What’s so special about live edge slabs?

Live edge furniture has grown significantly in popularity over the past couple of years. Live edge wood slabs are cuts of wood that do not have finished edge and they have the same shape as when someone cut them from the tree. 

As bespoke furniture specialists in Toronto, we only use high-quality Canadian wood slabs. If you’re looking to create a rustic table with a natural edge bench then we recommend you consider using natural edge wood slabs. 

The natural appearance and the interesting wood characteristics, such as the knots, the cracks, and the figure is impressive. At the end of the day, it is satisfying to own a tabletop made by nature itself with history literally written into their rings and hasn’t been transformed beyond recognition.

Another special aspect of live edge timbers is that each one is unique, as no tree in the world is the same. Each tree grows differently and even within the set of lumber cuts from a single log you won’t find the same piece.

There are many different species of wood that you can use for your handcrafted furniture. Each of these has its own unique characteristics, so it is a matter of preference in most cases. As the hardwood furniture specialists, we prefer to work with black walnut ash and also maple and oak timber. You can also find how to recognize different types of wood

Colour – Darker wood tone
Density – High density, Medium texture, fairly lightweight.
Grain – Straight fine grain
Common Uses – High-end furniture, carving, flooring, musical instruments, and gun stocks.
Finishing – Natural finish or oil.

Black walnut slabs are dark, hard, and dense with straight tight grains and irregular texture (waves or curls). Walnut has a rich colour that ranges from chocolate brown (heartwood) to yellow (outer of the tree). The most assuring quality of the black walnut wood we carry is the natural resistance to decay and insects.

Walnut is one of the most valuable and unique species of hardwoods. It is rare and is often used for higher-end furniture, such as bookcases, desks, dining room tables, bedroom furniture, office furniture, and many other fine pieces.

As for the price, it is usually expensive and the price goes higher because of its increasing demand and decreasing supply of black walnut trees.

Colour – Light Brown & Pinkish red
Density – Very hard and strong.
Grain – Varied and openly porous grain patterns.
Common Uses – Furniture, cabinets, moulding, trim, flooring, panelling, turning.
Finishing – Natural finish or oil, but they may vary. Stain is commonly used in finishing.

Oakwood is another common type of wood when it comes to furniture making. Oak slab is highly durable and its grain pattern is quite unique, which makes it one of the easier species to recognize and it looks great stained or with a natural finish. Its unusual patterns give a lot of character to design or space.

Although there are more than 600 species of oak trees, the most common species are red and white oak. Both have visible growth rings, straight grains and are light brown, although red oak has a reddish tone.

Red Oak is a relatively inexpensive wood, while the price for white oak is a little bit higher.

Colour –Nearly white to an off-white cream colour. But it can be reddish or golden hue.
Density – Moderately hard but strong.
Grain – Closed and generally straight
Common Uses – Everything from furniture and woodenware to flooring and millwork.
Finishing – Takes all finishes.

Maple flourishes in southeastern Canada and the largest quantities of hard maple wood are found around the Great Lakes.

The hard maple tree, which also produces maple syrup, is sturdy, resistant to splitting and durable. It remains strong when bent, absorbs shock well, works nicely with both power and hand tools, and resists to wear and to insect attack. These qualities make it is ideal for dining, kitchen and other furniture that takes abuse, such as desks, workbenches and butcher blocks.

Maple is a relatively inexpensive hardwood.

Colour – Beige or creamy-brown.
Density – Tough, flexible.
Grain – Open-grained with occasional brown streaks.
Common Uses – Fine Furniture, Flooring, millwork, boxes/crates, baseball bats, and other turned objects such as tool handles.
Finishing – Takes all finishes.

Ash trees are medium to large trees that grow throughout the east coast, Canada and other parts of the world and it’s known for its durability. Ash wood is a light brown coloured and smooth-grained hardwood that is a very attractive option for fine furniture.

Ash slabs are a relatively inexpensive wood type.

How much do live edge wood slabs cost? 

Before starting your project, you should first set a budget, as the wood you choose will drive the final price of your furniture. When you start looking at slabs, you will find that some solid wood slabs are very expensive and some are more affordable.  The primary reason is demand and supply.

Nowadays, the demand for live edge timber is quite high. On the other hand, creating live edge lumber by cutting a tree into slabs is challenging and the least efficient way to use a tree.

Another important factor is also the supply of wood. Some species are extremely rare and it is difficult to source them. That is why live edge wood tends to be more expensive than traditional lumber and why walnut slab is more expensive than ash or maple. If you are out of budget, the best way to save money when buying slabs is to consider using a species other than a walnut.

Also, thicker slabs have more material, so the thicker the cut, the more expensive the timber will be. It is worth mentioning that you should avoid the very thin slabs, as the final product, such as a table or bench won’t be stable and might break. The optimal thickness is between 2”-3”.


Quality slab VS Cheaper options

Finally, beware of the slab quality you are buying. Cheaper options in the market are usually selling lumber that is not dried properly. The timbers might suffer serious distortion during the drying process and end up dished or warped, or with severe cracks. The slabs might also are mispresented or sourced from countries that are not following the best practices.

At 1BENMU- Furniture & Design Studio in Toronto, we are concerned about sustainable forestry and always source our log from well managed Canadian forests. Also when it comes to the slab preparation, we are following the highest standard, just to make sure that the piece is properly dried and ready for production.


Slab drying techniques

No matter the wood species you select to make a piece of furniture, as a freshly cut tree slab, it will contain high moisture content. To prepare the slabs for production we always take the time to dry them out. This way, they are adequately de-moisturized, stable in size and grade and ready to be finished.

You have to avoid the air-dried stock.  Kiln-dried slabs won’t experience significant shrinkage, which is often accompanied by warping, during the heating season, so it won’t cause issues when the furniture is in your room. Finally, an air-dried slab may also have insects living it, which can cause all kinds of problems.  Kiln-drying kills insects.

Almost all the slabs we are selling are kiln-dried and few of them are air-dried.

Kiln drying is the most common process if you want to use the slabs to make furniture. All the logs are placed into a kiln and heat is applied by raising the temperature slowly to 170°F. At the end of this process, there will only be between 6-10% moisture content in the logs, and this is something we are monitoring carefully, to achieve the highest quality result.

This process ensures that all insects, eggs and bugs in the wood get killed, minimizes unwanted log shrinkage, checking or cracking and increases slab strength.

Air Drying is a natural process of drying in the open air by stacking the slabs with spacers between them. It allows the wood to naturally dry in the open from 8 to 16 months depending on the species. 

Some advantages of the air drying over the kiln drying are that the slab is evenly dried with minimal natural cracking. It is less fragile, won’t break off easily and it has up to 20% more of its colour. The high kiln temperature fade some of the subtler wood grain colours.

Final Thoughts on Wood Slabs

The first thing to do when planning your live edge furniture is to decide the size and shape you would like. Try to imagine the final piece, as this will help you a lot in choosing the right slab.

Searching for live edge timber in without preparation can be the most time-consuming part. It is critical when purchasing any lumber to be sure that the seller has cut and dried it correctly.

If you found the perfect piece, don’t assume that the slab will stay there forever. From our experience, although we only sell our slabs in Toronto and GTA, the best pieces can be sold within a few hours.

Once you get your live edge wood slab, you should take your time and plan exactly the process. The main reason why the solid wood pieces are so popular is the uniqueness, and you don’t want to end up ruining the piece. The natural edge piece you felt in love with will not appear again.

If you have any concerns or questions about the wood slabs you can use for your project, please contact us. As the solid wood specialists in Scarborough, we know exactly how to help you choose the best live edge wood piece. We will provide you with recommendations and everything you need to know about live edge wood slabs so that you can use them for your next project.

Finally, in addition to the slabs you can find in our online store, we also have a large collection of different slabs in our studio located in Scarborough, suitable for benches and tables, such as dining, coffee, side, console tables etc.


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