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.
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Step 1: Materials and Tools
Large oak slab
Assorted hardwood beams for the base
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
Assorted Sandpapers for Orbital
Danish Oil (https://amzn.to/2mc5kBZ
Some type of Epoxy (I used West System) (https://amzn.to/2NNw8oI)
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)
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.
- 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!!!
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!!!