slab has been surfaced, if it has not undergone surfacing we suggest you find a slab that is above your desired thickness as once it undergoes surfacing it will be thinner stock than it was prior, depending on how bad the slab has cupped or twisted during the drying process you may not loose much thickness, if its a particularly cupped or twisted slab you may lose 1/4" up to 1" of thickness. A lot of suppliers offer flattening services at a very affordable rate. Let us know when purchasing one of our raw slabs for price on surfacing, if you decide to have us craft your piece we include surfacing as part of our extensive steps, no need to worry, all of our tables are flat and stay flat. We'll educate you on how our slabs stay flat for years to come in the following steps.
Now that we have our basics covered, It's all about keeping the structure of your flattened slab FLAT. We always suggest keeping your pre newly flattened slab on a perfectly flat surface, keep it stickered so both sides of the piece can breath through your creating process. "Stickers" are typically 1"x2" slats of lumber (pine is cost effective and will work fine) just make sure its been kiln dried so your stickers aren't transferring moisture to your already dry and flat slabs. Slide the stickers underneath your project keeping equal amounts of separation throughout the piece, this makes sure the slab is supported throughout from end to end.
Now that you have the slab supported on your work bench determine which side you will be using as your table top and table bottom, this is where you will provide extra support with steel C-channeling recessed in to the wood, we do this process on pieces that are 10' or longer and exceptionally wide pieces. Once you've routed in your steel channel throughout the under side of the slab use threaded inserts and quality bolts to secure the C-channels to the wood.This process prevents the slab from cupping and twisting. Again wood is constantly breathing and moving with seasonal temp and humidity changes this precautionary step is pivotal in securing that your piece will stay flat for years to come.
Sanding and prepping the surface is hands down one of the most important tasks you will take in the finishing process of your piece. We use professional sandpaper and very high end tools to make our furniture the meticulously crafted art pieces that they are. Absolutley no shortcuts taken whatsoever. We use Festool track saws when squaring up our ends or cutting our 45 degree angles when needed. We use a assortment of Festool sanders and sanding disks of varying grits to prep the surfaces on our live edge slabs. Starting your sanding comes after you've filled any cracks or voids in the slab, we use an assortment of commercial grade products when filling cracks and voids throughout the live edge slab. Its important to not skip steps when sanding, a quote I once read that sticks with me till this day is "If you want to teach your kids patience, teach them to sand" this couldn't be more true. You'll want to start with a fairly aggressive sandpaper to remove any of the surfacing piths and CNC lines, we almost always start with a 60 grit and cover the whole slab lapping over our sanding lines to not miss a square inch. A great pointer is to use a pencil to draw a grid of lines over the slab in-between every grit assuring that you are sanding those pencil lines off before moving on to your next grit. 60-80-120-150-180-220-240-320 and onwards depending on your sheen preference, the higher the grit the higher sheen you'll attain once finish is applied.
Now were on to the fun stuff! Choosing a finish can be like looking for the best rate online for a resort hotel stay, most products over promise and under deliver. This is something that is a lot of trial and error, even for professionals, it takes years to develop the right finish for the right application.
For commercial projects we suggest using a catalyzed lacquer to achieve a very durable high trafficked finished piece such as a restaurant table or bar top.
For more natural breathable finishes we suggest a hard wax oil for that very organic feel and look, while still staying incredibly resilient to liquids such as, wine, water, soda cup rings etc. We suggest using food grade safe finish when applying to countertops and kitchen islands.
As I'm sure you are aware the variations of product all have their own method of application, check with your manufacturer on their preferred application method for the wood you are working on. Unless stated otherwise we suggest at minimum 2-3 coats on each side. Keep your work place clean once finishing has commenced, there is nothing worse than having saw dust stick to your already finished piece and have to sand back to raw and start over, a clean shop is a happy shop owners best friend. For information on what we use don't hesitate to reach out, theres no secrets with us!