I am pretty new at wood and have acquired a large piece of live edge wood that has some bark still attached. Its pretty loose so I have been carefully removing it but am unsure how to sand it prior to applying the livos finish I got with it.

How can I sand an irregular edge to the same smoothness as the planed edges of my piece?

  • IMHE (in my humble experience): Depending on the sharpness of you plane you cannot reach the same smoothness and shininess with sand paper. But that is nit picking and not your question.
    – LosManos
    Apr 21, 2016 at 5:52
  • @LosManos, sand finer :-) Also, it can be worthwhile sanding in one direction only rather than back and forth — try the comparison for yourself, I'm sure you'll be impressed. I've found that in some cases it makes a remarkable difference, even just with 180. In either case, the smoothness difference between sanded and planed surfaces is not really an issue if a film finish is being used.
    – Graphus
    Apr 21, 2016 at 10:34

1 Answer 1


How can I sand an irregular edge to the same smoothness as the planed edges of my piece?

Short answer is you you don't. You can sand a live edge (UK: waney edge) if you want, but there's no reason you have to and many people want that natural surface as a contrast to the machined surfaces and edges.

If you need to smooth it out somewhat instead of sanding, which tends to level off high spots, the usual recommendation is to use a conformable abrasive, the two main choices being steel wool and nylon abrasive pads such as Scotch-Brite.

In either case you want to dust down thoroughly afterwards (don't be afraid to vacuum as well) but you have to pay particular attention with steel wool as the tiny flakes of steel can be harder to see in grain and other recesses before finishing, but after the finish goes on you'll spot little sparkles from any you missed without any difficulty! Additionally over time they can rust and discolour the surrounding wood due to a reaction between iron and tannins that may be present in the wood.

  • Thanks @Graphus, this sounds like a better option then some soft sanding blocks I found in the hardware shop.
    – Sky
    Apr 22, 2016 at 21:41
  • I would consider using a card scraper Apr 25, 2016 at 18:24
  • @JonFournier, I love scraping and prefer it to sanding at any opportunity, but I'm not sure you could effectively scrape all waney edges. It would be viable on some certainly.
    – Graphus
    Apr 26, 2016 at 7:15
  • 1
    @Graphus I agree, I really meant I would scrape where possible, and steel wool otherwise. Apr 26, 2016 at 18:24
  • 1
    an alternative to those abrasives is a plastic abrasive brush. See Rob Porcaro's method here: rpwoodwork.com/blog/2013/01/27/working-with-live-edges. I have recently used this very quickly and successfully on some live edge cherry. After the finest brush, running a bit of high grit sandpaper over the surface by hand gets a great surface for finishing.
    – aaron
    Apr 27, 2016 at 11:52

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