Dead Edge End Table




Introduction: Dead Edge End Table

About: I make projects, they have names. Some are obscure and some straightforward. Form or Function; I go either way. Battery powered or edible, I love making things.

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.

If you find this interesting, pleasing or otherwise engaging, please vote for me in the woodworking contest(top right corner).

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.

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    76 Discussions

    Beautiful work and the fact you made mistakes just makes it a better project. Frustrating, but, I have always learned more from my mistakes then accomplishments.

    Bending wood without kerfs. I saw a edition of "How it is Made" and the feature was bending wood by a furniture manufacturer. They used HOT WATER, a compression vice around a fulcrum and after bending, they used a premade form to maintain the bend while they allowed the wood to dry.. To achieve a 90 degree bend, they used a 3 step process, 1st bend was about 22 degrees, then approximately 49 degrees, then the 90. They also stated hardwood (Oak, Maple, Ash, Walnut, etc.) is easier - better then soft wood (Pine, Fir) as it does not tend to wrinkle. I used the hot water process to form a sliding board of pine and it did indeed wrinkle. Thanks for your ideas!!

    beautiful! I came to see how the curve was created. I first thought maybe you glued wood together and cut the shape, but what you did was a complete surprise. Nice job.

    I know this you've moved on, but on your failed cut-through is it possible that by bearing down on the circular saw you changed the depth? That happened to me recently, teaching me to use pliers on that wing nut and not bear down as hard..

    Just curious. Love the new piece.

    4 replies

    I believe you are correct. Nice call. I went back and looked at the evidence today.


    Actually, the cuts first get less deep then they get deeper. Maybe it was board warp or slightly uneven sanding after all. The reason I'm curious is because I love that this piece can be made with a circular saw.

    Also, I really like your new piece. It is completely unique, lean and clean. It's like something I'd expect to see selling for thousands from a known artist. The metal work is critical to the piece yet beyond me but I may try something similar. Hugely inspiring.

    Thank you for the great ible and insp!

    First area in this photo, not the first cut. It was probably around 15 if my memory serves. Thats only half of the cut off piece. It's broken. I started my cuts in the center of the bend and worked my way out. This can totally be done with a circular saw!

    I checked the piece after about every 5 cuts to look at the front. Once I saw it killed it, I raised the blade a touch. It could likely be a combination of the possible causes as well.

    I hadn't welded before this project. Basic stuff is pretty easy. I have a cheapO harbor freight MIG welder(no gas) and it handles 3/16 material like a champ. You

    That is very possible. I was tense and nerve wracked knowing the tolerances that were involved. I tightened that nut pretty good, but you never know. Another option is slight cupping that I didn't notice when I put the straight edge to it during the sanding and leveling process.


    1 year ago

    I think this table is so much better than if you had, had the two ends curved very beautifully done loved the finished project.

    And many of us have been were you were with a project and had to come up with a workaround to the problem :-) well done with your it looks great.

    I lived the table that you made with the branch knot in it and hope that you resist that one and finishe it as it will make for a great project. You could always change it into a wall shelf for keeping family photos on it would make for special shelf that way.

    2 replies

    Thanks. I think we have all had to salvage a project from time to time. I'l finish that one too. Below is another chuck of walnut, from the same tree, that I am working on today. I will make 4 end tables in all.

    Since you like the gnarnly character, I've also added some photos of my cherry coffee table. It' has some great character. It's another example of a piece where I won't epoxy in the cracks, holes, and other imperfections. The slightly more delicate nature of those areas make it special to own. It's a little like bonsai, it takes alot of care to leave it alone.


    thank you for sharing those photos they some gorges pieces of wood and yes I love wood with it's own imperfections it gives them charter all of their own.

    I am sure the end tables will turn out beatfull once finished walnut is one of my fav woods along with cherry but both are hard to come by here in Australia, but we do have some very beautefull woods here that are native and have as much charter to them.

    I have a piece that I have from a silkyoak that we had to cut down a few years ago due to the root system rooting I saved quite number of large trunk pieces from it, just waiting for it to weather still have 5 years to go :-) have no idea what to do with them yet as only time will show me what they will become as silkyoak twists when drying I have not stabbed them, have left it in the trunk to weather before cutting into slabs :-)

    You mention you couldn't find any examples on the internet. There is an excellent example in Fine Woodworking magazine (May/June 1992, pp. 73-75). I entered "kerf bent" for a Chrome search and received many useful links.

    I do a lot of my woodworking research on the internet. Sometimes you have to just keep refining your search keywords to strike gold. One of my favorite tricks is to just search for pictures and follow interesting picture links to their source. It all an adventure in going down the rabbit holes.

    4 replies

    Yes, there are a multitude of examples from laser cuts to hand saws. I have only seen one Live Edge example from a master woodworker. Perhaps my research skills need as much work as my sawing abilities. I too start with picture searches. they have a real nice feature where you can drag a picture and find "more like that"

    Hi, I love this table it's ended up looking really good. It's a pity the live edge part didn't work though. I've used kerf bending on a few projects now and use a cross cut sled on a table saw (see my raspberry pi player) I agree with you about the lack of information on the net....I struggled to find more than a couple of examples. I think you could probably use the same sled method, for a live edge, but with a straight edge fixed to the top of the wood to reference against the front end of the sled. I think this would look really cool....I think I might try it! Good luck in the competition!

    I will try again. Soon. In one of the photos you'll see a 6' or so chuck of walnut. I love the Pi player and I think I will make sled. It's just a pain. I could probably "CAD out" the Kreg K5 jig and 3d print one with some nut zerts. I looked at buying a sled, way too pricey.

    Your upright bass is amazing. It means alot to me being a finalist in this competition given the stiff competition, number of entries and the amazing projects like yours I get to be associated with. I might be making that bass for a musically inclined brother of mine. Great Project! And thanks for your nice comments and suggestions.

    The bass is the most technical thing I've done but found it surprisingly a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. If you do decide to make one and need extra dimensions or a few pointers just get in touch!

    Hi, you produced a nice , inspiring piece. Though I have done working for decades, I haven't tried doing kerfs. So, I'm curious, why couldn't you have saved this piece (kept the edges) by just filling in with the sawdust/glue combo and sanding and finishing? I can't imagine it being all that much objectionable. At the least, you could have (and not saying you'd like this idea)given it a slightly distressed finish which would keep the edges and slur the linearity, if any, of the remaining single mistake cut (hopefully not seen after filling in and sanding, and adding the distress marks). In any case, thank you...good job and solution

    3 replies

    These broke apart at the area where it went thru a little. Once separated, the wood was too thin to hold. Even that little notch. I would have known. It's like a pimple. I would just feel it and want to scratch at it.


    What is objectionable is really a matter of taste. I could have done that. But then I would have seen that mistake every day I use this. My wine rack ( has a few flaws. It drives me crazy.

    Also the finish is crazy important to me. To an obsessive degree. I sand like mad. Poly, drives me crazy. Adding clear epoxy to beautiful wood, even worse sin. I love the feel and look of perfect, smooth wood. I can't afford that kind of quality, but I can kinda make it if I try hard enough.

    I sure know where you're coming from and thanks for answering my questions. keep up the great work.

    You are my man! Your story sounds just like what mine sound, no matter what projects I am working on... keep finding solutions! Thanks for the inspiration.