How To Finish Live Edge Wood With Bark: A Step-by-Step Guide

Capturing the unique, natural beauty of a piece of live edge wood with bark requires you to do more than simply smooth the surface and add a sealant. Finishing live-edge wood with bark requires careful management of a complex array of variables. The aim is to create a harmonious balance between the natural beauty of the wood and the more distinct, organic look of the bark. In this article, we’ll look at the various steps to successfully finish live edge wood with bark, as well as how to troubleshoot any problems that may come up along the way. With the right techniques and a bit of practice, you’ll be able to create stunning live-edge wood pieces with bark that will be the envy of your friends and family. Let’s take a look at how to finish live edge wood with bark.

Finishing Live Edge Wood with Bark

Finishing live edge wood with bark is a great way to add a unique element to many DIY projects or furniture. The bark on the wood provides a special texture, natural hue, and interesting accents to any piece. Before you start, however, proper finishes must be applied to protect the wood and ensure the bark stays on the surface.

When finishing live edge wood with bark, start by thoroughly cleaning and sanding the surface to prepare it for the finish. A strong cleaner, such as an oxalic acid solution, is especially effective in removing dirt and debris from the wood before it is finished. This will help ensure the finish is properly applied and will also help in protecting the bark from water and other damaging agents.

Once the wood is cleaned and sanded, you can begin the process of sealing it with a wood sealer. This will help protect the wood from water and other environmental damage, as well as help maintain its original color. After the sealer has been applied and dried, you can then move onto adding wood stain to give the wood a richer color, if desired.

After the wood has been sealed and stained, if you choose to do this, it is time to finish the bark. The bark should be finished with a sealant that is specifically designed for outdoor use, as it will be more durable and UV resistant. Apply the sealant with a paintbrush or a rag, making sure to avoid leaving any excess sealant on the bark. Once the sealant has dried, the live edge wood with bark will be ready to use.

Preparation for Finishing

Preparing live edge wood with bark for finishing is a delicate process, which, when done properly, reveals the wood’s beauty and preserves its unique qualities. First, the wood must be prepped, which involves sanding and cleaning the piece using the appropriate techniques, depending on the type of wood used. A hand or power sander can be used to smooth out any rough or splintered areas, while a damp fabric or damp sandpaper may be used to clean and remove dirt and dust. The bark should also be cleaned as any leftover gunk or residue can prevent the finish from sticking properly.

In addition to prepping the wood, a light sealant should be applied prior to finishing live edge wood with bark. This will protect the wood and enhance the finished look. For best results, use a natural sealant such as beeswax, which not only protects but also penetrates the wood’s pores and makes them smooth, preventing moisture from seeping in and causing the wood to rot. Sealants also bring out the wood’s natural color, and this is important for ensuring an even finish.

Lastly, consider adding a wood stain before you finish live edge wood with bark. This allows you to customize the look of your wood and add character and uniqueness to the piece. There are various types of wood stains available, so it is important to choose the one that best complements the type of wood you are using.

By taking the time to ensure the wood is prepped and sealed, then adding a wood stain, your live edge wood project with bark should result in a beautiful and timeless piece.

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Sealing Live Edge Wood

Sealing the live edge wood prior to staining is an important step. A clear sealant provides protection against water damage and prevents moisture from seeping into the wood grain. It also helps create a smooth, even surface to apply the stain. A variety of sealants can be used, from solvent-based lacquers and varnishes to water-based options. To achieve the best results, choose a sealant that is specifically designed for use on wood surfaces.

When applying the sealant, use a brush to apply a uniform coat over the surface of the wood, including the live edge. Take care to get into any crevices and cracks in the bark. Work in the direction of the grain and go with the natural contours of the wood. A second coat may be necessary for increased protection. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next, usually an hour or two.

Once the sealant is dry, sand down any areas that need smoothing prior to applying the stain. Be sure to remove any dust and debris before proceeding. The sealant will help ensure a better bond between the wood and the stain, resulting in a more even and attractive finish.

Applying Wood Stain

Applying wood stain to live edge wood with bark isn’t difficult, but it can be time-consuming. To avoid an uneven application, it’s important to follow a few steps to ensure a gorgeous finish. Begin by stirring the stain thoroughly before starting application. It’s best to use a quality brush that won’t shed bristles as you make your way across different surfaces of the wood. Work in small sections, overlapping as you go and wiping away any excess stain. Working with the grain of the wood helps the stain to be applied evenly.

When applying stain to the bark, it’s important to move gently. The bark could easily peel away, so it’s essential to be careful. Work slowly and make sure there is proper coverage. The stain may darken when it dries, so allow a test area to dry completely before you apply the stain to the entire project.

After the stain has dried, use a soft clean cloth to buff away any remaining residue. Make sure to check all areas of the wood for any missed spots or uneven coverage and use the cloth to address any issues. Once the area has been properly stained, it’s time to seal it for protection.

Applying Sealant to the Bark

When applying sealants to bark, it’s important to choose one that is compatible with the wood. Before applying the sealant, you should also ensure the wood and bark are clean and free of any dirt, dust, or debris. It’s best to use a damp cloth to clean the wood, followed by a dry cloth to dry it thoroughly.

Once the wood is clean, you’ll want to apply the sealant with a brush. When applying, be sure to cover the entire surface of the bark, paying extra attention to any gaps or crevices. Be sure to apply even pressure when brushing and keep the brush strokes in the same direction. Once you’ve covered the entire surface, let it sit for approximately ten minutes to allow the sealant to soak in.

Once the sealant has been allowed to soak in, you can use a clean cloth to buff and smooth the surface of the bark, carefully wiping away any excess sealant. You may also want to use a hair dryer to help the sealant set. After it has been applied and dried, you can apply a top coat of wax or other protective sealant to ensure the best protection.

Ways to Apply Finish to Live Edge Wood with Bark

When finishing live edge wood with bark, there are several ways to get the job done. These include using a rag, a brush, a sponge roller, or an airless sprayer. Each method has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages, depending on the type of wood and the desired results.

Using a rag is perhaps the simplest method for finishing live edge wood with bark. This method is ideal for small surfaces, as it can be controlled easily and quickly. In addition, it can be used to create unique patterns with the finish, which can add texture and dimension to the project. However, this method does have its drawbacks. Depending on the type of wood and the size of the project, the amount of finish applied may not be evenly distributed. In addition, using a rag may result in a blotchy finish with slight runs or patches.

Applying finish with a paintbrush is another option. This method allows for a more even distribution of the finish and the ability to control the flow rate. This method works well for larger surfaces, and allows for more creative control when applying the finish. The drawbacks of this method are the amount of time it requires and the fact that it can be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces.

If you’re looking for an even, controlled finish, a sponge roller is your best bet. The sponge roller helps to evenly distribute the finish while keeping the flow smooth and consistent. Sponge rollers are also great for larger projects, as they provide easier access to larger areas. The downside of this method is that it can be slow, and can be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces.

For larger projects, an airless sprayer may be the best option. The airless sprayer delivers a smooth and even finish that is quick and easy to apply. It is also the ideal choice for sealing larger bark pieces, since it works well on larger surfaces with less effort. The downside of this method is that it requires a heavier coat of the sealant, and can take some practice to get a consistent finish when using an airless sprayer.

When finishing live edge wood with bark, it is important to consider the type of wood, the size of the project, and the desired results. With the right preparation and the selection of the best finishing method for the job, you can get the best results possible.

Using a Rag to Apply Finish

Using a rag to apply finish to live edge wood with bark is the most common and simplest way to achieve a great result. The process is simple: apply a generous amount of the chosen finish to the rag, then spread it over the bark and wood evenly in a circular motion, ensuring that you cover all surfaces. To ensure a smooth application, take a little extra time to rub the finish into the wood and bark. If you’re using a wax finish, be sure to buff it with a clean cloth once it has dried.

As with all finishes, safety measures should be taken, such as wearing protective gloves and eyewear. Make sure that the area is well-ventilated and explain proper finish application techniques to anyone else who may be involved in the process. Additionally, it’s important to note that when using a rag, it is difficult to achieve a perfectly even finish. Depending on the desired look, however, that may be just what you’re after.

Although it may require a bit more effort than using a brush or roller, using a rag to apply finish to live edge wood with bark is an economical option and allows for much more flexibility to customize the look of the project. It is also a great choice for smaller areas that can’t accommodate larger tools. The end result is a classic look that is sure to be admired by all.

Applying Finish with a Paintbrush

Applying a finish with a paintbrush can be done with a few simple tools. First, choose a natural-bristle brush such as a hog-bristle, a china-bristle, or a sable brush. Make sure the brush is of good quality, since this will make it easier to obtain a smooth finish. Prepare the brush by stroking across a piece of sandpaper (180-grit) until it is properly broken in and the bristles are soft and uniform.

When finishing the live edge wood with bark, be sure to begin at the top of the wood. Start by brushing the oil finish onto the wood in the direction of the wood grain. Then do the same for the bark, gently brushing from side to side. Be careful when brushing near the edges of the bark, as it can easily be pulled away from the wood.

Be sure to lightly sand the wood between coats of finish. This will ensure a smoother, more consistent finish and further protect the wood from any moisture that might seep in. After applying each coat of finish, let it sit for a few minutes before wiping off the excess with a lint-free cloth.

When finished, let the wood and bark completely dry before using. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple days depending on how much finish you applied and the temperature and humidity of the room. Once the finish is dry, the live edge wood with bark is ready to be enjoyed and admired.

Using a Sponge Roller to Apply Finish

Using a sponge roller to apply finish to live edge wood with bark is an easy and efficient method of application. With this method, you can apply a even coat of finish over large surfaces as well as cover intricate bark details. The only supplies needed are a foam paint roller, a diy tray or tableware, and a can of finish.

Once the roller is saturated in finish, roll it onto the surface in a long, continuous motion moving in the same direction as the grain of the wood. For large surfaces, it is best to use an alternating criss-cross pattern for an even coat. Ensure that you apply enough pressure with the roller, but do not press too hard as this can create ridges in the finish. When moving from section to section with the roller, overlap the sections by about two inches to ensure full coverage.

When applying finish to intricate bark details, try using a smaller foam roller as this will make it easier to maneuver around the curved edges. If necessary, use a latex brush to maneuver around tight spaces. As with the larger surfaces, adjust the pressure applied with the roller according to the dense or intricate the bark is. When finished, the roller can be washed with warm water and reused.

Using an Airless Sprayer for Finishing

Using an airless sprayer is one of the quickest ways to finish live edge wood with bark. This method provides an even coat over the entire surface and tends to be less labor intensive than using a rag or paintbrush. The key to achieving a successful finish is to ensure the sprayer is set to the correct pressure and that the nozzles are clean and well maintained.

When using a sprayer to finish live edge wood, it’s important to make sure you have a well-ventilated area. Airless sprayers create vapor particles that can be dangerous to breathe in. Additionally, the particles can make a mess of the surrounding area, so it’s important to cover any furniture, plants or other objects that could be damaged. To be prepared for the job at hand, it’s a good idea to have a drop cloth on hand for easy clean up.

When setting up the sprayer, make sure to adjust the pressure so it is spraying between 800 and 1,200 psi. This will ensure the finish is applied evenly over the entire surface of the wood. You don’t want to use too much pressure, as it can cause runs or create a mess. Too little pressure can result in an uneven coat.

When using the sprayer, begin by spraying the edges of the wood and slowly move towards the bark. This will help ensure an even coat over the entire surface of the wood. For a smooth finish, make sure to overlap each stroke by 50%. Once the desired coverage is achieved, you can let the finish dry.

Using an airless sprayer to finish live edge wood with bark is a great way to get a professional quality finish in a fraction of the time. If the proper prep and setup are done, you should be able to achieve the desired result quickly and easily.

Troubleshooting Finishing Live Edge Wood with Bark

Troubleshooting finishing live edge wood with bark can be tricky, especially if you’re doing so for the first time. All the extra details and intricacies of the bark can begin to complicate the process if you’re not prepared for them. To make things easier, here are few tips for troubleshooting your live edge wood finishing.

Removing excess finish is a common issue when dealing with live edge wood and its bark. Because of the texture and curves of the bark, it’s easy to apply too much finish which can lead to an uneven application. To prevent this, make sure to take your time and use a rag or old cloth to remove any excess finish before it has a chance to dry.

Another issue that can arise is uneven application of the finish. This can be caused by not having an even distribution of the finish over the surface of the wood or by having too much finish on your brush. Be sure to keep a steady hand and to use the right type and amount of finish to ensure an even application.

A common problem with finishing live edge wood with bark is peeling or tearing of the bark. This can happen when the finish is too thick and heavy to be properly absorbed by the bark’s porous surface. To prevent this, be sure to use thin coats of finish and work slowly.

Last but not least, live edge wood with bark is prone to splitting or cracking due to its uneven shape. If this happens, it’s important to repair the bark to ensure its protection. Use a thin layer of wood adhesive and make sure it’s properly applied and dried before applying any finish.

Troubleshooting live edge wood with bark can be tricky, but with patience, care and the right tools, it’s possible to achieve a professional result. Be sure to practice and prepare in order to get the best application of finish, and to make sure the bark of your live edge wood is protected and preserved.

Removing Excess Finish

Removing excess finish is an important step in the finishing of live edge wood with bark. If your project is protected with too much finish, you will have difficulty achieving an even look. Too much finish can also make the object look cloudy or mottled, with an uneven appearance.

The best way to remove excess finish is by sanding. Be sure to use a fine grit paper and work your way down to a progressively finer grit, until the desired finish is achieved. It is best to begin with a medium grit paper, followed by a finer grit, and ending with an ultra-finish product. When sanding, make sure to use a light touch. Sanding too aggressively can leave swirl marks, making it difficult to achieve an even result.

Another popular method for removing excess finish is to use a chemical stripper. This can be applied to the surface and then removed with a damp cloth. Chemical strippers can be used to break down the finish and provide a smoother surface. However, this method can be difficult to use in cases where the finish is very thick, so it is best to test it on a scrap of wood before using it on your project.

If you need to remove excess finish quickly, an electric buffer can be used. This tool will buff away the finish in a fraction of the time it takes to do it by hand. However, be sure to use a low speed and use light pressure when using a buffer. Doing so will prevent the finish from being damaged and ensure that you get an even result.

Avoiding Uneven Application

To avoid uneven application of finish, start by analyzing the surface texture of the wood. The surface texture of the wood will determine the type of roller or brush that should be used to apply the finish. A roller with a thicker, denser fabric is best for surfaces that have more texture or grain, while a roller with a thinner, softer fabric may be best for smoother surfaces.

It’s also important to assess the size of the wood piece and the area of surface that needs to be covered. If the wood piece is especially large, then it’s best to use a paint sprayer to apply the finish evenly over the entire surface. Additionally, washing the wood and removing any debris before applying the finish will help create a smooth and even application.

Next, when applying the finish, use long, even strokes, following the grain of the wood, and be sure to overlap the strokes. This will help ensure an even coverage and reduce the chances of there being any brush strokes, bumps, or gaps in the finish. Additionally, using multiple thin coats instead of one thick coat is often recommended for a smoother, more even result.

Finally, it’s important to work in a well ventilated area to avoid inhaling harmful fumes from the finishing product and to allow the finish enough time to dry completely after each coat. When applying finish to the bark of the wood, additional caution should be taken to ensure that the finish is not over-applied or applied too thick. This could cause the bark to peel or tear when it is drying.

Troubleshooting Peeling or Tearing Bark

When finishing live edge wood with bark, it is important to be aware that the bark can tear or peel off more easily than other finishes due to the natural texture of the wood. While some peeling is normal, excess peeling can be a nuisance and may necessitate repairs.

If you find that you’re dealing with peeling or tearing bark, the first step is to determine the cause. If you are applying a water-based finish, this could be the reason for the peeling; water-based products may not be strong enough to adhere securely to the bark. If the product you are using is oil-based, this could be caused by the bark being too dry or the finish having been applied too thickly.

To avoid excess peeling or tearing, check the moisture content of the bark prior to applying the finish and ensure it is not overly dry. Make sure the product you are using is appropriate for the material and that you are not applying it too thickly. If possible, test a sample beforehand to ensure the finish does not cause any adverse effects.

It is also important to be careful when washing the bark-finished wood and using it in outdoor settings. Heat, humidity, and extended UV exposure can all cause the bark to peel, so it is wise to store the wood in a cool and dry area and to ensure it does not receive extended exposure to the sun.

If peeling or tearing persists, you may need to repair the affected area. You can do this by carefully sanding away any loose bark and re-applying an appropriate finish. Be patient and take your time when doing this as rushed repairs can cause more damage and aggravate the problem.

Repairing Splintered or Cracked Bark

When it comes to finishing a piece of live edge wood with bark, repairing any splintering or cracking that has occurred is a crucial step. Depending on the level of splintering or cracking, different repair methods may be used.

For minor or superficial splintering, fill-and-finish methods are suggested. This can be done with wood putty or similar wood filler. If using wood putty, be sure to apply it in thin layers to ensure proper adhesion and drying. Once the putty has dried, sand lightly with lightweight sandpaper to smooth out any jagged edges, then apply the desired finish.

For more serious, structural splintering or cracking, a combination of reinforcement and filling material, such as epoxy, may be necessary. Apply a thin layer of epoxy across the crack or splinter and allow it to dry. Use clamps to hold pieces together while drying, if necessary. Once dry, sand lightly with lightweight sandpaper until all surfaces are smooth, then apply the desired finish.

It is important to note that the finish used on the bark must be waterproof, as it is more likely to come into contact with moisture than the wood itself. This will help to protect and preserve the integrity of the wood and bark for years to come.


Devin B

Hi everyone! My name is Devin and I'm the author of this website about tips for woodturning and wood finishing. I'm an avid woodworker and have been doing it for over a decade. I'm constantly learning new techniques and experimenting with new materials and finishes.

I started my journey in woodworking when I was a teenager, making furniture for my bedroom and small projects for my family. As I got older, my interest in woodturning and wood finishing grew. I took classes on the subject and read books on the topic.

I'm passionate about woodturning and wood finishing because it allows me to express my creativity in a tangible way. I love the satisfaction of seeing a piece of wood that I have transformed from a block of raw material into a beautiful finished product.

I hope you find the tips and advice on this website helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm always happy to help out and share my experiences. Thanks for visiting my website!