How to build a live-edge table

How to build a live-edge table

A custom live-edge table is a great way to bring the beauty and elegance of nature into your home. Unlike tables made from milled boards, in which several boards of wood, cut straight and square, are glued together, live-edge table tops are made up of single, large pieces of wood. In a live-edge table, the outside edge of the wood isn’t cut at all, so the table retains the outline of the tree from which it’s made. While live edge tables have become popular in recent years, they still might be unfamiliar so let’s walk through how we make them.


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What is a live edge table?

A live-edge table begins with a felled tree being cut along its length fully across its diameter. This process leaves the sawyer with a number of long slices, known as “flitches” or slabs, usually between an inch and three inches thick. Each slab could become a live-edge table top, depending on its width, which is a function of the tree’s diameter. But there are still several steps before that point.

Turning a live edge slab into a table

First, we wait. The moisture content of wood dictates how stable the piece is, and freshly-cut wood has far too much moisture in it to be appropriate for furnituremaking. Ideal moisture levels can vary based on regional climate, but for our purposes we’re looking for moisture levels of about 8%. Getting down to that point takes time, especially if you’re looking to keep the slabs from warping and cracking as they dry. One of the many reasons we love our slab distributors is that they take an incredibly responsible approach to drying out the slabs they send us. A basic rule of thumb is that every inch of thickness equals one year of air-drying. Rushing this process only results in a lesser product, so it’s well worth the wait.

Making the live edge table

Once the moisture has dropped to appropriate levels, the slabs get a final drying in a specially-built kiln and then make their way to builders like us. At this point they’ve been roughly surfaced, but they’re still far too rough to become tables. Once we’ve cut the slab to the appropriate length for a given table, we’ll use whatever tools are necessary to flatten and smooth the surface, including hand and power planes, various sorts of sanders, and sometimes even routers. 

Because live edge slabs incorporate the whole of a tree, they’re far more likely than board lumber to have knots, voids, and cracks. None of these is a deficiency in the material, but you wouldn’t want a table with a hole or an empty crack in it – so we fill them. There are various products we use, including a two part marine epoxy, but what they have in common is an ability to move, expand and contract with the wood. This ensures that they won’t crack or break as the wood moves with seasonal changes.

Once the table top and base are both sanded smooth, it’s time for finishing. We offer two finishing options, one a wiped-on oil and the other a sprayed-on 2k urethane. Each product is top-of-the-line in its category, and each has its own advantages. Which you choose is simply a matter of personal preference. When the finish cures, the table’s ready to go out the door for delivery.