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Thread: Live edge dining table - questions

  1. #1

    Live edge dining table - questions

    Hey guys, so I'm coming here for some advice or tips/tricks things I should know. I'm a pretty experienced wood worker, however I have never done anything live edge. I got some really nice pieces of spalted white oak and I want to make a dining table and coffee table from them. They're 10''; long and roughly 15-16''; wide, and they've been drying for a few years I believe, so the moisture content is around 11-12%. I'm going to cut clean edges on both sides of one board to use as the middle and just one side on each of the others and leave the live edge in tact on both sides. There's not really any splitting or anything but if I do come across any, I'll put a butterfly key in. I really just want to know if there's any tips from people who have done these before. Especially with the finishing. I plan on leaving it as is and just sealing it with some clear Rubio monocoat. Also still undecided on what I'm going to do about the base. Thoughts on everything? I've attached a picture.
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    Last edited by Prashun Patel; 12-06-2017 at 9:05 AM.

  2. #2
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    If the moisture content is really 11-12% when you flatten these boards, they'll likely dry further. As they dry, they'll cup, and they'll get a little narrower. As a minimum, I'd be organizing them as bark-down, bark-up, and bark-down. That way, the overall table top stays closer to flat, albeit somewhat wavey. I'd also arrange the base so that there are rather sturdy cleats crossing the table top, helping to hold it flat. Of course, the cleats must be fastened to the top with a sliding joint of some sort, so that the shrinkage in the top doesn't break it apart.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Jamie Buxton View Post
    If the moisture content is really 11-12% when you flatten these boards, they'll likely dry further. As they dry, they'll cup, and they'll get a little narrower. As a minimum, I'd be organizing them as bark-down, bark-up, and bark-down. That way, the overall table top stays closer to flat, albeit somewhat wavey. I'd also arrange the base so that there are rather sturdy cleats crossing the table top, helping to hold it flat. Of course, the cleats must be fastened to the top with a sliding joint of some sort, so that the shrinkage in the top doesn't break it apart.
    i just checked the moisture and they’re 15-16%. Thought it was lower. I was told the tree was cut down about 7 years ago and the log cut about 4 years ago. The boards are already pretty dead flat and straight. I’ll still flatten them, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be taking much material off.

  4. #4
    Live edge will just make for a very uncomfortable dining table.
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by andy bessette View Post
    Live edge will just make for a very uncomfortable dining table.
    What do you mean by that? I just see so many live edge tables out there and so many woodworkers selling them, they have to be doing something right. I think these slabs will be pretty good as far as staying where they’re at and not warping or cupping.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by andy bessette View Post
    Live edge will just make for a very uncomfortable dining table.
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Furey View Post
    What do you mean by that?...
    Form follows function (for any designer worthy of his reputation). People rest their forearms on the edge of a dining table. A live edge here is quite possibly the very worst choice you can make (besides it being virtually a cliche, it is so over-used). This is an application for a smooth edge design that welcomes its use, not an edge that approximates a serrated knife.
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

  7. #7
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    You have plenty of nice wood to complete your project. With the bark side up on the two edge pieces, they will be naturally chamfered and you can relieve the bottom of the edges to make them less sharp.

    Wood that has been air dried outdoors will normally equilibrate at about 15% in many parts of the country. I don't know what it would dry to in arid regions. It is safest to move them indoors and let them further dry to 8% or lower before milling. That should only take a couple of weeks.

    Good luck and keep us posted.
    Rustic? Well, no. That was not my intention!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by andy bessette View Post
    Form follows function (for any designer worthy of his reputation). People rest their forearms on the edge of a dining table. A live edge here is quite possibly the very worst choice you can make (besides it being virtually a cliche, it is so over-used). This is an application for a smooth edge design that welcomes its use, not an edge that approximates a serrated knife.
    just so you’re aware and have all the facts, I’m not cutting a tree down, slapping on some legs and calling it a table. I’m actually going to work the wood properly. Taking all the bark off and sanding everything smooth, including the edges. There won’t be any sharpness or uncomfortableness to it at all.

  9. #9
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    Live edge is fine for a dining table. I’d bring them to a mill with a kiln and have them brought to a lower moisture content.

    Build a base that either moves with the top or allows the top to move.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  10. #10
    just finished a live-edge slab dining table for outdoors - 4' x 12'. spent a lot of time hand sanding the live edges after rounding over sharp edges with a rasp - worked great but did spend most part of a day on just the edges. no comfort issues at all.

    I just leveled the top - sanded bottom so it was sooth to the touch but not flat - only flattened where the legs attached.

  11. #11
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    A draw knife and a spoke make very fast work of tuning up live edges.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  12. Wire wheel (no sanding) on a grinder on Tanoak live edge worked really well for me. Removed all of the loose stuff and left all of the character. As for the edge of a table, its really smooth and people like to touch it.

  13. #13
    As others have said, live edges can be softened and can be comfortable.

    I have found that in my area even if I dry wood to 8% if it sits around any length of time it will rebound to 10-11%.

    It is really important to allow airflow to both sides of the boards during construction and to sand and finish the top and bottom equally. I generally stack the stock on a dead flat surface with stickers below and between pieces and clamp the stack when it is time to quit for the day.

    Be sure and attach the finished top to it's base in a way that allows for movement.
    Last edited by Bradley Gray; 12-05-2017 at 6:27 PM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by andy bessette View Post
    Form follows function (for any designer worthy of his reputation). People rest their forearms on the edge of a dining table. A live edge here is quite possibly the very worst choice you can make (besides it being virtually a cliche, it is so over-used). This is an application for a smooth edge design that welcomes its use, not an edge that approximates a serrated knife.
    Wow! So counter to my experience! Over the years I have sat at numerous live edge tables and counters while in Japan and rather than feeling uncomfortable, as a lover of wood, I actually always greatly enjoyed the experience...I don't think live edge tables need to have a sharp edge (I would guess that most do not). Nor do they need to be uncomfortable.

    I am sure the OP will love the live edge table he builds. No doubt I would..

    Bill
    Too much to do...Not enough time...life is too short!

  15. #15
    Saying live edge is cliche And uncomfortable is a generalization. There is room for good design and good function in this style.

    It's as easy and misguided to dismiss the style out of hand as it is to slap any old slab on any old base and call it Nakashima.

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