Introduction: Yew & Walnut Live Edge Side Table

About: I'm a DIY enthusiast and will try my hand at anything. My main passion is working with timber but I'll use anything to hand. I have made all sorts from bowls to tables, windows to mirrors. To make something yo…

In this Instructable I will show you how I made a little live edge side table for my front room.

We were using a pair of wooden steps as a side table previously, as we've two arm chairs we weren't really sitting in so once we started using these chairs we had no where to put down drinks, remotes and other lounge junk.

At the time the steps were handy and the perfect height, unfortunately once they had been commandeered as a side table, using them as steps was then a pain as you'd have to remove all the stuff off them and if you did use them the feet would usually come back dirty and have to be cleaned before putting it back on the carpet for its table use.

All in all it wasn't ideal so after spotting a nice piece of Yew at a timber yard I decided to make a dedicated side table for the chairs instead.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

As with all my instructables I used a wide variety of tools that I have available in my garage, but as usual there are a number of different ways to do things so you can always use what's available to you and what works best.

Below are all the items I used:


  • Orbital Sander
  • Cordless Drill
  • Palm Router
  • Table Saw
  • Rotary tool
  • Hand Chisels
  • Hammer / Mallet
  • Dowel Markers
  • Wood Drills
  • Wire Brush
  • Paintbrush
  • Rag
  • Polishing pad / cone


  • Yew Slab
  • Black Walnut lengths
  • 10mm dowels
  • Wood glue
  • Danish Oil
  • Sandpaper, varying grits

As you can see I've used a lot of machinery on this build, but you can cut and plane everything by hand if you don't have this equipment. The machines just speed up the process, which is nice.

Step 2: Preparing the Slab

The slab I used for the table top is a piece of Yew I saw at a timber yard, it is an unusual shape but it had such a nice grain pattern with a variety of colours including some purple and reds, I was never not buying it.

The yard I got the slab from machine all their slabs before sale so people can see the grain and it gives an initial flat surface to work on.

Because of this I didn't need to flatten the slab further with my router sled, as I was already happy with its thickness and flatness. (If you do want to know how to level a slab however check out my resin & cherry coffee table instructable where I had a lot of flattening to do).

Now the slab may be fairly flat but it was covered in bark and had lots of little shoots sprouting out of it, all these needed to be removed so the slab was clean and dry bits of bark wouldn't be falling off it in the future.

To remove the shoots and bark I first started off with a wood chisel and a mallet scraping and prying away at the bark, taking off chunks here and there and using the chisel to cut through and remove the shoots . After about 20 minutes however it was clear this wasn't going to work very well as a lot of the bark was in hard to reach areas, in hollows and confined spaces where the braches of the tree would have originally been. I'd managed to remove some large chunks of bark but the remaining was going to be tougher to remove carrying on with this method.

At this point I switched to a small round wire brush fitted in my cordless drill. This was immediately great, squeezing into many of the smaller tighter areas and stripping away the bark with ease getting down to the timbers surface in many areas.

However even this was still too big to reach some areas of the slab, so I switched to my Dremel multitool with a tiny wire brush head and then a drum sanding head fitted. My Dremel has a flexi attachment so it allows me to use it like a pen and this made it really easy to access every part of the slab, with the small wire brush removing the majority of the bark and dirt before I used the little sanding drum attachment to remove the rest down to the bare wood.

Because my Dremel also has a speed control it allowed me to adjust it so that I wasn't removing bark to quickly then sanding into and marking the Yew underneath.

After what, probably a couple of hours, it seemed like forever the slab was in a state I was happy with. It wasn't completely clean of all bark but I'd left some bits on as I though they looked good, others I could have spent another two hours trying to remove because of their location.

This was one of those jobs where you think you're happy then spot something and start working again, before you know it many an hour has passed, but it was worth it my slab now looked good.

Step 3: Leg Preparation

The legs on this project are made from some American Black Walnut that I had left over from another project. I love the look of walnut but rarely use it due to the cost unfortunately (For example for a similar sized piece of Walnut to the Yew I'm using here it was £60 compared to the £20 I paid for the Yew, 3 times the price!!). But for this project I thought the contrast in colour would work well with the Yew top and like I said I already had it lying around.

Before I could cut and shaped the legs I first needed to get the Walnut flat and level. I had two lengths of Walnut both different thicknesses and widths and needed to get 3 legs out of it.

To achieve this I used my jointer/planer and then my planer/thicknesser. To begin I passed one edge of each piece of walnut over the jointer removing small amounts of material at a time until I had a smooth edge all the way along with no rough or high/low areas.

Next using this newly straight edge I positioned it flat up to the fence on my jointer which was set at 90 degrees to the blade, so that one rough face of the timber was sat on the table ready to run over the blade.

Repeating the same process as before I pushed the timber over the blades removing a little material at a time until again I had a nice flat surface on one side on both lengths of Walnut.

Now that each piece had one flat edge and one flat face I could use my planer/thicknesser to sort the others out. Because one of my pieces of Walnut was thicker than the other however this piece first needed to be made the same thickness, the width didn't matter as the wider piece would allow me to get two legs from it.

To begin I simply set the height of the planer to just higher than the thicker timbers height and with the flat face, face down ran the Walnut through the planer so that the opposite rough face came into contact with the blade and removed material parallel to the already flat face.

After each pass I'd lower the planers blade a millimetre at a time before passing the walnut through again until I'd roughly matched the thicker piece with the thinner piece of Walnut. At this stage I could now pass both pieces of Walnut through planer at the same time one after the other so each was been planed by the same amount and the thicknesses kept equal.

I passed each piece through until I had completely flat faces, again with no rough marks or high/low spots. I could now raise the height of the blades on the planer and repeat the process for the remaining edges on each Walnut board, only planning each piece until the remaining edges were flat, as like I said the different widths weren't an issue as the wider piece was to provide me two legs.

Step 4: Cutting the Legs

Now my Walnut was all flat and square it was time to mark out and cut my legs. Because of the shape of the Yew slab I was making three legs.

The steps we'd previously been using up until this point were actually the perfect height, so the length of my legs were made to reflect this height, minus the thickness of the Yew top.

With the two Walnut lengths marked for this height, 500mm I used my chop saw to cut both pieces to length.

To add a bit of detail to the legs I wanted to taper them slightly, the easiest was to do this was to use my table saw and a taper jig that I'd previously made for another table project.

However due to the thickness of the other projects legs my jig was too big, so I had to add another side to the jig to cut smaller pieces of timber.

To determine the angle for the jig I marked out an diagonal line on both pieces of Walnut. Starting at one end I measured and marked 40mm across and then drew a line diagonally to a mark at 20mm on the opposite end of the board. These dimensions would allow me to get the two legs out of the wider piece of Walnut allowing for the thickness of the cutting blade also.

With the Diagonal line drawn I also marked it down each end to aid in setting up my taper jig.

The jig itself is basically just a piece of plywood with a baton and a stop screwed to it that my Walnut sits tight against at the chosen angle. Part of the walnut then sits over the edge of the plywood which fits between the blade and saw fence, meaning any Walnut over this plywood edge is removed by the blade, thus giving me the taper. Multiple pieces of Walnut can then be passed through using the jig to all give the same taper and yield 3 matching legs.

As my existing jig was too big I quickly added a smaller version to the same one.

I first lined up my drawn marks on the ends of my Walnut with the straight edge of the plywood base on the jig. With this in place I then screwed a baton along the edge of the Walnut that was on top of the plywood, this gave me a fence if you like set at the angle of my taper.

With the baton in place I could then screw a stop block at the bottom of the baton, this block keeps the timber in place when its pushed against the blade and stops it slipping back ruining the taper.

To hold my Walnut in place whilst cutting I also moved a toggle clamp over from the larger jig to this smaller one, this is just a quick way of clamping the timber to the jig and stops the Walnut moving around, keeping it flat whilst its been cut.

With the jig complete all that was left to do was position the fence on my table saw so that the plywood sits fairly snug between the blade and fence. I could then clamp in a piece of Walnut and run it through the saw to cut my first taper.

With the first one a success I passed the second board through to give me a second leg. For the final leg I used the offcut from the second, turned it over so the flat square edge was against the baton, clamped it down and passed it through a final time. I now had 3 matching legs all tapered perfectly.

Step 5: Attaching the Legs

To attach the legs to the top I used dowels, so the next stage was marking the holes for these dowels.

Firstly I started with the legs, but because I didn't want straight 90 degree legs from the top I first cut a 10 degree angle at the top of each leg using my chop saw. This would ensure once the legs were secured to the top they would have a nice slope on them and increase the stability of the table by giving a wider footprint between all three legs.

With the angles cut I could move on to marking out the holes for the dowels.

Each leg was to have two dowels to hold it in place and I'd chosen 10mm diameter dowels for strength. The top of each of my legs were 40mm long by 20mm wide, so using a square, a tape measure and a pencil I marked a centre line at 10mm with intersecting lines at 10 & 30mm. Where the lines crossed the centre line were to be the centres for my holes and I marked these with a bradawl to give the drill bit a point to start. I repeated these measurements on all 3 legs.

To drill the holes I used a couple of wood drills, firstly a small pilot drill fitted with a depth stop so I didn't drill too deep and come through the side of the legs. The stop was fitted to the drill bit at half the length of the dowel, around 20mm.

With the drill ready I secured each leg in turn into my vise making sure the edge to be drilled was parallel with the top edge of my vice so I could drill straight at 90 degrees to this edge, as when the legs go on the table top this edge meets the bottom of the Yew at parallel angles.

With the leg secured I used the pilot drill to drill down to the depth dictated by the stop, making sure the tip of the drill was sat in the mark I made with the bradawl. With the pilot hole drilled I could then use the larger 10mm drill to widen the hole to accept the dowel. I couldn't find my 10mm drill stop anywhere so in the meantime I just used a piece of electrical tape wrapped at the same point as the stop on the pilot drill as an indicator for depth.

I drilled each leg 4 times, two pilot holes followed by 2 final diameter holes until all the legs were drilled out.

Step 6: Attaching the Legs II

With the holes for the dowels drilled in the legs I now needed to transfer these holes to the base of the Yew slab.

To aid with this I have a little dowel kit that my grandad used many years ago when he was a engineering lecturer. I found it along with a whole lot of other stuff when we cleared out his garage after he died.

The kit comprises of little metal dowels that sit inside the holes I've just drilled. These metal dowels have a little spike in the centre that protrude from the hole so that when you place the leg over the surface it is to be joined to, the Yew in my case, you can push down on the leg against the Yews surface where the leg is to be positioned. The little metal spikes then create a mark in the timber to be joined so you know where to drill your holes, simple but effective.

In the kit there are two sizes of these metal dowels, the smaller ones have a little flange round the top to stop the dowel falling into the hole when you push down. the larger ones however and the ones I needed to use, don't have this feature, so to stop them sliding down and not been able to get them out again I simply cut a smaller dowel in half and placed it in the hole so the metal dowel had something to sit on and stop it being pushed in.

The positions for my legs on the Yew could now be marked out with the metal dowels. For the front leg there was only one place it was going, so with the dowels in place in one of the legs I placed it in position over the Yew and pushed down hard enough for the spikes to make there marks.

With the two drills used to drill out the legs earlier I then made two holes in the Yew to accept the 10mm wooden dowels that would attach the leg.

For the two back legs I wanted to get them at the same angle to one another, so I made a little hardboard template. First I drew a straight line across the back of the Yew slab that the template would sit up against. From this I then kind of judged a good centre point where the table would balance on each leg. Its hard to mark a centre when the Yew was such an irregular shape but by mostly doing it by eye I got close enough.

With this centre line transferred to my template I could then measure up from it and mark where each leg would sit. Using a protractor I drew the outline of each leg on the template making sure the angles matched for each side.

With the outline drawn I could then use the metal dowels in each remaining leg to mark the template accordingly and drill small pilot holes though the template to allow me to transfer the marks to the Yew below.

Step 7: Leg Details

Now that I had all my holes drilled to be able to attach my legs I decided that I wasn't happy with the look of the legs, there was something missing.

So I decided to add a chamfer to each edge of the legs to remove the simple squareness of each leg.

To do this I simply used a chamfer bit in my palm router, set the depth to only remove the slightest bit of material and with the legs clamped in my vise one by one, I ran the router over each leg 4 times. Once down each edge of each leg, rotating the legs after every two passes so as to access the bottom side of the legs.

With all the legs routed I was now happy with how they looked and they felt a lot more tactile.

Step 8: Sanding

Now that I had all my parts ready to assemble I needed to finish them off so that everything was nice and smooth and all pencil marks and blemishes were removed best as I could.

This required me to break out the sander and spend a while working through the grits to get a decent finish. Sanding is always the most laborious part of any project, but without it your project never reaches its full potential and there is a lot of satisfaction in taking something from a dark, dirty, rough piece of timber to a flat smooth work of art with the grain popping.

Initially I started out with my orbital sander using a 120 grit paper working up to a 400 grit one. The orbital is great as its quick and easy to use and made quick work of sanding my legs and the flat surfaces on the Yew, leaving behind a super smooth finish once I'd gone allover with the 400 grit.

Because of the live edge nature of the Yew however my orbital sander wasn't really any good for the edges of the slab, as its far too big and cumbersome to fit in between and follow the contours of the slab. I do have a sanding roller which would have worked better, but unfortunately all my rollers and pads were well worn from another project, so it wasn't an option.

Having used my Dremel earlier to strip the bark off I'd used a little 120 grit sanding drum attachment, so the live edge of the slab was already sanded back pretty well, I just needed to smooth it best I could and remove a few blemishes the Dremel had left behind. The only way to do this really was by hand as I could fold the paper and use little blocks of wood to get in to all the little nooks.

As the Dremel had already stripped it to 120 grit, I started off with a 240 paper to remove the blemishes, finishing it with a 400 to get as smooth a surface as possible ready for finish.

With everything sanded back to 400 I used an old paintbrush to brush of any surface dust and get in between all the live edges so the wood was ready to be oiled.

I've not a lot of photos here, but sanding is sanding isn't it. It needs to be done but no one enjoys it.

Step 9: Oiling & Polishing

With the sanding complete I decided to finish the legs and slab separately before gluing them together.

The finish I had chosen to use was Danish Oil. I previously made a coatrack from a slab of Yew and the Danish Oil gave a lovely smooth finish on that and really brought out the grain, so I was hoping for a repeat performance on my little side table.

Using a paintbrush I started applying a liberal amount of oil on to the Yew slab making sure to get in all the little crevices and holes and end grain so that the slab was completely covered.

As soon as the oil hit the slab the change in colour was dramatic with the grain leaping out at you and all the subtle purple and reds in the slab coming to the forefront.

With the oil soaking in I hung the slab up on my bike rack using a strap so that the oil could dry and the slab wasn't marked or contaminated by dust and debris by resting it on a flat surface.

Whilst the slab was hanging I could then apply the oil to my legs. Again as soon as the oil hit the Walnut that lovely rich brown colour with the grain is revealed and all that sanding previously becomes worth it.

I coated all the legs with the oil except the top surfaces where the holes for the dowels were mainly because this is where I was holding them whilst oiling.

With everything now oiled I left it all to dry for about 5-6 hours so the oil had chance to soak in fully and dry in to the wood.

5-6 hours later I returned to find the oil about dry, still sticky in places on the Yew where it had pooled slightly, but dry enough to finish. I removed the slab from my rack and placed everything back on my bench with carpet on top so as not to scratch anything and damage it.

With the pieces laid out in front of me I used and old tea towel to rub down the surface of each part removing any excess oil and polishing the timber to a nice smooth shine. After 5-10 minutes using the towel I then switched to a cone shaped polisher I had fitted in my cordless drill.

The cone shape allowed me to better polish the live edge as it fitted in between the awkward shapes. It also gave a better shine on the flat surfaces as it polished a lot faster than I could by hand. After 15-20 minutes worth of polishing with the cone I was happy with the finish and it all felt silky smooth to the touch.

Step 10: Assembly

I finally had all the pieces ready, smooth, shiny and ready to be assembled.

Being a simple design with only 4 elements assembly was quick and easy. I first started by gluing and inserting the dowels into the holes I drilled on the base of the slab, tapping them home with a rubber mallet so as not to damage the ends of the dowels.

With the dowels secured in to the base I could then apply glue into the holes on each leg before locating the legs over the dowels in the base.

With the dowels locating in the holes on each of the legs, I then pushed the legs down to make a tight joint against the Yew slab, again using the mallet to help tap the legs home and get the tightest fit possible without damaging anything.

Now that all 3 legs were attached I wiped away any excess glue that had squeezed from the joints, before turning the table over and leaving it overnight for the glue to set and the legs to be firmly attached.

Step 11: Done

The next day the glue was dry and the table was ready to take up its place in my front room.

This table took me a couple of days to put together and I love the end result.

Hope you guys enjoyed reading through, let me know what you think.

See you on the next build.

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