What is a live edge table, and why the growth in popularity? Let’s take a more in-depth look at this trend of bringing nature into the decor of our home. Live edge furniture has grown in popularity, but it has been around for years as natural wood furniture. Also known as a rustic table, natural wood table, and many others. But whatever the name, natural wood furniture invites nature into homes.
What is a live edge table?
Live edge furniture, such as tables, features a solid wood slab milled with the outer edge of the tree intact. Don’t confuse a live edge for a bark edge, which is not common, as most barks will separate from the outside of the tree during the drying process. Below find an example of a solid tree wood slab with the natural live edge attached—a massive Claro walnut wood slab milled from a dead tree or at the end of its life. Also, rustic tables are made from two or more live-edge wood slabs glued together. Normally, these are thinner, around 1 to 2 inches thick, cutting costs. Some production furniture shops will cut a faux live edge, also known as a carved edge. These companies will say this is a live edge, but it’s not. In the furniture industry, a live edge is the outer edge of a tree just under the bark. Unlike glue-up tables, most solid wood slab tables finish at 2″ to 3″ thick. Thus, the increase in cost. Lumber’s sold by the board foot, as are some wood slabs in most cases. Burl wood and rare and extra large live edge wood are the exceptions as to pricing.
Why are live edge tables so expensive?
You may have noticed prices range from under a couple of thousand dollars to tens of thousands. Pricing a live edge table is complex; you must compare apples with apples and understand what you are buying. As stated earlier, wood is sold by the board foot. Prices differ from one wood species to another, whether a solid wood slab or a glue-up wood table. Also, in the live edge wood slab world, the size of the wood slab has a factor in the price. For example, any wood species, a solid 4-foot wide, 12-foot long, 3-inch thick is rarer, whereas a 36-inch wide, 8-foot long, 3-inches thick wood slab is common. Thus, the larger wood slab is more valuable, but wood species also influence the price. Due to the nature of natural lumber, not all tree species make great live edge furniture. While the debate between kiln-dried or air-dried, how live edge wood is milled, stored, and dried makes a difference in the end product.
Which woods make the best table?
With over 60,000 wood species around the world, how do you choose? A good rule is to stay close to home. By this, I mean to stay within a few thousand miles or within your country. Also, looking for a wood monger that believes in sourcing its logs ethically and has a long-standing footprint in the business. What’s ethically sourced at Littlebranch? Basically, in a nutshell, it’s not cutting a living tree unless in a managed forest, or it is endangering property, selective harvesting, salvage, or dead standing. Trees have life cycles, so why not manage this resource and harvest around their life cycles? But back to what is the best wood for live edge furniture? The most stable is old-growth Redwood, but Black walnut, Cherry, Maple, and Claro walnut are also great options. Oaks, whether red, white, or black oak, are also options. Each species has its challenges but in the hands of a seasoned woodworker, all’s well.
Building a rustic table
Building a live edge table is a great DIY project. But finding quality wood can be difficult but not impossible. Air-dried wood takes 1 year per inch for most softwood species and longer for hardwood species. The average 3″ thick live edge wood slab takes 5-plus years to dry and stabilize. Kiln drying will speed this up, but the moisture should be 16% or less before it is placed in a kiln. To date, I have been unable to find proof that one is better. The live edge lumber’s moisture content should be between 6 to 10% before use in your furniture project. As a custom rustic furniture maker, my preference is air-dried wood. Building a live edge table, whether a coffee table or dining table, one of the key tips starts with quality wood, sand, and sand some more…..
Custom Rustic Furniture designs
Also, remember that quality finish is not just in a jar but a process. Woodworking, in general, is a process with many paths; as a custom furniture maker specializing in rustic furniture and live edge furniture. Yes, these are the same style and use the same skill set. Besides a live edge table, we also use these ethically sourced wood slabs in our wood countertops, beds, and rustic vanity designs. We welcome visitors to our Nashville, TN, studio/gallery.
Live edge furniture maker
Since 2001 Kelly Maxwell has built custom furniture using logs and live edge wood in his designs. He has a DVD teaching how to build a log bed. He welcomes the opportunity to teach and encourage other woodworkers, professional or DIY artisans. A little-known fact, he also sells unfinished air-dried wood slabs native to the Pacific Northwest.