Live Edge Slab – What Is It and Who Cares?

What is a Live Edge Slab?

A live edge slab is the uncut side of a piece of lumber, or slab. Folks will sometimes even leave the bark for character, but most often that is removed. I could go either way! Working with live edge slabs on your projects is one of the more sustainable options. But don’t worry, we’ll get more into this in a later post.

A loan walnut tree sits in an open field. This is NOT a good source for salvaged wood and live edge slab or slabs. We want this to live for many, many years!
This Walnut tree sure is pretty, but not so great for milling (too many limbs!). It’s living its best life out on the prairie anyway 🙂

Where Can You Get a Live Edge Slab?

Logs that come from a property expansion, or development clearings are ideal.  You would be shocked at how much metal you’ll find in urban logs.  Nails, chain, barb wire, cement and all kinds of crazy stuff.  I heard a story of one walnut log that came out of Melrose, MA that had NINE NAILS on a single pass at 14″ intervals, which was probably the ladder up the tree to the tree house.  That stuff destroys blades. 

I like the idea of recycling a lot and all this wood will either be burnt to ashes or ground up; much better to use it for beautiful furniture instead. You can invest in milling equipment yourself or find someone to do the milling for you.

Urban Live Edge Slabs Are Tough….

A live edge slab salvaged from urban areas, or even yards in the suburbs can be tough. These trees can be filled with metal, like huge nails for ladders and treehouses.

I’d guess about 10% of urban tree removals make for workable mill-able logs.  A lot of urban trees will have rot and are simply a safety concern in general. Open grown (think in the middle of the field or backyard) also make poor trees for milling due to the low limbs; makes the wood unstable during drying and wood grade poor.

What Species of Live Edge Slabs Can You Get?

I just love me a good live edge slab!
Example of Walnut live edge slabs laid out after milling

You can get live edge slabs in any species. Some species will finish much nicer than others though. A couple of the more popular wood species to work with are maple and black walnut but it’s really whatever you can get your hands on! Live edge slabs are 2-4 times more expensive than typical lumber you might buy so keep that in mind. Live edge slabs also take more time / effort to work on. If you can cut the slabs yourself then most of the time the cost is just your labor and what you already invested in the milling setup.

Of course a live edge slab will have bark on the edges originally. It's common practice to remove this bark prior to building to make the structure more sound.
Rough Black walnut “live” edge slab

Now Get to Work!

There’s no denying the natural beauty of live edge slabs. You can do all sorts of crazy things with slabs; you’re only limited by your own imagination…. check out our online portfolio of IG page for project inspo:

Tools for Live Edge Slab Work

Festool Plunge Cut Track Saw

Mega Planer Router Bit

Supplies for Live Edge Slab Work

Festool Tenons

Gorilla Wood Glue

Ecopoxy Liquid Plastic

Rubio Moncoat Oil + 2C

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What Would You Do With A Live Edge Slab?? (Comment Below)

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