How To Finish Live Edge Wood

We have just finished our basement and the wife has had her heart set on a live edge wood countertop for the downstairs bonus room.  What my baby wants, my baby gets.  So off to specialty lumber yard we went and came home with a beautiful 12 ft piece of Monkey Pod wood.  I was thinking that finishing the wood would be easy, just glaze and be done with it, but that was not the case.  Instead after some real mess ups, I did figure out how to finish live edge wood.

Steps To Finish Live Edge Wood (very straight foward)

  1. Cut wood to specifications – use some masking tape and a miter saw to cut off excess
  2. Sand wood – if the wood piece is not smooth already, use a lower 60 grit sandpaper.  If it has already been smoothed, you can sand with a 120 grit sandpaper.  Then sand with a 240 grit sandpaper.  Finally sand with 300 grit sandpaper.
  3. Clean the top thoroughly so no excess sawdust is on the wood piece
  4. Finish with your choice of finish.  I’ll elaborate why I chose Osmo Polyx Oil over a glazed epoxy resin.  Spoiler alert – I had glazed the wood with the epoxy resin, then screwed it up, sanded all hardened epoxy off, resanded the board, glazed wood again, then screwed it up, sanded all hardened epoxy off…..seeing a theme here?

Types of Finish

Epoxy Resin

The epoxy resin is not a complicated process, but something I was unaware of was the moisture in the wood would cause the epoxy resin to bubble.  These bubbles you should be able to take a heat gun to them and they will pop and go away.  Unbeknownst to me though some woods take YEARS to fully dry out unless they are baked at the lumber yards.  Our piece of monkey pod was not baked and not had years to dry.  Here in lies my big mistake.

I started with the epoxy resin which is an awesome product and is what you see at local pubs and bars.  Shiny, smooth and extremely durable.  Once I put the epoxy resin on, there were the bubbles that I expected but even with the heat gun, they’d pop and reform.  It was a long two hour process trying to get every bubble out and so say it gently, I failed.

After the epoxy hardened and I was unsatisfied with the results since there were hardened bubbles everywhere. Out came the belt sander and the first round of epoxy came off after several hours of sanding.

I had thought that we did not put the epoxy resin on thick enough so we made another batch that was twice the size of the first batch.  Same result with the bubbles and twice the time to sand it all off again because of the thickness.  

I have to say that working with this product was easy to do and the parts that did not have the bubbles in them were amazingly finished.  It was hard and thick and shiny which was the look we were going for.  Being that the kids are going to use this as a drawing table too, the epoxy seemed like it would hold up and remain intact against the kids’ worst.

Also if you end up going this route, when popping the bubbles do not go too close to the resin with the heat gun. Stay back about six inches and constantly keep the gun in motion. Staying in one area too long and/or being too close will cause the epoxy to burn and it will be ruined.

Famwood epoxy
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Tung Oil

We did not go this route but it is worth mentioning because the results that I saw were great from a friend’s countertop.  He used Tung Oil on a wood bathroom countertop and would sand very gently between coats.  He said that he did around 4-5 coats.  This first coat was sucked right up by the wood and the more coats he did the thicker the finish was.

He installed this wood countertop in his bathroom 5 years ago and said he never refinished it and looking at it, it certainly has stood the test of time.  It speaks to even greater volume because it is a bathroom that his kids use so it was constantly getting water all over and getting gunked up by toothpaste, hair, and whatever the kids could put on it.

It really looked fantastic and he could not speak highly enough about the Tung Oil for finishing.

Tung Oil
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Osmo Polyx Oil

We ended up using the Osmo Polyx Oil based on the recommendations of a local woodworker.  He had finished his wife’s business with polyx oil and after looking at the shop, we thought this was the best option.  (there was no way I was doing anymore sanding to this piece of wood)

After putting the first coat on again I thought I did something wrong because it was white around certain sections but it ended up just being the polyx oil being sucked in, more in some areas and less in others.  As we did the second and third coats, that is when the shine started to happen and the wood started to look like a presentable piece.

Osmo Polyx Oil can be put on with either a brush or a roller.  We did both and they look basically the same when it dries.  

Osmo Polyx oil
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If I decide I ever want some extra shine I’ll add a couple coats of polyurethane which will really make the whole piece pop.  There are so many polyurethanes out there, but when given a choice, I’ll end up using what I always use which is the Minwax since I have never had a problem with any of their products.

Polyeurathane Minwax
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Moral of the Story

Moral of the story is this: find out what type of wood you are trying to finish first and make sure it is fully dried out.  If it is not fully dried out, do NOT use the epoxy resin.  It will look terrible and you will have to sand and redo everything.  In those cases where the wood is not dried, use Tung Oil or Osmo Polyx Oil.  If you do have wood that the lumber yard has said is fully dried out then go ahead and use the Epoxy Resin as I really liked that finish the best of all of them.

Here is our Monkey Pod with Osmo Polyx Oil installed. Wood was much much lighter before polyx oil.

All the best finishing your live edge piece of wood!

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