The Trick to Making Inexpensive Live Edge Slabs

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This is the Trick to Making Inexpensive Live Edge Slabs. Big slabs are expensive, but you can make something similar in your shop for far less money. I’ll show you the trick, as well as several tips along the way. Enjoy.

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Live Edge Slabs and Woodworking

The-Trick-to-Making-Inexpensive-Live-Edge-SlabsWorking with live edge slabs is a ton of fun. It adds a very natural aspect to any type of woodworking that’s associated with this cut of wood, and you can do some very interesting projects just by incorporating these slabs.

The one big problem with live edge pieces of wood is that they are expensive, especially when they’re really big. A live edge piece of wood has the outside of the tree on both sides of the board, which means it’s a full fillet of the trunk of the tree.

In order to get a piece is large enough to make something like a desk or a dinner table, you need to find a pretty darn big tree. That’s where the expense comes in, and that’s where this post will show you a little trick to get the look, without the expense.

See Also: 20 Easy DIY Woodworking Projects With Tutorials

Buying Your Lumber

The very first step is to buy the right lumber for the project. You need to go in knowing the total size of the slab that you’re going to need to end up with. Basically the length, width, and thickness is all you really need to know.

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From there, head over to the species that you intend on using, and it’s easiest to go to the pieces that have a live edge first. For this to work, you only need one piece with a live edge on both sides. Yes, just one, and it doesn’t matter how wide.

The rest of the pieces can be regular lumber of whatever width you desire, and they don’t need to have any live edges. Make sure you get enough of these so that you can do the total size of the surface you’re hoping to create, minus about half the width of the live edge piece.

For example, if you’re doing a piece that 6 feet long, and 48 inches wide, and your live edge piece is 12 inches wide, you’ll need to select all pieces that are at least 6 feet long, and buy enough plain pieces that you can cover 42 inches of width. (Total Length – Half the Live Slab = Width of Regular Pieces Needed)

See Also: A Beginners Guide to Woodworking

Cutting and Arranging the Pieces

live-edge-slab-cutting-diagramHere’s where all of the stuff you just read is going to start making more sense. The way that this trick works is you take your single piece that has a live edge on both sides, and you rip cut it straight down the middle lengthwise.

This now creates two pieces that have a live edge on one side, and a 90 degree flat edge on the other. These two pieces become your front and back edges, and the rest of the plain pieces without a live edge get stacked in the middle.

Now you have a several boards that are arranged in such a way that they look like one big slab from a distance, even though they’re made out of several pieces. Just like that, and for a far lower price, you have a gigantic live edge slab.

See Also: 19 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Woodworking

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Gluing the Slab Together

Play around with the arrangement of the pieces to get the grain and color to match as closely as possible. Do all of this before you add any glue of course, and get it as close as you can. If you’re planning on adding stain, you can always mask a lot of this later.

Depending on how big this gluing project is, you may elect to glue a couple pieces together at a time, and then glue those larger blanks together. This is a lot more steps, but it’s a lot easier than wrestling 10 pieces at once.

Make sure you use additional methods of fortifying your joints if needed, like biscuits or dowels. Depending on how thick your slab is, it can weigh quite a bit, and it may need a little bit more than glue to hold it together.

Once your piece has had ample time for the glue to completely dry to a full strength bond, you can remove your clamps and then sand and prepare the surface like you would if the piece was one large chunk of wood.

See Also: 17 Important Tips on How to Sand Wood

Tips and Tricks to Making Your Own Slabs

Making a live edge slabs from several pieces of wood is a pretty fun trick, and you can get into this type of woodworking without the huge expense. Working with full slabs is something that does cost a lot of money, so unfortunately it does keep lots of people out of it.

The Book Store is Now Open!   Happy Building!

Now that you know a secret to making this type of slab on a budget, I’ll show you a few more tips and tricks to help you be even more successful:

  • The real secret to this process is selecting boards that look very similar, and have almost no difference in color.
  • Hiding the joint is much easier when the pieces look the same, and match really well, so spend some time arranging your boards before you commit to gluing them.
  • If your joints are absolutely hideous, not necessarily because of your craftsmanship but because of the wood that you have, consider doing a long string inlay over the joint.
  • It’s really important that you sand and level your slab so that way none of the joints can be felt on the top.
  • The more gnarly and interesting your live edge looks, the cooler your slab will look in the end.

See Also: The Secret to the Most Profitable Woodworking Projects to Build and Sell

Your Action Assignment

Now that you know this trick for making really large slabs for your projects, it’s time to get out into the shop and take action. Maybe there’s a project with the live edge piece that you haven’t been able to make because it’s too expensive?

Well, that excuse is gone now. All you need to do is make a slab yourself out of wood that’s far less expensive, and you’ll get 99% of the same look, for a very tiny fraction of the price. It’s definitely worth it, and it looks outstanding.

If you have any questions on the secret to making live edge slabs, please post a question and I’ll be glad to answer them. Happy building.

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brian forbes westfarthing woodworks llc owner

  • 20 Years Experience in Woodworking
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