A bookmatched live edge slab is essentially multiple slabs joined and glued to make one. The goal of this is to find closely matched slabs that have matched, or mirrored, wood grain. Although two slabs will never be exactly the same, the closer they are, the better of a bookmatch you’ll have. The best way to achieve this is by using multiple slabs from the same log.
The term bookmatch refers to looking like an open book, where each side close to mirrors the other. It’s commonly used to describe the matching process with live edge slabs, stone, wood instruments, and more.
Bookmatching is done to increase the width of a live edge slab, making it large enough to use for big projects such as tables or furniture.
Bookmatched Table Tops We’ve Done:
Benefits of Bookmatched Slabs For Tables
In short, the main benefits of bookmatched live edge slab tables are:
- You can get a table in the exact width your looking for regardless of what’s in stock.
- It’s usually cheaper than buying larger slabs.
- Bookmatched slab tables are stronger and less likely to warp than single-slab tops.
The Benefits Broken Down
The main benefit of a slab being bookmatched is that it’ll allow you to achieve large sizes that can be used for kitchen tables and other big projects. Most slabs you see that are 40″ and wider are probably bookmatched. It’s important to ask the seller if they are before buying if you can’t tell from their pictures.
Another benefit is cost. Large live edge slabs are hard to find because they require trees that are decades old. Because of this, they are also more expensive than smaller slabs. If you have a small budget for your project, you may be better off buying a few smaller slabs and bookmatching them together.
The last benefit of bookmatched slabs is that they tend to move less. Many professionals will actually cut large slabs down the middle and glue them together for this benefit. Cutting the slabs can relieve the stress on the pith of the wood (which is essentially the center of the log) which is typically where the slabs will warp.
Disadvantages To Bookmatched Slabs For Tables
In short, the disadvantages of bookmatched slabs are:
- You can see the joint if you look closely even when done properly.
- If they’re not jointed properly the pieces may split apart with age.
- More tools are required. You’ll need a track saw and a biscuit or domino jointer.
- There will be more work involved with building the table
The Downfalls Broken Down
The biggest disadvantage of bookmatched slabs is you can almost always see the joint. Even with proper joinery you will still see the change in the grain pattern of the wood. This is a pretty subtle if done properly, but still visible. Many do not mind this, as it allows them to get the table to their exact specs (or very close), but others prefer the full width slab.
Another disadvantage is if they’re not properly matched, the joinery may not last as long as you’d like, warping can occur, and you’re left with a slab that doesn’t look the way you originally intended. We recommend using a jointer and either biscuit joints or domino joints to bookmatch the slabs into one solid tabletop.
If you’re buying a bookmatched slab, keep this in mind.
The last disadvantage is if you’re building the table yourself, there is more work involved when bookmatching the table. You’ll need to cut the edge off of your slabs, joint them together, and wait an extra day for the glue to dry.
How to Bookmatch A Live Edge Slab
- Flatten the slab
You’ll want to use a slab flattener or planer to flatten the slab.
- Cut a straight edge on the inside of each slab
Be sure to use a straight edge to get a cut as flat as possible.
- Remove the high spots
Use a hand planer or a jointer to remove the high spots where the slabs joint together.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3
Repeat the last two steps on your second slab.
- Lay them flat
Lay both slabs flat side by side. They are ready to join together if there is no gap across the joint. If there are any gaps, mark them, and continue jointing until the slabs have a perfect match. Any gaps will be problematic for the bookmatch, so be sure they fit together tightly.
- Glue the slab joints and use biscuit joints or dominos
Smear wood glue across both sides of the joint. Use a foam paint brush to apply it evenly. You should also use a biscuit or domino joint for an additional layer of support. This will support the wood pieces both vertically and horizontally and keep your joint as strong as possible. Pictured are domino joints.
- Clamp the slabs together
After the glue is applied, you’re ready to glue the slab together. You’ll want to use clamps to do this to hold the two pieces tight as the glue dries. Clamp the slab every few feet. We also recommend using clamps on pieces of lumber to hold the joint of the slabs flat, as pictured.
For our bookmatch tables, we typically use Titlebond III glue as we find it is the strongest wood glue we’ve used.
- Let the glue dry overnight
After the glue holding the slabs together overnight, you can remove the clamps. The glue is typically dry in about an hour and fully cured in 24 hours.
- Sand and finish the slab
After the slabs are bookmatched, you’ll want to sand them as one piece using a wide belt sander. Then, your piece is ready for finishing!
So Does Bookmatching Two Slabs Actually Work?
You be the judge! Below is a picture of the bookmatch slab we put together above. The joint is almost impossible to see and will be hidden even more once a finish is applied to the wood.
To achieve the perfect bookmatch, we recommend these tips:
- Use two slabs from the same log, ideally ones that were cut side by side so they are as close in grain and color as possible.
- Use a jointer on the edges so the joint is as close to perfect as possible.
- Use dominos or biscuit joints to support your slab both with and against the grain. This adds a lot of structural support to your piece and will help keep your joint from splitting.
- If you have any small gaps in your wood, mix a little wood glue with the sawdust from your slab and fill in the crack. This can hide small voids. If major voids are visible, your better to go back to using your jointer.
Looking To Buy Bookmatched Slabs?
Although we don’t have any bookmatched live edge slabs on our site, we can make them. All of our live edge wood slabs are from large trees, measuring up to 60″ wide. If larger widths are desired for a particular species, bookmatching will be required. Please contact us online if you have any questions!
Nolan is the Marketing Manager for Lancaster Live Edge. When he isn’t working on our marketing initiatives, he’s in the shop building tables and furniture with the team. Prior to working with Lancaster Live Edge, he worked for a digital marketing agency for nearly 4 years. His family owns a custom building company and he’s helped build everything from custom furniture to home additions. Nolan has been woodworking for nearly 20 years.
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