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Live edge slabs, is the hype real?5/6
Are you sawyers out there really seeing a huge market for live edge slabs? I am located in southwest Virginia and I see a ton of small sawyers always advertising live edge slabs. They are asking $4-$6 per bf for even red oak. I can typically buy FAS 4/4 red oak, kiln dried, and skip planed for around $2.50 per bf. I admit that I have a small circle of friends and family, but I know of no one that has any live edge slab furniture. Are people really buying the live edge slabs at these high prices?
I have a small woodworking/CNC business. I mainly do signage and custom moulding. I've have been toying with the idea of expanding to sawing. Just wondering if I should consider a mill capable of milling wide slabs. Or is the live edge market mostly hype and how long will it last?
Its real, think kitchen table, island. How long will it last? Who knows.
All i have done for last 3 years
Are you paying a premium for live edge slab lumber?
This is locally cut west indian mahogany that grows in front yards all across sw florida.
Everybody is selling live edge slabs, even Woodcraft. $4-$6 is a bargain for kiln dried.
My $0.02 is a lot of it depends on your market. The more urban your are the more likely you are to have success with them. Most shops (including ours) that operate in fairly rural areas are simply never going to have customers to pau for for quality live-edge and quality construction for boards that most of them have seen in a slab pile when they've been around a sawmill even though there is far more to it than that. When you get into paying close to a thousand dollars for a couple of live edge slabs and some ancillary material to make a full size 8' dining table, then the fabrication, joinery, a base, and the finishing, its just not going to happen. I just had a friend text me a picture from Asheville NC of a live edge table that IMO wasnt even very attractive or well executed and it had a $6500 price tag on it. Its not going to happen in my market or in my opinion any "average" market.
I own a small band mill (30" width capacity) and 150 acres of timber and we will occasionally saw wide/thick live edge slabs but unless you have access to a vacuum kiln your going to be making your work from air dried which will take a VERY long time to dry (read $$$). You'd likely have far better luck selling the slabs to the hobby "maker" market who seem to have no problem selling their tables to the masses barely air dried and more than likely get a lot of their sales because they are working on the side for low wage and having fun. I see a lot of live edge tables selling locally for far less than $2K. There is simply no way you can have KD material, and be billing a reasonable shop rate and make a the table for that. Even at $6/BF and 2" thick your at $400 bucks for a couple slabs, then flatten/fab/base/finish. I will often times see them include a bench at that price.
I recently read a long thread on an epoxy forum with all of this "river table" trend and there were dozens of people on there avocating that whether the slab is dry or not once its encapsulated in epoxy "it can never move". I dont know how these people get away with it. The mere moisture in a thick slab once encapsulated is a disaster.
If you do some searching for the big shops that are cutting boules and vacuum drying, those are the shops that are shipping entire main stems of trees cut sequentially in to Manhattan, LA, Overseas, etc..
I honestly dont have access to a kiln in my area that would take the time out of their kiln schedule to dry a 5' wide 2.5" to 3" slab. The trying alone would cost a fortune.
I can get it kiln dried for about 3 $ a bd ft.
I agree with Mark B. region/area depending. I'm also rural and rednecks don't care if it's dry, just HOW cheap they can buy it.....6 months later after selling it they can't figure out what is going wrong with the bulking and twisting.
I saw BUT I'm very reluctant to sell a green slab off my saw.....it CAN be built with IF you know the correct techniques and proper joinery using correct finishes BUT it is NOT for the UNKNOWLEDGED as most aren't familiar....another whole topic...BUT I do recommend to most customers full AD or KD as it is more stable/forgiving for the less knowledged on correct joinery.
I do build custom pieces with rustic live edge BUT I don't compete with the $400.00 builders as Mark said most have NO true idea what it fully costs, they just recoupe their materials costs and had $50.00 in their pocket....EVERYONE has a different concept of profit and worth.
I'm finding the market is getting flooded with slabs.....I didn't say with good slabs or well designed items....just flooded.
I agree the urban market is way better....I would advise to learn more about drying for proper knowledge whether you dry yourself or have it dried.
Check out my website for idea on how many facets of knowledge there is to learn for proper management. Marketing is a BIG, BIG, BIGGER part than anything. I can saw it, design it, fabricate it, build it BUT I'm weak in marketing/sales.
Good luck with your venture.
Blackhawk, you can't compare prices in the commodity market with those in the character market. Production of commodity lumber is highly mechanized and benefits from limited options and high volume. Character lumber is usually thicker and wider, more difficult to handle, does not conform to 'standards', typically comes from low volume operations (compared to the million bf operations) and often makes use of timber that would be ignored by commodity operations. Apples & oranges.