Need advice working with live edge slabs


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Howdy,

So made my first trip to the saw mill and came back with some live edge aromatic cedar slabs (2" thick, 7ft long, 1ft wide). I plan to make 1 table (5-6ft long, 2-3ft wide) with 2 benches in the backyard . Since I am new to wood working and have not worked with live edge slabs before, I have a couple of questions:

  • is it a good idea  to use the cedar slab for table top? I know that it is softwood but a few dents during use may makes it more rustic as outdoor furniture. But if it's too soft, I will use for making benches only and buy some hard wood later for table top.
  • what type of treatment , preps and finish for outdoor furniture that you guys are using, especially for cedar? 
  • how to deal with defects such as cracks, void, rotting spot in the slabs and on the edges?
  • as for gluing the table top, I will use the biscuit joint and alternate the end grain when gluing up. I wonder if that joint and stabilizing 2x4 underneath will prevent the top from bowing and cupping under outdoor env.

Thanks in advance!!!

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Cedar is ideal for outdoors. 2" thick dents don't matter. It might to you. I like low maintenance. So I would not finish it. An outdoor spar varnish will seal the wood and look good. Unfinished will turn gray. Varnished in time will demand you refinish. A 2 x 4 apron with one or two more across in the middle will add to stabilize the top.

Your slab at 12" X 84" is not enough to make a 5 to 6' by 2 to 3'.

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Sure use them for table tops they'd look great. As benches they may see wear as well doesn't matter as table or bench dents dings and wear are going to happen.

Cracks defects voids. Epoxy, epoxy, epoxy ... maybe bowties if you feel like getting fance for the cracks.

Look into oil finishes like Penofin, or even the hardwax finishes like Osmo outdoor finishes. I've used an outdoor tung oil and really liked it from the real milk paint company. None of these form films and refinishing is as simple as re applying the finish. The only sanding necessary is what ever you think is important.

For prevent cupping you can attach, the name is slipping me, they have a specific name but are essentially braces under the table. Think like an apron but not attached to anything. They can be attached by z clips, elongated holes, figure 8's etc, but elongated holes is typical. The image below shows them but i'd make them much thicker closer to 3" .

1514_12_74-table-top-cleats.jpg.9520b7fc6af2f45e385368469dd33af0.jpg

There also is nothing wrong with cutting the live edge off, just gonna throw that out there. So don't feel obligated to keep it.

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If the pieces are exposed to full sun and rain, I wouldn't try to fight any cracks with epoxy. Cedar is very rot and insect resistant, but still moves and checks with changes in environment. Chances are good that cracks will just open more and spit the epoxy out. A penetrating oil finish, as mentioned above, would be my recommendation, too.

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12 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

Chances are good that cracks will just open more and spit the epoxy out.

Has that happened to you? I've filled quite a few cracks and the epoxy has been strong enough to hold it closed... but this is all inside. This has me questioning things.

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