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Nature’s Art: The Craft of Custom Live Edge Tables

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Live Edge Tables: Embracing Nature in Modern Furniture Design

The Historical Significance of Live Edge Tables

Live edge tables came to prominence in the 50-60’s through the work of George Nakashima, a Pennsylvania-based Japanese woodworker. The term “Live Edge” refers to the fact that the table or bar has at least one of its lengths as the natural shape of the tree when it was cut. You can tell if that is the case by the wood grain in the piece. The grain should run fairly consistently with the outside edge of the wood.

What Defines a Live Edge Table?

One of the most common questions we get in the shop is whether or not they should leave the bark on the edge of the wood. We always recommend removal of the bark. And the reason for that is in the density difference between the bark and the wood. Over time the bark and the wood accept moisture at different rates, and since the connection between the wood and the bark is already weak, the chance that the bark will fall off is fairly high.

To Bark or Not to Bark: Best Practices for Live Edge Table Preparation

Since we cut all of our own wood, the entire process from log form to finished product is controlled by us. First we buy the log, then we cut the log, then we air dry, then kiln dry, then surface, then store in the shop ready for finishing.

The Journey from Timber to Table: Our Live Edge Crafting Process

We specialize in logs over 36” in diameter and up to 30′ in length. When tree services end up having to take a tree down in our area (whether from disease or age) they will often give us a call to see if it is something that we are interested in. If we are, they come and drop it off, most logs cost between $300-$1,200 although for some premium logs we will spend quite a bit more for.

Selecting the Perfect Log: Sourcing for Live Edge Tables

Once the log is at our mill yard it may sit for up to a year depending on what species we have need of. Although there are some exceptions. Any large oak or black walnut we try to cut as quickly as we can. Wood doesn’t really dry in log form, so you could have a log sit for 20 years and it would still have moisture in it, there just isn’t enough surface area at the ends to allow moisture to escape. So you have to cut the log into the pieces you want to use.

Mastering the Moisture: The Art of Drying Wood for Live Edge Tables

Generally, we cut slabs between 2.25” and 3.25” thick depending on how wide the slab is. Usually, anything over 36” in width is cut 3.25”. That is because as the wood dries it will move, since the wood isn’t drying at equal rates, so you will get a board that isn’t completely flat when it’s all done. We expect to lose at least 1/2” of thickness to make the slabs perfectly flat again. And sometimes we can lose up to an inch to make it flat over the 36” in width. At that thickness, you get 8-12 usable slabs of wood of varying width.

Precision in Preparation: Surfacing Techniques for Live Edge Wood

All wood species dry at different rates. But a general rule of thumb it takes 1 year an inch of thickness if you are just air drying. But keep in mind you can’t dry wood just by cutting it into slabs, you then have to “sticker,” which involves using 1”x1” strips of wood laid 2′ apart along the length of the slab in-between every layer. This enables each slab to have airflow between the slabs to wick off moisture.

The Finishing Touch: Techniques for Perfecting the Live Edge Table Surface

Once the pieces are 10% or below we take them out of the kiln and surface them. The surfacing process uses our hydraulic 10” router sled that can surface slabs up to 8’x40′. Once the slab is surfaced, it is stored in the shop ready for finishing.

The Art and Craft of Creating a Live Edge Table: A Detailed Process

When we are preparing to finish a slab we first run it through our wide belt sander/planer to get it to roughly 180 grit. We then fill any cracks or voids with epoxy to stabilize the piece and wait for the epoxy to cure, which can take 24-72 hours depending on the type of epoxy. Once it is cured, we sand off any extra epoxy left over from filling the cracks.

From Our Workshop to Your Home: The Beauty of Custom Live Edge Tables

To get a live edge that will hold up over time, we remove the bark, then also

the cambium layer underneath to achieve a smooth, ready-for-finishing surface. Additionally, we meticulously sand down any irregularities, such as spurs or bumps, to prevent them from catching on clothing or causing scratches. This attention to detail ensures that the live edge not only looks stunning but is also practical for everyday use.

Finishing Techniques: Elevating the Natural Beauty

The final steps in our process involve sanding the wood to a fine 150 grit, followed by the application of our first layer of UV-cured hard wax oil. This initial coat is essential for protecting the wood and enhancing its natural patterns and colors. After this base layer, we sand the surface again at 400 grit before applying a second coat of finish. This process may be repeated to achieve the desired depth and durability of the finish, culminating in a surface that is both beautiful and resilient.

Attaching the Legs: The Final Assembly

Once the finishing process is complete, the live edge slab is ready for the final assembly. The choice of legs can vary widely, from industrial metal designs to more traditional wood, depending on the aesthetic preferences of the client. This customization allows each table to be tailored to its future environment, ensuring it will harmonize with its surroundings.

Our Commitment to Excellence

Each live edge table we create is more than just a piece of furniture; it’s a labor of love that reflects the unique character of the wood from which it’s made. Our process, from selecting the perfect log to applying the final finish, is designed to honor the natural beauty of the wood while ensuring the final product is of the highest quality. We take great pride in our craftsmanship and are excited to share the beauty of live edge tables with you. Whether for dining, working, or simply enhancing a space, a live edge table from our workshop is a piece of art that brings nature’s elegance into your home.

With this detailed insight into our process and the care we take at every step, we invite you to explore our collection and find the perfect live edge table to add warmth and natural beauty to your space.  Contact us today to find out more.

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