March 05, 2024 2 min read

When you embark on the journey of crafting a live edge table or any project using natural wood, you're working with the entire piece of a tree. This means you'll encounter unique challenges that require careful consideration and skill. In this article, we will explore common issues with live edge slabs that arise when working, providing valuable insights and solutions.

Working with Defects

Live edge tables often showcase the raw beauty of wood, including its imperfections. These imperfections, such as cracks, knots, and the pith of the tree, can add character to your project. However, they also require attention. You may need to work around or cut out defects to ensure the structural integrity of your piece. Unlike store-bought lumber, live edge slabs retain these natural features, making them a unique choice for woodworking.

Challenges with Urban Trees

If you're sourcing your wood from urban trees, you might encounter unexpected surprises. Urban trees can contain hidden challenges like nails, barbed wire, or other foreign objects that the tree has absorbed during its lifetime. When milling urban wood, you must be cautious and take measures to remove these obstacles without damaging your tools.

Dealing with Sunlight Damage

Sunlight can be both a friend and a foe when it comes to live edge slabs. While some exposure to sunlight is beneficial during the drying process, excessive sunlight can cause damage. Prolonged exposure to the sun's rays, especially during hot and humid weather, can delaminate the wood grain. Slabs subjected to this damage may not be suitable for fine woodworking and could end up as firewood.

Handling Ring Shake

Ring shake is a common issue that becomes apparent when milling large tree logs. It occurs when the wood grain splits along one growth ring, often extending the entire length of the log. Identifying ring shake can be tricky, as it may not be visible until you start the milling process. When you encounter a ring shake, adjust your cutting strategy. Consider turning the log into lumber instead of single live edge slabs to salvage the usable wood.

Managing Voids and Rot

In some cases, you may encounter massive voids within a tree, created by rot, carpenter ants, or other factors. These voids can be visually striking and are increasingly sought after for their unique aesthetic appeal. If the slabs can remain structurally sound with the voids, you can embrace this trend and use them as single slabs. However, if the voids compromise stability, consider quartering the log and turning it into lumber for more conventional woodworking projects.


Working with live edge slabs presents a thrilling opportunity to create one-of-a-kind pieces that showcase the natural beauty of wood. However, it also comes with its fair share of challenges, including the common issues with live edge slabs such as defects, sunlight damage, ring shake, voids, and rot. By understanding these challenges and the best practices for addressing them, you can confidently embark on your woodworking projects.

If you have any questions or need further guidance on working with live edge slabs, feel free to contact KC Custom Hardwoods today. We're here to help you make the most of your woodworking journey.