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Three Beautiful Ways to Use Natural, Living Edge Wood in Your Home

by Kyle Carpenter

Despite the fact that advances in building materials have produced a wealth of different materials, people return to natural wood time and time again for its beauty. When taken from sustainable forests, natural wood is an environmentally-friendly, durable choice that's suitable for an endless array of projects. Solid hardwood floors, wood paneling, and wooden cabinets are some of the most common applications, but each of these comes polished and processed. What about when you want to get back to nature even more? This idea-rich article is filled with unusual and beautiful ways to use living edge wood in unique ways throughout your home.

Natural-Wood Slab Table

Fancy yourself a bit of a whimsical soul? A natural-wood slab table may be just right for you. So, too, does this particular use fit into hunting cabins, cottages, and cozy little forest getaways. Wood slab tables are fairly simple to create yourself. You are essentially taking a large slab of cut, unprocessed wood with a living edge and sanding it down until it's smooth. Fill any grooves or natural exclusions with clear epoxy and allow it to dry fully. Then, coat the entire slab in a thick, clear epoxy for protection.

If you're not keen on the feeling of epoxy or plastic coatings, you have options. Coating with a substance like Monocoat will give it a nice, matte sheen while still showing off all that lovely knotwork. All that's left to do is attach the tabletop to a sturdy wooden table frame, either repurposed or made by hand. 

Natural-Wood Stools

This particular project is an excellent choice for the novice DIYer and anyone who may have limited access to materials. Using just a simple repurposed stool base with three legs and a tree slice, as well as a fairly translucent varnish, you can create amazing nature-inspired chairs and stools. Find a tree slice in an appropriate size from your local hardware and building supply store, or have them cut one off for you.

If you can't source any tree slices, you can make your own by cutting down a tree if you're especially ambitious. You can also simply have the hardware store cut out a circular slice of wood with knotwork inside if you have trouble finding the tree-slice material.

Once you have your tree slice, sand it down well using gradually smaller sandpaper grits. Which you choose will depend on whether the wood is hardwood or softwood, but you want to stop when you've rubbed the wood over with about 320- to 400-grit sandpaper.

Once the wood is sanded down, use your favorite varnish in as natural a shade as possible to bring out the grain of the wood. To maintain the natural look, avoid shades like mahogany or cherry wood; the dark colors will end up masking some of the lines and grooves within the wood.

Natural-Wood Side Tables

Want to make a small side table instead? Tree slices work well for this too. This project is almost identical to the process of making a stool, but you'll need to make a few adjustments.

First, polish your slice down and dust it off well. Because your side table will hold drinks and other stability-influenced items, you should try to even out the surface as much as you can prior to coating it. This may mean filling exclusions and open knots with epoxy, or it may simply mean sanding and planing it down well.

Although you can varnish your new wood-slice side table, take into consideration whether the items placed on it may become hot. Coffee mugs, dinner plates, and tea cups may injure thin varnishes, causing damage to the finish over time. Instead, skip the varnish and pour a 1/8" layer of clear epoxy over the top. It'll protect the wood from heat damage and even out the surface so that when you place your glass down it's sturdy and stable where it stands.

Epoxy

There is one caveat to using epoxy over varnish or monocoat. Thick epoxies don't apply well to wood with a living edge because the epoxy tends to get caught up inside the grooves of the bark or wood. You may end up finding that you have clumped up epoxy on the edge as it's drying. If your tree slice has a living edge, you can still use epoxy—just use a thinner variety and apply it with a soft camel-hair brush. Smooth it onto the wood up to the edge of the bark, or living edge, and then stop. Leave the edge open and free.

Working with real, living-edge wood is such a treat! Not only is it incredibly durable and resistant to the effects of time, but it also draws inspiration from the forest into your home and grants whimsical appeal. If you have questions about this or any other DIY home building project, check in with your local building supply store. These helpful experts can answer questions, suggest the right materials, and guide you through the learning process to success.

Talk to a company such as Hanover Concrete Company for more information about various building materials.

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