With or without epoxy resin, live edge tables are an increasingly popular and stylish choice for many homes, thanks to their gently rugged edges and unique characteristics.
Here's what goes into making a live edge table.
Step One: Pick Your Wood
There are plenty of wood pieces (known as "slabs") available at most woodworking places. Picking a suitable starting material is crucial to creating a great live edge table.
Builders have a plethora of wood options, but Old-Growth Redwood is a stable and fantastic choice for many tables. Options like Black Walnut, Cherry, Maple, Oak, and Sycamore are also good choices for tables.
As a general rule, denser hardwoods are better for tables because they can stand up to heavier wear and aren't as likely to scratch. Woods that resist absorbing moisture are good, too, because they give you a chance to clean up spills without ruining your table.
After picking a type of wood to use, it's time to look at the unique details of each slab. These include things like the grain, coloration, and edge style.
As a general rule, live edge tables where the edge faces outward should be near-smooth, with an inch or less of variation between the widest and narrowest points. A table that's too rough on the outside can be inconvenient.
If the live edge is facing inward, as with many resin tables, it can be as rough as you want.
Step Two: Measure Your Slabs
Professionals can eyeball this well enough, but even then, it's always better to measure the exact size of a table.
A typical dining room table should be between 48" and 78" long, depending on how many people you want to fit. Generally, each person needs about 24 inches of space to dine comfortably. Most slabs are only live edge on one side, so a common strategy is cutting it in half, then pushing it together.
If you're lucky enough to find a slab that's live edge on both sides, you can save a lot of money because you don't need to buy nearly as much wood.
It means that, realistically, you'll probably get a slab 96" to 156" long if you want to make a table with a live edge on at least two sides. It may need to be a little longer if you have a rectangular table and also want live edges on the short sides.
Most live edge tables should be at least three inches thick. This measurement is thick enough to be durable and hold up under regular use, but not so thick that it drastically increases the price and weight of the table.
Step Three: Cut Your Slab
Once you've measured and established the size, the next step is cutting your table to the preferred sizing. Most carpenters use a long track saw for this. For shorter pieces, you may be able to get by clamping the wood into place.
It's vital to be thoughtful while cutting. A skilled worker can often save enough of the wood to use under the table for its base and legs, minimizing waste and providing a consistent appearance.
Step Four: Join the Edges
Joining the wood is essential if you need to connect multiple pieces. Tables made from a single piece of wood get to skip this step.
There are many ways to link wood together, but many people use biscuit joinery for tables. This strategy has the advantage of being effectively invisible, hiding the joinery work while still ensuring the wood stays together.
Step Five: Build the Base
Once your tabletop is ready, it's time to build the base for the table. It can be as straightforward or as elaborate as you'd like. Some people use simple metal frames for the base, while others carve wood into detailed designs.
In rare cases, people may even hang the table from above instead of having it stand on the ground.
The form and style of the base aren't too important here. What does matter is making sure you complete any cuts and alterations to the top before you move into finishing it. Doing this ensures you won't end up exposing any surface area.
A typical dining room table may weigh 250 pounds or more, so make sure your base can hold at least that weight. Having a base that can support several hundred additional pounds is even better because it means you can climb onto the table whenever you need extra height around the house.
Step Six: Finishing the Table
Finishing is a time-intensive process, but it's essential to creating a table that looks great. Proper finishing usually requires sanding the entire table, including a final sanding by hand to help remove any marks from tools. Once you've completed the sanding, the table may require staining to get the right color and surfacing on the top to help protect the wood.
Each slab is unique, so the exact process of finishing a live edge table will vary. Consider testing stains and sanding tools on some scrap wood before doing anything irreversible to your main table.
Keep in Mind That Mistakes Can Be Hard To Fix
A well-built table is a delight in any household, but one thing that's easy to overlook is that tables are hard to fix.
You might be able to get away with cutting the table an inch or two too short, but processes like staining are often impossible to reverse. A mistake can ruin an entire table in seconds.
That's why the final component of creating a live edge table is focus. Rather than assembling it haphazardly, carpenters should know the result of every action they take while making a table.
Mindfulness can also help you avoid problems before they start. For example, examining a slab can help you establish if any structural issues might become apparent while cutting the board. If so, you can look for a different slab instead.
Similarly, practicing with tools on scrap wood can help you develop experience or see if a particular technique is likely to work when assembling the table. Tables are generally easier to manufacture than many other types of furniture, but a little experience with tools goes a long way.
Experts can make an entire live edge table in about eight hours, assuming you're not using epoxy resin.
There you have it. That's how to build a live edge table in six steps. Get your basics right, like wood type and measurements, and make sure you know how to use the tools you'll need. We know you'll love admiring the character that your live edge table will bring into your home.