Live Edge Oak Coffee Table

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About: An engineer by trade. I love to tinker, design, and build things. I thought it might be fun to share some of the projects I have done with the Instructables community. My Motto: Don't buy it, make it!

A gentleman in my area runs a lumber yard for all kinds of rough cut lumber, slabs, beams, etc. While picking up some materials for another project, he offered to give me a small live edge oak slab for $10. It had a prominent split running through it which was the reason I got it so cheap. I have always liked the live edge look so I thought, why not try to make a coffee table out of it. Lets dive in!

I apologize, I built this a few months ago and didn't take as thorough a set of pictures as I should have. If there are ever any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Materials:

Large oak slab

Assorted hardwood beams for the base

Tools:

Ryobi Table Saw (https://amzn.to/2udnoju)

Dewalt Circular Saw (https://amzn.to/2NdpBmi)

Band Saw (https://amzn.to/2NbbQnP)

Ryobi Drill (https://amzn.to/2ugNDFD)

Orbital Sander (https://amzn.to/2ugafpP)

Dewalt Router (https://amzn.to/2N5XZ2j)

Assorted Drill Bits (https://amzn.to/2ufOrLc)

1/4" Wooden Dowels (https://amzn.to/2Lh6Z4g)

Japanese Pull Saw (https://amzn.to/2uhsR8W

Glue

Assorted Sandpapers for Orbital

Danish Oil (https://amzn.to/2mc5kBZ

Some type of Epoxy (I used West System) (https://amzn.to/2NNw8oI)

Espresso

Speed Square (https://amzn.to/2meiD50)

Angle Finder (https://amzn.to/2L37v8R)

Router Surfacing Bit (https://amzn.to/2N5YDwL)

Hand Chisels (https://amzn.to/2NMbNA8)

...and

Coffee (Because it is good to drink coffee while woodworking :))

Step 2: The Top: Cut to Shape

First thing I needed to do was cut the slab down a bit. This guy was a monster, at 4.5 ft long and 3 inches thick it easily weighed around 100lbs.

I marked some squared up edges on the short sides to make it roughly rectangular then ripped them down with my circular saw.

Note: There are different types of circular saws. I originally had a smaller 5.5in blade battery powered one. While this was great for plywood, slabs like this are just to much for it, severely underpowered. I upgraded to the 7.5 in Dewalt corded saw and it worked wonderfully. Moral of the story, use the appropriate tools for the job haha.

With the top cut to shape it was time to flatten it...

Step 3: The Top: Flattening

To flatten the top I used a router sled and a surfacing bit. Unless you happen to have an industrial 22 in planer, or something similar, this is the best route to take. I showed some pictures of the sled I built in one of my other instructables. I built it out of plywood based on a design Nick Offerman made (of Parks & Rec fame, great woodwooker, does some gorgeous stuff). It works pretty well.

Flattening like this is hard work and very time consuming so I didn't try to take any significant thickness off the slab, just flatten the surfaces down.

WARNING: Routers are dangerous. They can easily hurt and maim you. Use appropriate precautions. Also, wear a mask when doing stuff like this, this dust is not good to breath in.

Step 4: The Top: Filling the Crack

So the reason I got this slab so cheap was because there was a pretty big split running its entire length. In addition, there was a pretty gnarly knot on one side. I didn't want to rip the side down to remove the knot because it gave it alot of character.

I choose to mix some epoxy and fill the crack and the knot area as best I could. There are a bunch of different epoxies out there you can use, I used the West Systems stuff. It worked well for this purpose.

Process:

- I taped up the openings in the slab as best I could.

- Then mixed the epoxy. A lot of people add colored dyes at this point. I wanted things a bit more natural and subtle, so I choose to mix some espresso grounds I had in the kitchen. This tinted the epoxy really well.

- Pour the epoxy and wait for it to cure.

- I decided to use the side with the filled crack as the bottom of the piece leaving a nice continuous surface for the table top.

Pro Tip: Take a lighter or propane torch and gently run it a few cm above the epoxy. This will help any air bubbles to expand and come to the surface and pop. Seriously, it's an awesome trick.

Step 5: The Base: Cutting Out

With the top in good shape, we turn our attention to the base. I didn't want to do a typical four legged base thing, I felt it was kind of boring. So I decided to make a three legged base with a long stretcher running down the center.

I first sat on my sofa and got an idea for how tall I wanted the table, about 22 inches I believe. Subtracting the slab thickness I knew how long to cut my legs to. I already knew I wanted to join the base to the top using mortise and tenons so I took the tenon length into account here.

I flipped the slab top over and drew on the bottom with a pencil marking out where I wanted the legs and how it would run.

I cut the three legs out of some scrap oak beams I had lying about. Mocking these on the table, I decided to run the stretcher right through the solitary leg of the base using a large through-mortise joint.

On the other side, with two legs, I would make short angled pieces that would connect to the stretcher and the legs. These would also be done using mortise and tenons, as well as dowels.

I cut the tenons using a japanese pull saw, super useful and a really good deal on amazon. I highly suggest adding one to your work shop.

The mortises I started by drilling a hole in the center of the location to a defined depth, then used a hammer and chisel to clean up and shape to size.

For marking the dowel locations, I first drilled my holes then used these little dowel markers I got off amazon. Super cheap and super useful.

Step 6: The Base: Glue Up

Pretty straight forward. Put a thin layer of glue on everything and start clamping and gluing. Some of these angled pieces were tricky to clamp tightly. Get creative with your clamps and jigs.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you are being careful to keep everything nice and square while doing this otherwise your table wont sit flat and you will be making a new base for it...

Step 7: Top to Bottom

With the base glued up I laid it on top of the oak slab to mark out where I wanted it to fit together. Prior to gluing up the base I had cut tenons into the top of the legs that would go into the table. Just mark the locations out and break the chisels back out.

Step 8: Finishing!!!

Almost Done!

With live edge slabs, one thing to answer is what are you going to do to the "live edge"? Some people go for super rustic and leave the bark on. Others remove the bark and sand it down. Some people do something in the middle.

I wanted this to be really finished and polished so I elected to remove the bark using a chisel and mallet. I then ran over the edges lightly using an angle grinder and sanding flap disc. This is pretty aggressive so be careful. You can remove alot of material quickly. Try to really follow the natural curves of the wood so you get a really authentic look.

Once done with that, break out the orbital and start sanding. At this point I noticed a few small hairline spots that I didn't get any epoxy into, I ran a thin bead of plain old super glue over then and it seeped down in and filled it nicely. I sanded 60 -> 80 -> 150 -> 320

I then applied a finish of danish oil using a lint free rag. Once that sat for 15 min I did some wet sanding using 600 grit sand paper and danish oil. Let that sit, then applied a little more with a lint free rag and was done! I will be honest, finishing is an art and I am not great at it haha. I am sure there are better ways to do this.

Step 9: Enjoy!!

Put the table in your living room and impress all your friends and family with how classy and elegant you are!!!

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    9 Discussions

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    ScottH218

    4 months ago

    Love the slab. Nice work.

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    bibbster

    4 months ago

    Nice work! I have a maple slab that I am about to work on for our bathroom vanity. Do you have a link to the router sled you made to flatten your oak slab?

    2 replies
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    lwentlentbibbster

    Reply 4 months ago

    Yeah, Not a Problem! All credit to Nick Offerman, it is his design. This link should get you there. https://www.finewoodworking.com/FWNPDFfree/offerma...

    Inside of the sled looks something like the attached picture.

    I made mine a little bit differently. I only made the sled itself and the two rails it slides along (good for a few projects but in the long term I am going to make the full thing with towers like Offerman did). I laid my slab on my workbench and used some thin slats as shims to get it aligned how I wanted. Then just clamped the two rails down to the bench top. It has worked pretty well so far. Of course dimensions will depend on how big of a slab your working with and your router. I would suggest keeping the bottom of the sled from being excessively thick. You want it thick enough so it is stiff and wont flex but if it's excessively thick then your going to loose alot of the depth adjustment with your router. That means that if you are removing alot of material you will have to keep shimming up your slab. Of course if you build the towers like he did, then you can just keep dropping the sled rails down instead. Just something to keep in mind.

    Hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions!

    Good luck and have fun!

    sled.jpg
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    bibbsterlwentlent

    Reply 4 months ago

    Thank you for the link as well as your input and suggestions on your version. This will likely be a one time thing for me so I'll probably 'dumb it down' a little bit. Thanks again!

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    sabechamp

    4 months ago

    I love live edge wood and have plans for it at our house this year. Our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore has partnered with Urban Lumber and now sells slabs of live edge wood harvested from urban areas. They rescue the wood from storm damaged trees, trees removed for other reasons, and keep them out of landfills. I have a piece of walnut that will become a new window sill on each side of my living room window. Indoors it will hold plants and a few trinkets. Outside, on the covered porch, will be the larger slice with brackets for more support. It will serve as a table top. It suits our rustic (rural) home. If this works well I might do the same for my kitchen window and have room for a herb garden this winter. (They also carry live edge slices in several sizes for plaques and other small projects. My daughter made a Lazy Susan for condiments for the dinner table).

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    gm280

    5 months ago

    Very nice wood grain and finish. However I am more of a tradionalist furniture maker myself and like finished edges. But nice project all the same. Amazing to see what grows inside the trees.

    1 reply
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    lwentlentgm280

    Reply 5 months ago

    That's the truth! Trees really are incredible. Thanks though, this piece did have some really nice figure!