The Ultimate Guide to Wood Slabs - Part I

Once considered a niche furniture category, wood slabs are getting increasingly popular due to their stunning natural beauty and one-of-a-kind appeal. This article aims to inform readers of the common forms of wood slabs in the market and their pros and cons.

What is a Wood Slab?

At Grey and Sanders, we interpret the term “wood slabs” to be:

Wood Slab (n.)

A flat piece of wood that is unique and displays organic character. Often used as table or benchtops, wood slabs automatically elevate the space they are sited on.

To us, cookie-cutter furniture does not qualify as wood slabs. Laminates and veneers over particleboard do not qualify as wood slabs. Most furniture manufacturers have a goal of standardising their products to manage customer expectations. They color woods to make colors uniform and use very narrow strips of wood (15 to 20 per tabletop) to achieve consistency. We have a completely different philosophy when it comes to wood slabs. To us, owning a wood slab is like owning a unique piece of art crafted by mother nature herself.

Single or Joint

A key distinction between types of wood slabs is whether it is composed of a single slab of wood, or two or more pieces that are joined together. Joining is necessary as not all trees (especially slow-growing trees) are wide enough to yield usable single slabs. For example, a walnut tree grows at an average rate of 6 to 8mm in diameter a year. Even a tree of 90cm diameter, which is typically over 100 years old, would only yield 4 to 6 slabs of width 75cm and above.

A cross-section of how single slabs are made from one tree.

The Creme de La Creme - Single Slabs

The scarcity explained in the preceding paragraph is the reason why single slabs are highly sought after. Typical American walnut single slabs are made from trees over 100 years old! Further, they represent the beauty of the tree in its most natural form - single slabs often come in more organic shapes as they take the original form of the trees. If you are looking for a stunning table slab as the piece de resistance for your space, single slabs are one of the best options.

Pros: You get to enjoy the slab in its most natural form, keeping the original shape of the tree!

Cons: Wide slabs are hard to come by, the irregular shape may be odd for your space.

Note: Single slabs are only rare for slower-growing species such as teak and walnut. Fast-growing tropical trees such as Albizia Saman (also known as Suar wood) are very common and are lower quality woods.

The Crowd Favorite - Bookmatched Slabs

Bookmatched slabs are our best sellers, as they offer an interesting symmetrical look while being able to achieve an ideal width for dining tables. Bookmatching involves joining two successive cuts of wood from the same tree to form a slab. Only the best sections of the tree (typically more than 100 years old) are meticulously selected and processed for book matching. Such methods also result in higher material wastage.

Pros: The best of both worlds, you get to enjoy consistent and symmetrical grains and also get slabs wide enough for a dining table

Cons: Depending on the grains, the joint line can still be visible on some slabs.

Note: Jointing is done with wood glue and wood dowels which helps to increase the surface area for adhesive to bind to, makes it just as durable as unjointed wood.

An example of how wood glue is applied to a wooden plank.

An example of how bookmatched trees are picked and where they get cut to form a table.

Bang for Your Buck - Hexo

Multi-joint or Hexo tables (named after the average number of planks that form the tabletop) are made by joining narrower wooden planks. Six to eight planks of wood for a tabletop still allows the achievement of a unique look. Hexo slabs can be made from younger trees, or from the leftover pieces of wood from trees used for single and bookmatched slabs. Hence, it is the most wallet-friendly option. While they tend to look more plain compared to single or bookmatched slabs, they are suitable for those going for a more muted yet organic look. It is also easier to achieve wider widths with hexo table tops.

Pros: The most price-friendly option, and you can request for custom slabs if you need really wide tables.

Cons: The grain and colour variation on Hexo slabs can vary a lot.

The jointing process of making a Hexo tabletop.

The Renaissance Man - River Slab

Just like the Amazon rainforest, these tables have a river within them as well. However, this river is made out of epoxy resin. What is that? To put it in simple terms, it’s an adhesive and waterproof material that is long-lasting and requires minimal maintenance. Due to these qualities, it best suits the longevity of the wood which can last a lifetime. The juxtaposition of a timeless traditional material (wood) with a contemporary one (epoxy) makes this slab a majestic piece altogether.

Pros: Modern and unique design, and able to achieve wider slabs.

Cons: Due to the cost of epoxy resin these tables are priced more than other slabs.

Choosing the right table for you

As you can see, each product class has its pros and cons. At Grey and Sanders, we have over 200 wood slabs for your selection and are able to support customisation to your requirements. You're guaranteed to find something for any interior and budget! To find out more on wooden furniture read our wooden furniture guide here!