I'm somewhat new to woodworking and I'm planning on doing some live edge tables. My issue is I don't have enough experience reading wood grain so that I'm able to predict what kind of color will come out of a slab once it's finished. As I'm meandering through the local mill is there anything acceptable I can do to the slabs that will reveal their finished coloring? I know you can wet a slab and bring out it's color but I hardly think you should do that to one that's already been dried. Or maybe brush on a little sanding sealer...but that'd probably be frowned upon.
Don't buy rough sawn slabs if you are worried about it. I would be shocked if the mill owner will pull down a have dozen slabs and let you wet all of them before you make a decision. They are high profit items, but spending a couple hours to sell one can make them pretty grouchy! How old is your business if you are new to woodworking?
We are a lumber supplier that also sells some live edge slabs. I know we wouldn't let a customer put water on the surface of our slabs considering they are already dried. I personally use mineral spirits or denatured alcohol to pull out the color. Mineral spirits takes a bit longer to evaporate, at least 5+ minutes. Denatured alcohol will raise the grain a bit but evaporates very quickly, less than a minute to evaporate. The raised grain really isn't much of an issued considering most slabs aren't ready for finish. Most lumber suppliers will want you in and out and have everything cleaned up as quickly as possible. If they have to wait for something to evaporate for more than 5 minutes, they might get a little grumpy about that. I would ask them before you show up to make sure you can apply these things. Let them know the pros and cons of the products as well.
Depending on how many and what species you are considering using, the one live edge shop near me (Tropical Hardwoods, Carlsbad, CA) has pen blanks and other off cuts for sale.
Maybe buy a few different ones so you can experiment first?
Get lots of samples of smaller boards - as many species as you see in the racks. Learn what they are by handling them, feel the heft, then whittle an edge - how hard? Dense? Is it coarse or fine grain? Open pores or closed? Diffuse grain or prominent? What does it smell like?
Judging only by color means you are missing the characteristics that make wood the wonderful choice it is. If you are to be a professional, you need to know your woods like you do the back of your hand.
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