The Top 5 Questions to Ask Before You Buy Live Edge Slabs
The importance of proper wood drying is greater for large live edge slabs than any other wood, and simultaneously it is often one of the most over-looked or under-studied topics by those selling slabs. Many people see dollar signs and jump into slab production without a kiln to fully and properly dry these slabs. Some that do have kilns look more to the dollar than to the end user and do not take the time needed to properly dry slabs that are cut thicker than most other wood they process.
Here is a listing of critical questions to ask next time you shop live edge lumber
· How do they dry their wood?
· How long does the drying process take?
· Do they kiln dry or just air dry?
· What kind of kiln do they use and how long does it take?
· How do they heat sterilize: what temperature and duration?
You do not need to necessarily know that much about wood drying to make use of the answers you get, but merely asking these questions will help you to look like a serious wood buyer and will give you a good sense of whether your seller knows what they are doing.
Here is my complete answer when asked any one of these questions
“We typically air dry our slabs for at least one summer before we put them in our kiln. Then our kiln batch for these thick slabs run another 3-5 months even after the air drying. At some point toward the end of that kiln cycle we heat them up between 140 and 150 degrees for a couple days to make sure we have killed all insects at all life stages; egg, larva and beetle. Then we prefer to let the slabs rest, ideally for a couple months before we do work on them.”
My answer is based on the combination of my engineering background in drying processes and substantial literature research since then. This is combined with real-world experience in drying well over a thousand live edge slabs while using several kiln types. And that is all topped off with custom woodworking experience through which our shop has used nearly a thousand live edge slabs that we dried to produce tables and other furniture, bartops, countertops, mantles, window sills, doors and many other unique live-edge applications. In all this, I can count the times I needed to deal with details related to post-production wood movement on just one hand and just two returns to the shop for additional work (two slabs from the same tree dried in the same first-time run of a new kiln).
The next post in this series will unpack this answer a bit more.