Introduction: Dead Edge End Table
Why dead edge? What started out as a live edge end table went horribly wrong and I killed it, that's why. This will be a short tale of this makers journey. I prefer to learn new things than rehash learned skill. This table was a lesson in bending 2" solid walnut by kerf cutting. What is pictured is not what I originally aimed for, but I like it anyway.
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Step 1: Demand and Initial Wood Prep
My current living room end tables were purchased at Target more than 10 years. They have held up surprisingly well to years of bachelor abuse and neglect. But their time has come to visit the curb. New furniture is needed(wanted). Something to match the style of the couches and size. These couches have a very specific look and most things I have looked at purchasing or have purchased would not look great. I purchased a style and construction that I like at Home Goods(the circular table), but it doesn't match or function well. That leaves making as the answer.
I found a place that mills logs and was able to purchase a nice big piece of walnut for $150. I started by sanding the wood to death to get all of the rough cut marks out of the wood. It wasn't planed by the mill.
After sanding I cut the top 1/3 off to make a table. I then made a tubular steel frame for it. It looks nice but was way too top heavy. I added more steel and attempted a concrete insert to add weight to the base. The concrete failed(mix too dry).
Having failed to finish that table, I turned my eyes to the bottom 2/3 of the wood plank.
Step 2: Ideas and Learning
I don't know what inspired me to bend a slab of wood this big. Upon researching how to do it, I wasn't able to find any examples. I did watch some Youtube videos of other kerf bending and that was helpful. The wood is expensive enough that I didn't want to mess-up. I practiced first with a piece of cheap construction 2x8 to hone the skill. Mostly I learned how many cuts it would take to bend 90 without breaking.
My process thought was to use the Kreg Rip-Cut tool to guide, measure, and keep my cuts consistent. It worked well for the test piece.
Step 3: Kerf Cutting and Dead Edging
Once I found time to actually cut the piece, I found that the place I wanted to start the bend was out of range of my Kreg tool. :(. I opted to carefully measure out 3/8" lines and cut on those freehand with a circular saw. The kerf of the blade is 1/8" so some wiggle room was left. I saw people normally use table saws for this, but mine is cheap and making a sled to do it would take longer than I have. So I just cut the sucker!
After I finished cutting and flipped the board over, I saw my biggest fear, I dug in too deep on one cut! Just one! But one cut all the way thru, even just a little, is enough to ruin what I was going for. I was in my backyard and shouted a common expletive. My heart sank. I just ruined $100 in wood after my first end table attempt had stalled out and fizzled. It was maker crisis. What am I doing?, How did this happen?, All that TIME WASTED!
Thankfully my wife heard my large F-bomb in the backyard and came to check on me. Her suggestion was to just cut it off. I tried to explain that would no longer be a "live edge" but she consoled that "it would still be really cool and a pretty piece of wood."
I didn't think, I just took her advice and ripped the live edges off where the saw had penetrated on the extremes of either side of the board. Looking back, it was the angle of the tool that caused the saw to eat thru in that area. The table saw method would have saved me, but probably couldn't produce as straight of a result as the circular saw due to the curved nature of the tree.
And now I am left with sorrow, and a clean surface on a 2" board that can bend 90 degrees.
Step 4: Glue Up
The next weekend, it was time to glue and press toward the finish. To glue this, I need the other leg(metal bracket) to be finished so I could clamp against it. The metal bracket is 3/8 steel that was welded and ground smooth. You can find much better resources on metal than I, so I won't delve into that. But I made a simple form to size.
I was prescient enough to save lots of sawdust from my kerf cutting a week earlier. Gorilla glue was then mixed with the sawdust to for a flowable paste that I eased into the kerfs. Another option was epoxy, but a more natural material choice was desired. The bend needed to be strong. It needs to support the weight of the table and whatever I place on it.
When I trial bent it, the ends of the remaining material from the kerf cuts would touch. My thinking is that they would transfer the load on the inside of the wood and not crack the outside finish.
So I glued and clamped it all together. The most important part and hardest, was to wait for it to dry. I waited two days before I touched it again.
Step 5: More Sanding
I love sanding. I don't what it is, but it is very satisfying. With power tools, I go down to a 320 grit. By hand, this board went to 600 grit. After I feel it is smooth enough and I have double checked for tool marks, I remove all the dust with brushes and tack cloth.
Step 6: Finishing
The last step is adding protection. My choice lately has been Tung Oil Finish. It gives moderate protection while still allowing you to feel the wood and not have a hard barrier between your hand and the wood surface. This finish doesn't add too much shine and also allows the grain to show thru.
Step 7: Enjoying a Good Failure
I will enjoy this end table as long as we own these couches. The beautiful thing about making this myself is, I feel confident to make changes to the table when a new couch arrives. This wood will last for decades.