small finished wood slab table on display

Dimensional Lumber vs. Live Edge Wood

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When you’re new to the world of woodworking, you might feel overwhelmed by your choices. One of the most confusing things is learning the difference between dimensional lumber vs. live edge wood.

Both types of lumber have their pros and cons, as well as specific jobs. When you try and use the wrong piece for your projects, it won’t look properly finished. Even skilled woodworkers can see themselves frustrated quickly by choosing the wrong lumber. That is why Makers Woodshop is here to inform you of their differences.

Continue reading and learn more about these common woodworking products. No matter which style you prefer, we likely have stunning completed pieces to discover.

What is Dimensional Lumber?

Dimensional Lumber

When you head to your nearest big-box hardware store, you smell the cut lumber immediately. Here, you will find rows of dimensional lumber, pre-cut to specific dimensions, hence the name.

Unlike raw wood slabs, these items have already been processed and are ready for construction. These planks are measured, cut, and smoothened to keep the building process fast. You will find if you bring a tape measure to the store that a 2×4 is not fully 2″x4″. When the wood is first cut, it does measure at a full 2″x4″. But after drying in the kiln the wood shrinks marginally from loss of moisture. So the wood is then processed through industrial planers to ensure every board is a consistent size. They take about 3/8″ off of the wood to account for natural variance board to board.

Since the manufacturer has seasoned them already, dimensional lumber offers easier construction. Unified dimensions and low moisture content prevent them from warping while in use.

What is Live Edge Wood?

finished wood slab table on display in house

Live edge wood planks are also called “natural edge” lumber. Unlike dimensional lumber, they are a cross-cut of a log which is why the edges are usually angled, and follow the natural curve of the log.

Live edge wood pieces are popular for their one-of-a-kind charm. No two lumber slabs ever look exactly alike for unique finished projects. You can see live edge wood used in furniture to offer a organic appearance. Others may enjoy the balance between the natural edge and surrounding wood.

These lumber pieces usually come from logs with large knots, rot, or other abnormalities that keep them from being suitable for dimensional lumber.. However, they also require a lot of skill to tame them due to their moisture content.

What are the Differences Between Dimensional Lumber vs. Live Edge Wood?

Dimensional lumber is ideal for construction projects and when uniformed sizes are necessary. Live edge wood on the other hand, is perfect for singular pieces like tables and other artistic projects.

Neither one is considered better than the other necessarily, only that they are different. For artists and craftspeople, it comes down to personal preference and ability.

What Projects Are Best For Dimensional Lumber?

dimensional lumber house framing

Dimensional lumber makes sense for projects that demand uniform wood for evenly finished results. In construction, a job can quickly fail without the exact same size planks, so dimensional lumber is best suited for these types of projects.

Dimensional lumber is also readily available from a variety of national retailers. That means that it’s far easier to purchase more of the same thing if you run out and need more of it.

You can easily see that these lumber pieces are involved in a wide range of construction jobs. Some of the most common applications for dimensional lumber include projects such as:

  • Wall Framing
  • Paneling Walls
  • Functional Furniture
  • Post-and-Beam Projects
  • Wood Flooring
  • Wood Ceilings
  • Home Renovations
  • Home Additions
  • General Construction Projects
  • Yard Fencing
  • Storage Sheds
  • And other common construction needs

When you can’t waste time straightening up every plank, dimensional lumber is superior. They may also be required by law depending on what you are building.

When Should I Use Live Edge Wood?

live edge wooden table

While dimensional lumber is more uniform and the same, live edge wood is not and that is why it’s so popular. These unique pieces offer a variety of characteristics that processed wood lacks. You might not use them in every project, but when you do they offer a lot of artistic value. Once the imperfections are filled with epoxy, they become smooth, even, and ready for use.

When you prefer the organic look of raw wood, live edge takes center stage. You can find these lumber pieces used in many different projects, such as:

  • Floating Shelves
  • Coffee Tables
  • Ledges and Corners
  • Kitchen/Bathroom Counters
  • Custom Desks
  • Dining Room Sets
  • Custom Lighting Fixtures
  • Bedroom Headboards
  • Office Furniture
  • Custom Bookshelves
  • And other artistic projects

When you need a customized piece of furniture, it’s tough to beat live edge wood. You can see the many uses that we apply it to in our shop.

How Challenging is Working with Dimensional Lumber vs. Live Edge Wood?

Even though dimensional lumber is meant for construction, it isn’t always streamlined. Since they are made for framing, many planks will still contain knots and imperfections. Live edge wood, on the other hand, needs to be seasoned by individuals working with them. Plus, based on its internal moisture content, that can take years to get it just right. At Makers Woodshop we use an Idry vacuum kiln to reduce the moisture content to around 8% to make sure every piece is ready to work with.

Dimensional lumber is also sold by varying grades of quality. With a naturally cut piece of lumber, you can become stuck with whatever characteristics you find. In the end, deciding which lumber to use depends on the project at hand. Make sure that you have the correct tools and training before starting to work.

Dimensional Lumber vs. Live Edge Wood: Which One Do We Prefer?

small finished wood slab table on display

Our woodshop prides itself in sustainably and responsibly sourcing lumber from the Maryland area. These pieces become discarded for firewood, or they come from nearby fallen trees. Every piece is unique, so you can be sure you have a one of a kind product.

While it’s up to us to season every plank, we think it’s well worth the effort. Our finished pieces speak for themselves when you see their natural characteristics. You simply can’t achieve the look and appearance that live edge wood offers from dimensional lumber. When you are searching for a unique décor piece, you won’t find a better selection around than ours.

Stop By and See Our Quality Workmanship Up Close

See the difference yourself and stop by to see what we currently have in stock. Choose Makers Woodshop today.

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