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Niche, Competitive Wood Products: Live Edge Slabs

NC State’s Wood Products Extension in the Department of Forest Biomaterials has a mission to increase the competitiveness and profitability of North Carolina’s wood products industry, improve markets, and increase consumer understanding of wood products. Recently, this mission has been applied to the growing popularity of live edge slabs, which Harry Watt, Extension Associate, affirms, “are a stylish new product that is used for tables and bar tops as well as other furniture.” Let’s take a closer look at what the team is doing to help the evolving market.

Live Edge Slabs

Normally, when a log is turned into lumber, equipment is used to cut the log into a variety of smaller pieces. The variety of sizes depends on the “final use” of the pieces. Alternatively, slabs are cut completely through the tree, leaving a “live edge” on either side, which preserves some of the more unique characteristics of the wood. These live edge slabs have been growing in popularity because of their rugged beauty and natural aesthetic.

It is important that, when choosing slabs for use in live edge design, the buyer take into account storage and sawing technique to make sure their finished product stays looking new for longer time periods and doesn’t develop issues with shifting moisture content.

Hands-On Workshops

In October, Wood Products Extension personnel hosted the Thick Lumber Live Edge Slab Businesses workshop, focused on sawing, drying, and marketing this niche wood product that has grown in popularity for commercial restaurant fixtures, namely, dining table tops and bars, and residential uses. Top-performing thick lumber slab business owners led discussions that included sourcing logs, sawing strategies, equipment, air/kiln drying, and marketing.

Additionally, demonstrations of sawing slabs using local West Virginia hardwood logs were given. Wood Products Extension also offers a dry-kiln workshop series for professionals in the wood products industry. One topic covered is high-end live edge slabs and urban wood drying. Attendance has included entrepreneurs from businesses all over the country, including California. Other workshops in the series focus on high-end firewood and lumber grading.


NC State’s Wood Products Extension has been looking for more opportunities to research and teach about the wood products industry’s growing live edge slab sector. Between workshops and company outreach, the team has been evolving the local, high-end wood products industry. Because of their natural beauty, live edge slabs are predicted to continue growing in popularity among architects and designers. Today’s wood products are both expressive and dynamic materials, chosen for their ability to create a welcoming, inspirational feeling in the built environment.