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Mastering Live Edge Tables: Crafting Process & Tips

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The Rise of Live Edge Tables: A Historical Perspective

Live edge tables came to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s, through the work of George Nakashima, a Pennsylvania-based Japanese woodworker. The term “Live Edge” refers to the fact that the table or bar retains at least one of its edges in the natural shape of the tree when it was cut. This is evident by the wood grain in the piece, which should run fairly consistently with the outside edge of the wood.

To Bark or Not to Bark: Understanding Live Edge Table Design

One of the most common questions we get in the shop is whether or not to leave the bark on the edge of the wood. We always recommend removing the bark, due to the density difference between the bark and the wood. Over time, the bark and the wood absorb moisture at different rates, and the connection between the wood and the bark is weak, increasing the likelihood that the bark will fall off.

From Forest to Furniture: Our Live Edge Table Crafting Process

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

Selecting the Perfect Log: Sourcing for Quality Live Edge Wood

We specialize in logs over 36 inches in diameter and up to 30 feet in length. When tree services have to take down a tree in our area, whether due to disease or age, they often give us a call to see if it’s something we are interested in. If we are, they drop it off. Most logs cost between $300-$1,200, although we sometimes spend more for premium logs.

The Art of Drying: Preparing the Wood for Perfection

Once the log is at our mill yard, it may sit for up to a year, depending on what species we need. There are some exceptions, however. We try to cut any large oak or black walnut as quickly as we can. Wood doesn’t really dry in log form; a log can sit for 20 years and still retain moisture, as there isn’t enough surface area at the ends for moisture to escape. So, we cut the log into the pieces we want to use.

Precision in Drying and Preparation for Live Edge Tables

All wood species dry at different rates, but a general rule of thumb is that it takes 1 year per inch of thickness if you are just air drying. Keep in mind, you can’t dry wood just by cutting it into slabs; you then have to “sticker,” which involves using 1-inch by 1-inch strips of wood laid 2 feet apart along the length of the slab, between every layer.

Kiln Drying: Ensuring Stability and Durability in Live Edge Tables

As mentioned earlier, we like to cut Black Walnut and Oak as quickly as we can to start the air drying process. Some species of wood have a cellular structure that allows us to go straight to the kiln stage. Wood like Poplar, Maple, Ash, Cherry, and Elm can go straight from the mill into the Idry vacuum kilns we use.

The Final Touches: Crafting the Perfect Live Edge Table

Once the pieces are at 10% moisture or below, we take them out of the kiln and surface them. The surfacing process uses our hydraulic 10-inch router sled that can handle slabs up to 8 feet by 40 feet. Once the slab is surfaced, it is stored in the shop, ready for finishing.

Refining the Details: Preparing for the Final Finish

When 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.

Achieving the Perfect Finish: The Art of Live Edge Table Making

To get a live edge that will hold up over time, we remove the bark and then the layer of cambium underneath the bark to create a smooth surface for finishing. The wood is then sanded to 150 grit, and we apply our first layer of UV cured hard wax oil.

Crafting Each Table with Passion and Precision

Creating each table is a time-consuming and detail-oriented process – we love what we do, and we are excited to create the beautiful product that will soon be yours!  Are you ready to bring the timeless beauty of live edge tables into your space? Contact us today to start crafting your unique piece!  Our team of skilled woodworkers is dedicated to transforming your vision into a stunning reality. Don’t just dream about a custom live edge table – let’s make it happen. Reach out now and take the first step towards owning a masterpiece that will be cherished for generations.

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