December 27, 2023 2 min read

Live edge wood has become a staple in modern rustic design, but a common query persists: should the bark be kept on? This article explores this topic, offering insights and advice for your woodworking projects.

Understanding Live Edge Wood

Live edge wood retains the original lines of the tree trunk, offering a unique and organic look. The presence of the bark can amplify this natural beauty, giving each piece a one-of-a-kind character. However, the decision to keep or remove the bark depends on several factors, including the type of wood, intended use, and personal preference.

Types of Wood and Bark Characteristics

Different tree species have varying bark textures and adhesion strengths. For example, the bark on walnut or oak is generally more robust and adheres better to the wood, making it a good candidate for keeping the bark on. In contrast, softer woods like pine may have loose or flaky bark that might not withstand the test of time.

To Keep or Not to Keep the Bark

Advantages of Preserving the Bark

Preserving the bark on live edge wood can enhance its natural appeal, adding texture and depth to the piece. It also serves as a conversation starter, as each bark pattern is unique to the tree it came from. Moreover, keeping the bark can save time and effort during the finishing process.

Challenges of Bark Retention

Despite its aesthetic appeal, keeping the bark comes with challenges. Over time, the bark may separate from the wood due to drying, shrinking, or pest infestation. This can lead to structural weaknesses or an uneven surface, which may not be ideal for certain types of furniture or decor.

Preparing Live Edge Wood for Your Projects

Treatment and Maintenance

If you decide to keep the bark on your live edge wood, it's crucial to properly treat and maintain it. This involves sealing the wood and bark to protect against moisture and pests. Regular maintenance, like gentle cleaning and occasional resealing, can prolong the life and appearance of the bark.

Removal Techniques

If you choose to remove the bark, doing so carefully is important to preserve the live edge's natural shape. Tools like a drawknife or chisel can be used to gently pry the bark away from the wood. Once removed, sanding the edges will smooth out any rough spots, preparing the wood for finishing.

Creative Applications

Whether you keep the bark or not, live edge wood offers endless creative possibilities. From rustic dining tables to artistic wall pieces, the natural contours of live edge wood can elevate any space. The choice of keeping the bark should align with the style and function of the finished piece.


Live edge wood, with or without the bark, offers a unique way to bring the beauty of nature into your home or workspace. By understanding the characteristics of the wood and the implications of keeping the bark, you can make an informed decision that suits your project's needs and your personal style. If you have further questions or need assistance with your live edge wood projects, feel free to contact KC Custom Hardwoods today for expert advice.