How To Finish Live Edge Slabs

Live edge slabs are becoming increasingly popular in modern furniture design. These slabs, often made from reclaimed or sustainably sourced wood, provide a unique and rustic aesthetic that is difficult to replicate with other materials. However, finishing these slabs can be a challenge for even experienced woodworkers.

In this article, we will provide detailed instructions on how to properly prepare and finish live edge slabs to ensure a beautiful and long-lasting final product.

To finish a live edge slab, it is important to first properly prepare the wood. This includes removing any bark, sanding the surface, and filling any cracks or knots with wood filler.

Choosing the right finish is also crucial in achieving the desired result. Different finishes have varying levels of durability, sheen, and color. It is important to consider the intended use of the finished product and the type of wood being used when selecting a finish.

Finally, applying the finish correctly is key to achieving a smooth and even surface. This can involve multiple coats and sanding between each coat, as well as using the appropriate tools and techniques for the chosen finish.

By following these steps, anyone can successfully finish a live edge slab and create a stunning piece of furniture.

Prepare the Slab for Finishing

Prior to applying any finish, it is crucial to adequately prepare the live edge slab by removing any bark, sanding the surface, and ensuring the slab is completely dry.

Sanding techniques play a vital role in achieving a smooth and even surface. Start with a coarse grit sandpaper to remove any rough spots or imperfections, followed by gradually moving to finer grits until the surface is smooth to the touch.

It is essential to pay special attention to the edges and corners, as these areas may require more sanding to achieve a uniform look.

In addition, wood fillers can be used to fill any cracks or knots that may be present in the slab, providing a smooth surface for the finish to adhere to.

Proper preparation of the live edge slab will ensure a beautiful and long-lasting finish.

Choose the Right Finish

When choosing the right finish for a live edge slab, it’s important to consider its intended use. Will it be a decorative piece or will it be used as a table or countertop?

Once you have determined its purpose, you can then decide on a gloss or matte finish, depending on your preference.

Lastly, it’s important to choose a protective coating that will help preserve the natural beauty of the wood and ensure its longevity.

Consider the Intended Use of the Slab

One important factor to consider when finishing live edge slabs is the intended use of the final product. This consideration is critical as it determines the type of finish that will be most suitable for the slab.

For instance, if the slab is intended for use as a decorative item, a glossy finish may be ideal as it enhances the natural beauty of the wood, while preserving its unique features. On the other hand, if the slab is intended for use as a countertop or table, a more durable finish may be necessary.

Sustainability considerations should also be factored in when selecting a finish, as some finishes may contain harmful chemicals that can be detrimental to the environment. Therefore, it is important to carefully evaluate the intended use of the live edge slab before selecting the appropriate finish.

Decide on a Gloss or Matte Finish

The selection of a gloss or matte appearance can greatly impact the overall aesthetic of the final product and should be carefully considered based on the intended use of the wood.

A gloss finish will provide a high shine and create a dramatic effect, making it ideal for pieces that will be displayed in a formal setting or for decorative purposes. However, a gloss finish can also highlight imperfections and scratches on the surface, which may be undesirable for functional pieces.

On the other hand, a matte finish will provide a more natural look and is better suited for pieces that will be used on a regular basis or have a rustic appeal. Matte finishes also tend to be more forgiving in terms of imperfections and scratches, as they do not reflect light as much as gloss finishes.

Achieving a consistent sheen can be challenging, regardless of the finish chosen, and requires careful application and sanding techniques.

Ultimately, the decision between a gloss or matte finish will depend on personal preference and the intended use of the slab.

Choose a Protective Coating

Selecting an appropriate protective coating is crucial in preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of live edge slabs while also providing durability and resistance against wear and tear. A protective coating will seal the wood pores, preventing moisture and dirt from penetrating the surface and causing damage. Additionally, sealing the wood will prevent fading and discoloration from exposure to sunlight.

There are several types of coatings available, including oil-based, water-based, and polyurethane. Oil-based coatings provide a natural look and are easy to apply, but they take longer to dry and can emit strong odors. Water-based coatings are environmentally friendly, dry quickly, and have low odors, but they may not be as durable as oil-based coatings. Polyurethane coatings are the most durable and provide a glossy finish, but they can be challenging to apply and require a longer drying time.

Regardless of the type of coating chosen, regular maintenance is essential to ensure longevity and protect against damage. It is recommended to clean the surface regularly with a damp cloth and avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasives. With proper care, a protective coating will enhance the natural beauty of live edge slabs while providing long-lasting protection against wear and tear.

Apply the Finish

To achieve a polished and professional look, it is crucial to apply the finish carefully to the live edge slab using a lint-free cloth or foam brush.

The first step is to ensure that the slab is clean, dry, and free of any debris.

Then, apply the finish in thin and even layers, taking care not to over-apply. If the finish is too thick, it can lead to drips, sags, and an uneven appearance.

Once the first coat is applied, allow it to dry completely, following the manufacturer’s recommended drying time.

Then, lightly sand the surface using fine-grit sandpaper to promote adhesion between the coats.

Repeat the process until the desired number of coats is achieved.

Buffing techniques can be employed to enhance the shine and smoothness of the finish.

Finally, allow the final coat to dry completely before using the live edge slab.

With careful attention to detail and patience, a beautiful and durable finish can be achieved.


Live edge slabs are a popular choice for furniture and décor due to their unique and natural appearance. However, finishing a live edge slab can be a daunting task for those without experience. To achieve a professional and long-lasting finish, there are three crucial steps to follow: preparing the slab, choosing the right finish, and applying the finish.

Preparing the slab involves sanding and smoothing any rough edges or imperfections in the wood. It is important to start with a clean and level surface before applying any finish.

Next, choosing the right finish is essential for both the look and durability of the piece. Oil-based finishes, such as tung oil and linseed oil, are a common choice for live edge slabs as they enhance the natural beauty of the wood while providing protection. Polyurethane and epoxy finishes are also popular for their durability and water resistance.

Finally, applying the finish requires careful attention to detail and following the manufacturer’s instructions. It is important to apply the finish evenly and allow proper drying time between coats.

In conclusion, finishing a live edge slab requires attention to detail and careful planning. Preparing the slab, choosing the right finish, and applying it properly are all essential steps to achieving a professional and durable finish. With the right tools and techniques, anyone can create a stunning piece of furniture or décor that highlights the natural beauty of the wood.