Live Edge Shelf

I have been waiting for this moment for what feels like forever! I think I’ve mentioned it before, but the second we saw our house, we could already envision certain changes. One of them was to replace the craft room window with something longer and more dramatic, and follow it up with an awesome, long, shelf. 


Obviously not yellow. And to be honest, the original version had a light colored shed with a stained window frame. So some things have changed. But we definitely wanted a long shelf here.

We went through a couple of ideas for the shelf. Originally, we were thinking of using up the rest of the reclaimed wood we had used for our barn doors, which you can read all about here. Sorry for the photo quality, it was one of my first posts… The boards were maybe about 8 feet long, and we considered joining a couple together to make it span the length of the craft room. But we realized that to keep the beauty in that wood, we aren’t really able to sand it down. And the boards are only about an inch or so thick, so might have seemed a bit flimsy.

I thought about just buying a sturdier piece of wood and aging it myself for about 10 seconds. The hubby had a totally different, and amazing, idea in mind.

Live-edge wood. Done. Sold.

Except we needed to find a piece long enough that wouldn’t break the bank. Anything over about 10 feet gets crazy expensive. I get it. They have to basically strip an entire tree, and the longer the board, the harder it is. We found an awesome place that sells slabs for a really great price. Millers Milling if you’re in the area. When we got ours they were thinking of moving, so I think they now have a much bigger warehouse setup, and to be honest, I really want to go take a look. Definitely check them out if you’re in the market.

wood options
So many options! I think this is their new location. Drool worthy.

We went with an almost-10-foot long slab of redwood. We wanted something that had some weight to it, so it’s about two and a half inches thick and varies between about 10 inches wide to maybe 14 inches wide. One edge was cut straight, so it was perfect for our shelf purpose. They also had a ton that had both live edges, and we were really tempted to get one for a table…that we didn’t even know where it would go. The live edge still had all of the bark on it, but we were assured that once the wood dried out completely, the bark would just fall off.

We weren’t too worried that the slab wasn’t completely dry. since we knew we had some time before we were going to actually put it up. Once we got it home, we set it on a couple of pieces of scrap wood in the craft room so that it could dry out completely.

Sorry for the grainy phone pic!

Fast forward to about May, and I was really anxious to get the slab up. The wood hadn’t “fallen off” like I thought it would, but I figured I could at least sand and seal the top and bottom of the slab.

I used a palm sander with a #60 grit sand paper to get any unevenness out of the wood, especially around the knots. I went over it again with a #140 grit sand paper, and then finished it off with a handheld sanding block. I’m not entirely sure what grit the block started at, but since it is so worn down, it is perfect for getting a really nice, smooth finish.

Then, I thought, maybe there is a way to speed up this process for the bark. Hooray for google! I used a  small putty knife to get in between the bark and the slab, making sure to go in the direction of the grain. That way I could avoid any possible gashes. Once I pried off about 2 inches of the bark, I pulled away from the slab and, literally, the entire bark edge peeled right off.  I had to work a little bit to get the bark off around each of the knots along the edge of the slab, but I was shocked how easy it was.

I lightly sanded the live edge of the slab. It was already pretty smooth without any sanding, and I was super nervous about taking away any of the character. I did use the palm sander on the bigger knot, since I had to get it down quite a bit to make it even. But again, super shocked how easy it was.

I used the same sealant that we used on our pergola to seal the entire slab – Superdeck: Transparent Stain for Cedar. I even did a professional job on it. I gave it one coat, then lightly sanded everything and gave it one more. The stain will protect the slab from all types of elements, wind, rain, sun, and all sorts of bugs. I really want this to last a lifetime outside.


And then I basically took off 2 months. Our weekends were jam packed, and during the week I was so exhausted so everything kind of got put on hold. All fun things (hooray for camping and weddings!), but still, exhausting. Plus, it was super hot. So it wasn’t the end of the world that I took a break, but still. My lack of patience was really showing. Then, a couple of weekends ago, I saw a bar top that had live-edge wood while wine tasting and I was kind of embarrassingly obsessed. No shame here though. And I got the push I needed to wrap this project up!

To really make our shelf fancy, we decided we wanted a glossy finish. Plus, the guy at Miller’s Milling told us to use this too. We sprayed the entire slab, once it was completely ready to be set up, with Spar Urethane. He highly recommended the spray over the brush-on type so that the surface wouldn’t be at all streaky. It turned out great, with the perfect amount of gloss, so I’d definitely recommend the same. The spray should also help protect the slab, so hopefully we won’t have to refinish it any time soon.


Before we could install the shelf, we had to get the craft room ready. The craft room exterior has small vertical slats that hide all of the joints. They look great, but we wanted the slab to be flush with the edge of the craft room. I marked each of the slats so that the slab would fit right on top of the slats, and used a circular saw to trim each slat. The thing I really like about circular saws is that you can set the depth pretty easily. So there was no guesswork when it came to slicing off each slat. And, I also did the same thing above the window so I could put in the window trim.

Since I mentioned the window trim, I just used a 2×4 sliced in half, and then sealed each board. Those each got screwed in around the window, so now the window really looks framed out.

To hold up the slab, which is surprisingly not that heavy, I got a few 500-lb shelf supports from Home Depot. We made sure to drill into studs, so this slab isn’t going anywhere. Now we get to enjoy it! And we have already tested it out as a food service line bar, and it was perfect. I am so incredibly giddy at how well this turned out!




And check out this before and after! I didn’t even plan it, so I am pretty excited, ha!





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