The first time I saw a live edge table, it was instant love. I had. to. have one. They are hard to find, and when I did, I nearly fainted over the price tag of $7,000+. One thing you should know about me, I don’t take “no” for an answer.
Photo Credit: Chris Perez, Apartment Therapy
So began the obsessive research. There is a local company who carries slabs, but they didn’t have much of a selection and wanted thousands of dollars for a raw slab. No, thank you. Eventually, I found a contractor via an ebay listing (for a smaller slab) who had cut down a walnut tree for a city road project who had the equipment to cut it into slabs. He did not, however, have the equipment to dry the slabs – a very important step in prepping lumber. You can’t work with “green” (trade term for wet/un-dried) lumber. Walnut is always my first choice in materials because it’s beautiful, resilient, and has great character. When he sent me a photo of a slab just the size we were looking for, I couldn’t say “no”.
Then came the chore of finding someone to dry the slab. It takes years to dry walnut slabs in the open air. To satisfy my needs, I was thinking more in the line of weeks. I ended up having the pricey local guys who had other slabs agree to dry it in their kiln along with some new material they were getting in. It has to be dried slowly to reduct cracks. Their price was reasonable for this alone, so I had the slab freighted to their shop. I still hadn’t see it in person!
Weeks turned into months of run around. It was always going to be ready “next week”. Eventually, they told me it was ready for pick-up so I borrowed a truck and went to pick it up – and see it for the first time. They used a fork-lift to load it up. The sucker was HEAVY. Wimps. My dad and I unloaded it ourselves with some creativity.
With the help of my father and brother, we started sanding. And sanding and sanding and sanding and sanding. We later found that it was still fairly moist inside and had to let it air dry a bit before filling the cracks with resin and wood filler (more on this later).
While waiting, I had a welder/friend make legs based on some mid-century designs. Ready made wouldn’t work. They needed to be very substantial to hold the weight of this monster walnut slab. He included levelers to save us on needing sugar packets down the road.
Eventually, we gave it a final sanding and many, many coats of polyurethane to protect it from food, drinks, children, and anything else the world could throw at it. Next, we installed the legs and some angle iron to help prevent and warping/bending.
This is still one of my favorite DIYs ever even though the moisture left by not actually getting it adequately dry has caused some problems that we are addressing now – so there will be more details on how we finished this table soon.
I paired it with a set of 6 vintage Herman Miller fiberglass chairs and reproduction wooded bases. Here it is in the old house. Our new dining room is a work in progress, but will have something to photograph soon.