Live Edge Counter & Shelves - finishing advice

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Forum topic by honeydomaster posted 12-17-2017 05:26 PM 1047 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10 posts in 933 days

12-17-2017 05:26 PM

Hi, I’m new to this, so seeking some advice. My wife has been asking for a shelf/countertop on this unused wall section in our kitchen, in order to be able to move some things off her kitchen counters (flour grain mill, flour jars, coffee maker, etc). I ended up going the route of getting a 1.75” live edge black walnut slab to use as a countertop of sorts, and a couple other narrower live edge walnut slabs to use as shelves above it.

I did lots of research in the past few days on how to finish the slabs, and I’m basically settled on using Waterlox since I’m inexperienced and it seems like this is a fairly simple way for an outstanding finish. There are some insect holes in the countertop slab piece, as well as some cracks/checks, and I’m thinking I should fill it with epoxy. I dont want to attempt bowties for the cracks, and was thinking epoxy would be sufficient. The waterlox site says you can put waterlox over epoxy as long as you sand it with 220 before applying.

So question 1 – Do you agree with this? Can you think of any issues I might encounter by using epoxy to fill the cracks & holes, with several coats of Waterlox over it all?

Question 2 – I’m thinking of using System Three’s T-88 epoxy, and not even tinting it or adding sanding dust/graphite/or anything that it seems people normally add. Is this a bad idea? I discussed it with the wife, and given all the insect holes, it seems it might look weird having those holes be filled in with dark colored epoxy. Seems like clear epoxy (or in the case of T-88 it seems a little amber) might keep it looking more natural. But again, I’ve never done this before so have no experience. I’ll post pics of holes below.

Question 3 – I’ve seen conflicting advice about applying Waterlox – some people say use a quality brush. Others say use a wool applicator like you use on wood floors. Any advice here? I kinda want to go the wool route…Wooster has a Wool pad for like $10…but seems it would be a lot of effort to clean between coats, and would be expensive to use a new pad for each coat. For anyone who has used wool – I assume you’re cleaning it between coats? Or perhaps putting it in a ziplock bag and put in the fridge or something?

I really appreciate the help! Here are some pics of the countertop, the holes/cracks in it, and the shelves I’ll be putting above it.

3 replies so far

View bigJohninvegas's profile


773 posts in 2232 days

#1 posted 12-17-2017 07:00 PM

I just took a class last spring on working with live edge. And yes I would start off taking off the bark. The instructor had an old plane iron on a stick, but a chisel works well too. be careful not to gouge into the edge. We then very gently sanded the edge with 220, making sure not to damage or remove the cambium layer under the bark.
Check out this wood Magazine article. Some useful info.

here is a photo of the epoxy we used. It is what the instructor uses pretty much every day in his shop, and is all I have worked with so far. Not at all sure how it compares to other brands. It is for indoor use only. Outdoor/UV light will ruin it.

You can use any finish you want on it. Some in the class used a polly finish for that glass bar top look. I started with several coats of danish oil, and finished with several more coats of the Sam Malloof poly/oil finish that Rockler sells. In the end, I like the way it looked. But I think the Danish oil by itself would have gave me what I was looking for. An unnecessary step on my part.
I used saw dust in the epoxy and got a nice natural looking dark lines, but it dries clear if used by itself.
When using this epoxy, we taped up the under side with blue painters tape. Dammed up the ends to keep it from running off. and had the wood stickered on plastic drop clothes. Anything that epoxy touches is ruined. very messy stuff!

Here are a couple photos of my tables that show what the epoxy with saw dust looked like. I think the clear epoxy against the walnut would look great. Bark has been removed, but I preserved the layer under the bark.
I have never used waterlox, so I am no help there.
good luck

I have no idea why a couple of the photos loaded sideways.

-- John

View Manitario's profile


2816 posts in 3653 days

#2 posted 12-17-2017 09:10 PM

Having done a lot of projects with slabs and epoxy, here’s my 2 cents;

-Coloured epoxy, either with sawdust/sand/ink etc is a lot easier than clear epoxy. Clear epoxy will look cloudy and scratched after you sand it, unless you sand it to a ridiculous grit eg. 5000 or you want to go over every area of epoxy with a card scraper. Also, air bubbles in epoxy is a big deal when filling cracks; I find they’re a lot more noticeable in clear than coloured epoxy.
-Epoxy will not necessarily stabilize a crack.
-I’ve used the West System epoxy and Envirolite, both work well. Make more than you think you’ll need, and be prepared to have to spend a bunch of time pouring more into the crack as it settles.
-Oil/Poly or poly based finishes is fine over epoxy.

I’d suggest something really easy to apply as a finish if this is your first go, eg. Danish oil or some sort of varnish that you can wipe on with a rag. I’ve never had great success (or fun) trying to brush on a poly like Waterlox over a large area. A wipe on finish is super easy; wipe on, wait a few minutes and wipe off. Repeat x4. Done.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View honeydomaster's profile


10 posts in 933 days

#3 posted 12-17-2017 09:53 PM

Thanks for the feedback Manitario. For the epoxy, I ordered 16 oz off eBay for about $21. Couldnt justify some of the more expensive brands for the little amount I need. I got clear, not amber as I said before. I guess I could experiment with some sawdust mixed epoxy before I really apply it to the wood. We were just thinking of trying to make it look as original as possible, hence the thought to use clear. But it makes sense what you say about it being cloudy and having visible bubbles. Thought the cracks/holes are pretty small, so I wonder if it would be that noticeable.

So I actually already ordered the waterlox. From everything I’ve read online in forums, people say its a great DIY finish and easy to apply. I thought that a lambs wool pad might be easier than trying to brush it. Might call the company in the morning and get their recommendations, but would like to hear if anyone has had experience.

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