Live Edge vs Dimensional Wood
Live edge, or natural edge wood, is wood that follows the natural grain of a tree. It is not lumber with straight edges (such as a 2x4), but instead the natural curvature of the tree is accentuated and desired on a live edge slab. Live edge slabs are typically sourced from logs in the urban setting, although not entirely.
Let’s compare this description to dimensional lumber. Dimensional lumber, such as a 2x4, is lumber that is milled to a certain dimension (2”x4”) every time. Logs that are selected for dimensional lumber are typically very straight and without limb. Dimensional lumber is often farm raised and grown fast for harvest.
How are Trees Selected for Milling?
While the selection process of the log is quite different for live edge when compared to dimensional, there are a few things that hold true for both. Leaning trees often don’t make for good usable material, because they have compression grain from years of fighting natures gravity. Some other red flags would be breaks, cracks, rot, or metal seen in the tree. These are all things that might cause a sawyer to have to pass on a tree. Once a tree passes those preliminary evaluations, species and size will be taken into account as well.
Tree Selection for Live Edge
How are Live Edge Slabs Milled?
When making live edge slabs, a sawyers process is quite different from the process of making dimensional lumber. A sawyer's process then becomes “flat sawing for character” (In comparison, a sawyer saws for grade when sawing dimensional lumber). In this process the sawyer selects the best orientation to begin milling the log that would show off the logs unique characteristics. The sawyer does this by looking at the location of limbs, burls, rippling in the bark that may be clues to beautiful grain. This evaluation process begins when the sawyer first lays his eyes on the tree.
Natural edges, wavy grain lines, quilting, unique colors, knots and cracks, these are the things that define live edge slabs over conventional lumber.