Unfortunately for me, when I started woodworking I didn’t know anyone local with the ability to cut slabs of wood. This seems to be a common problem for many people who are just looking to get into a single live edge project. Thankfully, with a lot of trial (and error) I have determined a lot of ways to get live edge wood affordably.
How do I get my wood slabs for projects? The best thing to do is check locally, however if that doesn’t exist there are multiple ways with pro’s and cons to each method:
- Established Companies
- Home Improvement Stores
Each of these stores are going to have their time and place in the search for live edge slabs. Below, I will give a brief overview of why you might choose one over the other, so you don’t have to spend all the hours of searching only to be frustrated by prices and types and availability.
If you’re a little more savvy about your purchases, you’ll already know about the Facebook marketplace. I love the marketplace and use it both for buying and selling regularly.
When it comes to live edge wood here, it can be hit or miss. The nice thing is you can keep expanding your search (and even change your location!) in order to try different things. No matter what you’re looking for, I always suggest trying to check here first. It can save you a lot of money to go local, even just the shipping is a huge save on expenses. You can also check in on places you go regularly (maybe for the holidays?) and message someone along the route.
These are going to be the most expensive of the bunch, almost guaranteed. A lot of these are going to be established mills that do this custom ways and professionally. Often times your only saving grace here is spending in bulk and getting free shipping (on large orders) which could save you if you have money to spend up front.
So why use large, established sites? You can get anything from these places. A lot of people on local and marketplaces only have one or two regular types. Using a large site that specializes in wood cuts will give you a variety you can’t find anywhere else. Maybe you want a mahogany table? Done. A maple dresser? Easy. Using an established site is great for specialty pieces that need to be done in a specific way.
Ebay is a great resource. A lot of people seem to think that Ebay has died, especially with the insane growth of Amazon. Ebay, however, seems to have found a nice happy spot with antiques and more custom items.
When it comes to price, Ebay might be the best (unless Facebook came through). Often, you can find a seller doing what you want and then make an offer. I always make an offer: the worst thing that can happen is they say no or counteroffer. Because of this feature I would say Ebay is a great and reliable place to buy. The cons are that Ebay doesn’t have a TON of wood options. It still has a good amount, but I think due to shipping and expenses the finer woods are often not sold. I get a lot of black walnut from here.
Etsy is going to be super similar to Ebay. The nice thing with Etsy is there are tons of inspirations ideas on top of the selection of plain wood slabs. Often times you can custom order from a store, rather than buying just what you see. Because of this I like to go to Etsy for custom cuts with a few regular sellers.
Probably my favorite feature of Etsy is the ability to look locally. This could help you (as much or more than the Facebook marketplace) to find someone local. This can often save you money (they aren’t losing 5% to Etsy and paying shipping), and establish a good resource for regular projects. I have several connections I met through Etsy where if I’m near certain cities I can do pick-ups.
The drawbacks for Etsy are like that of Ebay, not as much selection on the type of wood, but much more selection on how it’s cut.
Home Improvement Stores
For me, there are only a couple reasons to go to a home improvement store. The first (and most realistic) is that you have a deadline for a project and need it to be done soon. The only other possible one is saving a tiny bit of money, and not caring about wood quality.
Local stores like Lowes and Home Depot will often have live edge slabs – but with quite a few drawbacks. First, they are cheap woods (poplar or pine). Second, they will be way over priced (I can get two walnut slabs the same size and price). Finally, they will be lower quality: you don’t get much selection, and they aren’t as well-aged of trees. Unless you just want to do a trial run before you do something on nice wood – it isn’t worth going to a home improvement store for live edge slabs.
Below are a couple more questions to ask yourself before doing this process or as quick tips.
How do I Keep the Price of Live Edge Slabs Down?
This is the next major thing to consider. Although I covered it lightly in the different parts of the article, I wanted to just reiterate and through in some tips and my workflow of looking for a nice slab for my next project.
- Facebook first: you will find the best deals if you can utilize it well.
- Check surrounding cities: it is worth a little distance to not pay shipping, and it’s worth knowing who you do business with.
- Make offers: Ebay, Etsy, and Facebook members will be open to coming down for you.
- Buy in bulk: this is great if you are able to do so. Let’s say you start a business and sell a nice table, put the income to a lot more slabs, this will bring down your overhead greatly.
- Buy larger pieces: sometimes boards will be discounted or a little cheaper in long pieces, in this case, purchase it and cut in half for smaller projects.
What Type of Slab do I Get?
With so many types of wood out there, you want to know what you’re looking for before you get overwhelmed looking. Ask yourself some basic questions and do some research:
- How dark do I want the wood?
- How hard to I want the wood?
- What piece of furniture do I want use it for?
- Will I stain it?
- Do I want bark on it?
There are a hundred other questions you could ask yourself, just answering the first two of these will get you 90% of the way there. All other questions are just to help you choose between the final options. For more help on choosing wood, check out my article on the different types of wood for projects.
Is it Worth Paying for the Live Edge Wood?
This is a super fair question to ask. If you’ve done a little research, you know it doesn’t come cheap to do a live edge project. Especially if you plan on using epoxy resin with it. Sometimes, it’s worth a little extra to buy a finished project rather than to buy all the materials, do the work, and not have plans of more than a single piece. Definitely do a cost-benefit analysis before committing to your own live edge project.