How much of a natural edge?

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Forum topic by Quoheleth posted 03-27-2013 02:31 PM 1697 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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22 posts in 2408 days

03-27-2013 02:31 PM

I hope I have this in the right forum…

I’ve just completed a bench for my in-laws’ entryway. It started out as a 10’ long slab of 6/4 pecan, tapering from 12” wide to 9” wide, that was cut and sawmilled locally. This was my first rough-lumber-to-finished-piece project I’ve done. It was a very rewarding challenge to figure out the design and layout (based on a WOOD magazine design from a couple years ago) to minimize wood waste and loss. The bench was assembled with floating tenons and mortises, sliding dovetails, and dowels – no nails or screws! I have a little sanding left to do, but here’s what it looks like:

One of the things I wanted to feature in my bench was the natural edge of the slab of wood. I know I couldn’t leave the bark on, so I stripped it off and about two-thirds of the cork cambium layer (it was really, really thick!). I’m left with about 3/8” of the soft, dark-brown cambium before getting to the actual wood.

My question is can I leave a little of this for contrast or do I really need to strip it all off? I really wanted to leave it, but I don’t want it coming loose and ruining the edge I tried to maintain.

Thanks, in advance,


-- "We're always ready to circumcize a few 2x4s," - Uncle Bill

7 replies so far

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 3133 days

#1 posted 03-27-2013 05:45 PM

I know this doesn’t necessarily answer your question, but I would consider the bug factor if I were you. I’ve seen successful projects (and a few not) with the bark on in both maple and cherry, all’s great unless some bugs live in said bark and decide to crawl out when you apply the finish. Pecan is known to be a happy home for bugs. I’ve never worked with it, so no real info. Hope it helps. Beautiful table!

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View WDHLT15's profile


1786 posts in 2651 days

#2 posted 03-28-2013 01:35 AM

If the dried cambium layer seems hard and won’t peel off,l I would definitely leave it for contrast. Very nice table and the quartersawn pecan is beautiful!

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2865 days

#3 posted 03-28-2013 01:56 AM

That is a beautiful bench! I work with pecan a lot and if it’s not kiln dried it has some live bugs (in my experience). I usually use a wire brush on my 4” hand grinder (wear full face shield) to strip the bark and cambium off. It leaves a nice live edge appearance with nice texturing if you don’t brush across the grain.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View WDHLT15's profile


1786 posts in 2651 days

#4 posted 03-28-2013 12:12 PM

I spray all green pecan lumber that I saw with a borate spray to prevent the bugs from feasting. Powderpost beetles love the ring porous hardwoods, especially hickory, ash, pecan, and oak. Once they are in there, the only sure-fire way to get rid of them is to kill them, the larvae, and the eggs with heat.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2536 days

#5 posted 03-28-2013 12:38 PM

Nice design detail on the legs and stretchers.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Quoheleth's profile


22 posts in 2408 days

#6 posted 03-28-2013 09:54 PM

Thanks for the complements! I’m eager to get the first coat of poly on it and see what the grain looks like then.

As to the cambium layer’s hardness, I would put it in the ballpark of white pine/whitewood. If I press my fingernails into it, it’ll leave a mark but it doesn’t flake off like bark does. Reckon that’s safe to leave?

Now I’m worried about bugs in my wood. Or, rather, I’m worried about giving my in-laws bugs in their new bench! I guess I’ll take the Apollo 13 approach—- is there anything I can do about it at this point? If not, I’ll not worry about it and say nothing to them about it either.

I hope to be able to work on this hot-n-heavy after Easter. My MIL’s birthday is mid-April. If I could have it done by then, that would be ideal.

Blessed Holy Tridium to all,

-- "We're always ready to circumcize a few 2x4s," - Uncle Bill

View Ed's profile


19 posts in 3287 days

#7 posted 03-29-2013 12:28 AM


I love your bench! Very nice design…

You should be fine with the live edge. But, kiln drying would have been the way to go.

Heating the lumber to ~150 degrees for 48 hours in a kiln kills all the insects, so you don’t have to worry about the bugs emerging later. Plus, it’s difficult to air dry a 6/4 board all the way through.

At this point, I’d just go with what you have and hope that it works out. I’ve only had a couple of problems with air dried wood, so your project may be just fine.

-- Ed

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