How to Finish Live Edge Wood Slabs? [7 Step By Step Guide]

If you ask any experienced woodworker what live edge wood is, the definite answer will be that any woodworking tools have not altered the edge of the wood. The edges of finished slabs or furniture retain the original features and shape of the tree and its bark.

The natural beauty of live edge wood makes it unique, and mostly you will not find wood with the same design. However, most interior designers have embraced live-edge, and woodworkers incorporate this style for finishing items like coffee tables, dining tables, countertops, wood arts, and other wood products.

How to Finish Live Edge Wood Slabs
How to Finish Live Edge Wood Slabs?

How to Finish a Live Edge Wood Slab 

Before using the live edge wood for wood projects, I recommend any woodworker do perfect finishes to produce clean pieces of finished products. Below is a guide on how to finish live edge wood slabs.

Bark removal and sanding

Carefully remove the bark in sections with a chisel. Work along the edges while ensuring that you don’t leave marks on the surface. Remove any fibers using a wire brush. Using sandpaper, sand the wood slab starting with 120 grit and working towards 220 grit.

Strengthen splits in the wood with butterfly keys

To stabilize splits in the wood, make butterfly keys and create spaces that fit the keys. Use a clear epoxy to fix the keys into the spaces. Ensure that the keys are flush with the face, then Sand the epoxy key once the epoxy dries.

Fill any voids in the slab.

This needs a two-part epoxy. The color of the epoxy and that of your finish should match; hence I suggest testing it to see the final color. Once you are satisfied with the color, pour the epoxy slowly into the slab to seal the holes while ensuring it does not form bubbles.

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Finishing and sealing the slab

When the epoxy dries up completely, sand the wood slab to get a smooth surface. Begin with 80-grit sandpaper and move towards 220 grit. You are once done, ensure that your working surface is free from dust by vacuuming. Apply three coats of polyurethane for a nice oil finish. Ensure you sand the slab after every coat. Wait for the slab to finish to cure completely before using the slab.

Natural wood slab coffee table

Choose the size and shape of the coffee table you want. This will guide you in finding a suitable slab. Fill in any holes using epoxy to avoid food or small particles getting stuck. Sand the edges, bottom, and top of the slab to the desired smoothness.

Prepare the coffee table for staining by applying wood conditioner in the direction of the grain. Wait for the conditioner to completely dry. Apply thin coats of stain and sand after every coat until you are satisfied with the look. To protect your coffee table, apply a varnish. You can apply 2 or 3 coats of varnish for a quality finish. Please wait for it to dry overnight, then place the complete slab on selected coffee table legs.  

How to finish a live edge wood slab countertop 

Depending on the countertop you want, I suggest you have all cutouts precut, and all required holes are drilled to make finishing easy. The slab comes sanded, but you need to finish sanding the surface and edges to desired smoothness.

Seal the wood slab on both the bottom and topsides. I recommend the Monocoat 2C wood sealer since it offers excellent protection and is easy to apply. For countertops designed for chopping on, sand it to 250 grit to obtain a smoother surface, and use a butcher block conditioner to seal the top. Finally, use a polyurethane topcoat to obtain a furniture look on your countertop.

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Wood slab dining table 

Determine parts that must be certain dimensions, e.g., height, to enable you to design other parts proportionate to the dimensions. Also, select two pieces of wood to join together to get a good width. Use a planner to flatten the surface and obtain the same size, then join them using a strong glue.

Fill any cracks and holes using epoxy; you can add color by mixing epoxy and a pigment of your choice. Once dried, sand the slab to remove excess epoxy and also obtain a smooth finish. Next, apply a quality wood finish to the bottom and top of the dining tabletop. Apply as many coats while sanding between coats until you obtain the desired finish. 

Wood slab desk

For a wood slab desk, the surface must be very flat; hence you need to do a lot of sanding. Clean the slab to remove all dust in the holes and cracks. Fill any cracks and voids in the wood using epoxy. Tape the bottom of the slab so that the epoxy does not pour everywhere.

After the epoxy has dried completely, remove the excess epoxy using a chisel. Make the slab even by sanding. I recommend a circular 80 grit sandpaper to ensure the surface is as smooth as possible. Apply 3 thin coats of polyurethane on the bottom part and 4 coats of polyurethane on the top. Don’t forget to sand between coats for a smoother finish.

Wood slab bench

While making a slab bench from natural wood, the first thing is to decide whether you want a short bench or an extended bench. This will enable you to choose the right length of your slab. Then, there are two options for obtaining the slab, i.e., saw them yourself or buy readymade slabs.

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Sand the slab using medium grit sandpaper and finish with fine sandpaper for a smooth surface. Use a UV-protecting stain or varnish for outdoor benches to protect them from harsh weather conditions. For a natural look, use wood stumps as the base for your live edge wood slab bench.

Rustic wood slab

Rustic wood slabs are unique and are lovely to work with since most of the wood features are preserved in the finished product. You can use them in your DIY projects to create stylish yet unique woodworks. While selecting your wood slab, I suggest a slab with an uneven surface for a nice rustic look.

There are over 60,000 wood species that can make good pieces of rustic wood slabs. Some of the few I selected are; redwood, black walnut, cherry, Claro walnut, and oaks. Always choose a piece that you are comfortable working with. An excellent rustic slab should be completely dry to prevent warping and splitting. Air-dried wood is better than kiln-dried ones. 

You can choose to buy a readymade rustic slab or cut it yourself. I suggest buying one at your local lumberyard, as preparing the wood may take time.

Working with rustic wood can be challenging and requires time. For beautiful pieces, take your time and use the best wood finishing products.

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