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Thread: "Live edge lumber" musings

  1. #1
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    Mar 2008
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    "Live edge lumber" musings

    First, I do not wish to offend anyone, but I very well may and I apologize in advance if you are offended by my post.

    First rant is that I'm way over the "live edge furniture" movement. It floods the on line and Etsy/Pinterest type market and much of it imo cheapens the artistic, functional, and intrinsic value of George Nakashima's work. It seems anyone with four pipe flanges,caps, 3/4" pipe sections and a slab of "live edge" wood views themselves as a creative genius for slapping together a hall table. Yes, I do love the beauty of a slab of figured or even character grade wood and in Georges view, the piece of wood should tell you what it wants to be; that doesn't let the craftsman off the hook as far as designing and building a base or other type component worthy of displaying that slab.

    I buy much of my lumber from area small mill operators and a local on line auction which brings up my second and admittedly selfish rant. For me, the demand for "live edge" lumber has created price increases, lowered the quality, and generally made it tougher to find lumber that has the wane and bark removed. There are bidding wars on "live edge" full of knots, splits, checks, and insects that imo is most suitable for the fireplace. Around here, the lumber that is SLR has a large premium on a service that was for the most part standard a few years ago.

    Apparently there must be a market for this rustic furniture as there is so much of it out there. I just wish this fad would pass. Thanks for listening.

  2. #2
    Interesting, and I agree. The pipe flanges kill me...

    My lumber supplier (a 1-man operation who specializes in high-quality slabs) had a good run with live edge slabs, but recently told me that he thinks this "fad" is almost over and is re-tooling in expectation of a shift to something else.

  3. #3
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    Totally agree. I have been asked to do a live edge table and may do so, but I’m not keen on it. My partner at the shop does them, and in fact I just left there and he was building a slab table that was quite beautiful, but it is hard to decorate around one in the home.

    I am amazed that a slab actually sells for more than finished lumber. That is what has happened to the market. Also, while we are ranting, pen blanks have destroyed the chance to get decent sized exotic woods at any sort of reasonable price.

  4. #4
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    I also think the live edge Bs has gone too far.
    It’s become comical here’s a example of a live edge river table.
    I really do not make fun of others work I think this was built for fun.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Aj

  5. #5
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    No matter what the build style is, someone can find a way to "cheapen it". It's the "Biggie Mart" world we live in. Sadly.

    I'm in no way tired of live edge and often do pieces this way, but I like "well executed" over everything. After all, I live about ten minutes from the Nakashima compound and George is one of my "idols" when it comes to woodworking design and philosophy. (and it is a compound!) What I think that so many forget is that furniture design (or design of anything for that matter) is more than just the materials and hardware. When folks don't think the whole thing through, what comes out of it can often be ordinary rather than extraordinary. Sometimes that's just a little thing and sometimes it's a bunch of big things.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  6. #6
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    I sell a fair amount of live edge as well as squared lumber from our little sawmill here. From my perspective I get a lot more value cutting a crotch log into slices and selling it as live edge than I would making it into firewood, so that's what I do. Some are so curved or crooked that if I edged them I would have very little left. Some customers make them into tables, some cut them up into shorter lengths and use them for chair seats, or whatever. I have never seen a picture of a river table that I liked, and doubt that I ever will, but I listen politely to customers when they come to buy lumber and tell me about them. i charge $1-$1.50 per board foot for hardwood lumber depending on species, and when I sell live edge I don't charge for the wane, just for the area of the smaller face. I see people trying to sell single "slabs" (what I would call flitches, but anyway) for hundreds of dollars and I wonder if they sell any. It's a weird market for sure.
    Zach

  7. #7
    While I have come to appreciate a nice live edge table, I feel it is overdone, over rated and the slabs are way overpriced.

  8. #8
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    What's this "live edge". All the edges are dead by the time we get to them. Maybe "natural edge"?
    Edges with bark are very popular in woodturning.

    Tis is my unatural edge bowl - I left the chain saw marks on the rim.

    unnatural_edge.jpg

    I have never understood the attraction of "river" tables

    JKJ

  9. #9
    We paid almost a $1000 for live edges for tables. The width has a lot to do with it. You want a minimum 36" table with 12/4 top it's not cheap.

    Personally I don't care for live edge. In the 80's nobody cared for it and I still don't today. I'll still continue
    to make conference tables,etc for the ones that can pay for it.

    Epoxy and live edge and an Internet has made everybody a genius. The internet says so....

  10. #10
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    At least with pallet stuff, I can still turn it back into something useful, like a pallet.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Darcy Warner View Post
    At least with pallet stuff, I can still turn it back into something useful, like a pallet.
    Gotta love that response! Lol

  12. #12
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    When visiting Seattle a fews years ago, I stopped into the Northwest Woodworkers Gallery...a wood craft cooperative. Many very nice pieces on display. Right next door was a slab table store. I mentioned the slab store to someone at the Gallery and the reply was something like...”they are not really craftsmen...take a big slab, level it, and stick some legs on it...maybe add a bowtie or two”. A little harsh maybe, but I see his point.

  13. #13
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    I blame Andy Rooney and his desk on 60 Minutes. It looks cool in the right environment, but overdone for typical suburban home. But as long as there's a market for it. . . .

  14. #14
    I wrote a haiku about it.

    Not every edge
    Deserves to be a live edge
    Most are just kindling

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnny means View Post
    I wrote a haiku about it.

    Not every edge
    Deserves to be a live edge
    Most are just kindling
    Great haiku Johnny! It is to fine creative writing what live edge is to fine woodworking. Thanks for the grin.

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