Introduction: Live Edge Bar and Floating Shelves
A friend of mine asked me to help install a live edge slab bar top and floating shelves. Of course I said yes because it was a fantastic opportunity to work with a giant slab of monkeypod Wood (which isn't something I would otherwise be able to afford to do). For anyone that doesn't know the term live edge, it is when the edges of the board are left natural and wavy. I documented the install so that I could share it, I hope you enjoy!
Don't forget to check out the video at the top of the page and if you have any questions I would be happy to answer in the comments below.
Below are links to tools and materials I used in this article. It is either the exact tool/supply or something very close.
Live Edge Slab - This was a 8/4" thick piece of monkeypod wood. It was about 3' wide.
Straight edge (we used a combination of a level and a 2x4)
Router + bits
Random orbital sander + sanding discs
Finish - We used Ligna Pronto Oil, but I would suggest getting whatever finish you feel comfortable applying.
Note: The links in this article are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Step 1: Cutting Slab to Length
In this instructable post I won't be sharing the exact dimensions for the project as the location of this bar is in between two walls in a small nook in my friends basement. Instead I will just let you know where I measured so you can do the same if you intended to tackle a project like this.
My friend had already built some cabinets for the base. Also, he was planning on installing a brick "backsplash" on the back and right hand side (where the cement board is installed), which gave us a bit of wiggle room. The brick was about 3/4" thick, so we knew we had that much play in our measurements.
We measured the distance between the walls. As drywall is never perfect, we measured in a few different spots and then took the smallest measurement. (to ensure that the slab would slide in) We marked out the measurement on the slab. The important part to remember here is that you need ensure that both end lines are parallel. You can't make it square with anything as all the edges are "live edge".
After checking all of the measurements more than once we used a straight edge clamped to the slab and a circular saw to cut the slab to length.
Step 2: Cut Slab to Depth
With a normal counter top you usually aim to have a consistent amount of the edge hanging over your counter. With live edge this is not possible. Instead, we took a measurement of the depth of the counter and then added 3/4", this would be out minimum depth. We used a framing square to show a perpendicular line from the ends we just cut in the previous step. We then found the spot along the live edge which equaled the minimum depth and drew a line from end to end.
Again using a straight edge clamped to the slab (this time a 2x4) and the circular saw, we cut the slab to depth.
Step 3: Test Fitting and Making Adjustments
An important part in any build is to test things along the way. In this case we slid the slab onto the cabinets and noticed that the drywall on one edge was not square and needed to be adjusted. We scored a line in the drywall where the slab was hitting with a knife. We then used a saw to cut out the drywall in that spot. The slab is now able to slide into that area and it looks much nicer. Later it will be caulked so that you cannot see any gaps.
Step 4: Installing the Slab
To install the slab we used common construction adhesive. We spread out a bunch on the cabinet top and then slid the top into place. We then added some weight on top and left it to dry overnight.
Step 5: Cutting the Floating Shelves
Cutting the live edge floating shelves was very similar to the bar top, but instead of starting with the length, we decided to start with the depth. We marked out a line that had a minimum depth of 12". Again using a 2x4 as a straight edge and a circular saw we cut the slab.
We then cut one end perfectly perpendicular to the line we just cut (by using a framing square to mark a perpendicular line). We then marked out the total length (the distance between the two walls) and cut it to length.
Step 6: Routing/Drilling for Shelf Supports
My friend wanted to have a floating look to his shelves with no visible brackets. To accomplish we used a combination of hidden cleats on the sides with floating shelf hangers in the middle.
The cleats are simply 3/4" square material that is about 8" long. To make a corresponding hole (a.k.a. dado) for them in the shelf we used a router. We took multiple passes using the router until we reached a depth of 3/4". As you can see in the last picture we used a scrap piece of material to check to see if our depth and width were correct.
For the floating shelf hangers we simply drilled two 1/2" holes to match the hangers. (unfortunately I do not have pictures of this) When doing this, we made sure to put them in spots that would correspond to a stud in the wall.
Step 7: Adding Undermount Lighting
My friend also wanted to add under mount lighting to the shelves. The kit he purchased required a 1/2" channel on the bottom of the shelf. We again used the router to cut out this channel.
Next we needed to get electricity to the lights, this was done with a long drill bit that connected the back of the shelf with the routed out channel. We slid the wire through and slid the aluminum channel into place. The aluminum channel will hold the LED light strip as well as a frosted panel to diffuse the light.
As electrical is best left to professionals I will not go into further detail here on how to attach the lights to the house electrical system.
Step 8: Installing Shelves
First we struck some level lines on the walls where we wanted the shelves. Then we installed the cleats on the side. The back screws were into a stud, and for the front screws we used drywall anchors.
We then attached the floating shelf hangers onto the wall. They simply screw in using screws that are included in the kit. Then you thread on the hexagonal support.
Lastly we slid the shelves into place. They were very tight and I was not afraid of them coming off the wall. However, if this is a fear you have you can install a nail or screw from underneath into the cleats.
Step 9: Cleaning and Sanding
We used a shop vac to clean up most of the drywall dust from installing the shelves. Then I used a damp rag to get the rest. We then sanding all of the surfaces with a combination of a random orbital sander and hand sanding. We used 180 grit as the board had previously been sanded.
We wet down the entire surface and then waited for it to dry. This raises the grain on the wood and is a good step to do to ensure that the surface will remain smooth. After it was dry we sanded again using 240 grit.
Step 10: Adding Finish
One of the most dramatic parts of any woodworking project is adding finish. We went with the recommended finish by the people at the local lumber yard and it is called Ligna Pronto. It seemed like a very nice oil based finish and it went on easily and had a very dramatic affect. We simply poured it on and spread it around. We waited a few minutes and then wiped off any excess.
No matter what finish you choose make sure to read the directions on the can.
As I mentioned earlier, my friend added a brick backsplash (I didn't help him with that so I don't have any pictures of this step unfortunately, but it is similar to other backsplash installations)
Step 11: Enjoy!
The best part of this project is once it was all done I was able to enjoy a drink with my friend. I really enjoyed working with my friend on this project and I think it turned out really nice. I hope you enjoyed it as well!
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