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Live Edge Walnut Slab

Jim Conklin  Member


A related trade friend brought me the top of a console style cabinet he made for their family room for under their bay window. It is a slab of black walnut 118" x 22" x 2" with a live edge. Truly impressive chunk of wood he got at an auction a few years ago.

Here are some factors:
1) the live edge is de-barked, but has some scaly dry white fungus on it that probably formed before the bark fell off.
2) the face still has some planer chatter and bandsaw marks in it. Maybe 1/32" average depth.
3) One end has a 3 foot section with a water stain.
4) The opposite end has a blind knot hole in it - dark, rich tone when wetted.

Here is what he told me:
1) do what you think best, I just wanna see the grain and tone of the walnut - no stain.
2) I don't mind the chatter and saw marks, but don't like the grain whiskers and splinters. It needs to be smooth-ish.

Here is what I am thinking:
1) I should flutter/brush the live edge to get below the fungus.
2) I should oxalic the water stain and the entire slab.
3) Once-in-a-lifetime piece of wood, I should sand away the chatter/saw marks. Flat and smooth and best ready to show the chatoyance in the heart areas.
4) If the cleaned live edge looks wane and grey in comparison, char it to yield a natural looking darker edge - similar to the knot hole.
5) Finish in an amber oil varnish, satin. 1st coat thinned to 25% to drink into the grain pores. Subsequent coats well cut back between. Final coat wet rubbed with 0000 steel wool.

Please note that this is NOT a money-making project for me. He will pay whatever I ask, but we have a long history of collaborative projects where we have both made money from one another's efforts. This is something he wanted to do for himself and his family for years, so I want to "join" into the project and put up something remarkable.

I am a little hazy on how to treat the crappy live edge. When I scratch away the dry fungus, the wood looks silvery-grey, very unlike the rich tones further into the slab.

6/21/19       #2: Live Edge Walnut Slab ...

On average we see 2 to three live edge slabs a week. Everything from walnut, guanacaste, maple, paduak and others. We run the ones we can on a 24 inch crescent jointer then to the planer. Wider ones get the cnc for flattening. Widebelt sand to 180 and then go about finishing the edges. Klingspor flap wheels are our go to for this. We also use fine wire wheels for some that are bad. They can leave deep marks though. We try to clean as much off as possible due to the fact that rot and bark will eventually come off.
We usually finish with a 2k Poly (Milesi) and don't want anything under it causing problems. Sometimes we use RAKA epoxy for a fill some cracks when a customer wants a flat top.
We always get everything we can off the live edge that may cause problems. Color on the edge will be a lighter color. Ads contrast after the finish.

6/21/19       #3: Live Edge Walnut Slab ...

I do a fair amount of live edge finish jobs jobs (mostly wooden sinks some with bark intact and some chain sawed to replacate a live edge, also tables) when using 2k poly l thin down the finish 25-50% and brush on to and into the bark, scales or end grain before spraying. When finishing with CV l'll brush on some clear penetrating epoxy sealer on those same areas but have also sealed the whole piece with the epoxy too.

6/22/19       #4: Live Edge Walnut Slab ...
Jim Conklin  Member


Thanks for the input! Here is a shot of the worst area on the live edge. It is soft about 3/16" deep. Could I use draw knife/spoke shaves to get back to firm wood or is the wire/flutter approach better?

View higher quality, full size image (1632 X 1632)

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