Live edge tables are unique, one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture because, like snowflakes, no two slabs are ever going to be the same. A live edge table means that the bark edges of the table are left to their natural movement, creating a beautiful aesthetic. The bark is removed, of course, and the edges are softened, but the flow of the tree remains.
Live edge tables usually have more of mother nature’s mark than a traditional rectangular table made of milled up boards. There may be some splits in the slabs, or possible some places where the wood is carved out. There are various things that we can use to fill the top that look nicely, typically a colored or clear epoxy. Here are some of the top 5 live edge pieces you can have in your home:
Tables (or Table Extenders) and Matching Benches
Live edge tables can have table extenders that are continuations of the same slab (in which case the slab would have to be long enough to be used for the table and the extender). Another option is to have a live edge piece that is horizontal to the table which acts aesthetically like a breadboard end when it is attached to the table. This piece would of course have a straight edge that butts up cleanly to the table, and then a live edge on the other side. It’s a very cool look that you won’t find elsewhere because Cannon Hill is the only company doing it.
A live edge dining set could include a matching bench as well. When you think of the diameter of a felled tree, the slices towards the top and bottom of the circle are going to be thinner. If the tree is 40 inches in diameter, the perfect width for a table top, the slabs near the top might be 16 or 17 inches wide, a perfect width for a bench. If the tree was relatively straight, then the slabs will make a nice set without much manipulation on the part of the craftsman.
Live edge desk tops are particularly freeing and they foster creativity with their naturally moving edge. It’s even possible to achieve some pretty unique designs. The diameters of some trees are fairly uniform along the length of the trunk. However, some trees jut out and have big burls or they are cut near the crotch of two limbs so the overall slab is a Y or L shape.
The woodworkers of Cannon Hill Woodworking can use these shapes to our advantage when achieving a unique Live Edge desk top design. Imagine this: It could be possible to put your computer and keyboard on a thinner portion of the slab and then have a natural bump out that in a very natural way mimics the function of an L shaped desk so that there is more room for storage and papers on the right or left of a slab. At Cannon Hill Woodworking we are masters of slab manipulation so even if there isn’t a slab that fits your desired dimensions, we can find ways to nearly seamlessly achieve the size while either manipulating the size of a slab, or putting two slabs together.
Why have a boring rectangular headboard when you could have a live edge? There are many ways to achieve a live edge headboard. You could try to find a very large slab. This would be the more expensive way to do it, but the look would be astounding. Another option is to find one or several thinner slabs and put them between vertical posts. You could even have live edge side and foot rails. If the material all came from the same tree it would look incredible and not break the bank because thinner slabs in the 10”-14” range tend to be much less expensive.
Live edge bar tops have become very popular over the years. Commercial bar tops tend to be thick and wide and long. A long slab – let’s say longer than 10 feet- provides a great visual landscape for those who sidle up to it. Live edge slabs are often milled up thick as well so you don’t have to do as much work to get a thick top and you don’t need to fake it. Look closely- most thick bar tops, and table tops for that matter, aren’t thick at all. They are thin material that is fastened to a substrate and then wrapped by the same material on its side so that it looks thicker. This fake look will never be as desirable or durable as a real thick hefty slab, and it’s possible to achieve that design at a lower labor cost because you’re not milling up a ton of material (which requires a lot of labor)- just flattening one big slab!
Live edge slabs as commercial bar tops can also be affordable because you can use a softer and less expensive woods, like pine, and cover them in a clear epoxy pour that will protect the bar for generations and simultaneously create a hard surface. A huge live edge bar top could be the best way to go for a commercial or residential bar.
Live edge shelves and mantles look awesome. It’s very easy to get the size you want because you are typically able to find a wider slab and cut it down. It is even possible to achieve a mantle that tapers or has a bump out on one side or the other if that is the aesthetic that you’re going for. You just need someone with experience in manipulating live edge slabs for building to make a professional slab selection for you. Similar to benches, live edge mantles and shelves can be somewhat affordable because some distributors are eager to offload thinner slabs (in the 8-14 inch range). Especially if you’re buying wider material for a table, sometimes they are willing to heavily discount the thinner wood just to move it along. In addition, if you want the shelves to be deeper, but you want to save money, you could buy a thin live edge slab and cut it down to 4 or 5 inches deep and then laminate both sides of it onto milled up boards of the same wood type. The seam would be very hard to spot especially if the shelves are higher up. Either way, multiple boards are a nice aesthetic and a good strategy to save money while reaching the proper dimensions for your project.
Make sure you hire woodworkers like those at Cannon Hill Woodworking who know how to select, mill, manipulate, and finish live edge slabs. Preparation and slab selection is key to achieving unique designs and functions! If you'd like to discuss live edge options for your next custom project, contact us today.