Designing a Live Edge Black Walnut Table

We can all agree on the fact that live edge tables look amazing.  They are captivating and readily desired.  As a designer I have to ask the question why?  What is so remarkable about this massive piece of wood?  Let's take a moment to consider the elements of a live edge table.

Live edge slabs are taken from trees that have grown over decades and centuries.  Each line of grain spanning the width of the board chronicles those years, culminating with the weathered and raw live edge.  Then a maker like me comes along, with all the precision I can muster, and cuts a perfectly flat, thick board along that tree trunk that is sanded and polished until it shines.  This creates a stark juxtaposition against the raw live edge.  That is why live edge slabs are captivating.  It is the tree's years of growth and raw existence in nature placed perpendicular to handmade precision.   In respect to that theory I design live edge tables.

Let's look at Soren, a live edge dining table that i've recently designed and built from black walnut.  It is a simple design that features 3 major elements.  The long and wide plain of the table top, the live edge, and the 4 linear legs.  The plain is already set against the live edge so that leaves the legs.  The legs are 3" by 3" square and 29" long.  These proportions are based on the need to create visual strength, meaning the legs need to look as though they will hold up a 2" thick slab.  The linear form of the legs compliment the live edge of the table, and are a very basic linear shape, no tapers, and no distracting intricacies.  The placement of the legs is also important in this table.  They are placed precisely in a notch at the corner of the table creating another line for the live edge to be set against.  


However I did chose to add a subtle detail to the end of the table legs.  I used a technique made popular by the arts and crafts makers in the early 20th century.  Each leg is made of five pieces of wood.  Four pieces mitered together around a fifth center plug.  This creates a fantastic geometric pattern on the end of the leg, which is visible and flush with the table top, and is a great demonstration of craftsmanship.  The image to the right shows The table legs being glued up in clamps.  I made special clamp pads in order to apply pressure at a 90 degree angle to the mitered joint.  The center plug is added later.

On paper Soren is a simple table with basic rectangular shapes, but once it manifests in the wood studio it becomes something captivating.  Made with care a simple live edge table design can demonstrate the beauty of a centuries old tree and the qualities of woodworking that make it a timeless trade.