The Beauty of Live Edge Tables

Everything You Need To Know Before Buying

Questions About Live Edge? Contact JCDC Woodworks!

Whether you are a homeowner, operate a business, or just someone who loves wood grain, there is a place for live edge tables in your life. At JCDC Woodworks, we pride ourselves on crafting gorgeous furniture that allows the natural beauty of the wood to shine through.

If you have questions about the uses of live edge furniture, the features of different designs, or how to get custom furniture from our workshop, then contact us! We are happy to help you infuse natural beauty into your life.

An image of an edge on a handcrafted cherry table designed and built by JCDC Woodworks

The Benefits of Live Edge Tables

  • Shows off the natural beauty of the tree
  • Built to last
  • Elegant designs that stand out in any room
  • Make memorable gifts
  • The crafting process often wastes less wood than traditional carpentry
  • Slabs can come in various sizes so many table designs can be made

Basics of Live Edge Woodworking

Live edge woodworking often begins with a large slab of wood. In contrast to common lumber, slabs are cut to showcase the unique features of the tree. Perhaps a particular tree has a gnarled edge, some scarring, or a large knot. These are the types of interesting characteristics that make slabs perfect for live edge woodworking, which can use simple and elegant designs to showcase the life of the tree itself.

Live edge furniture can be as straightforward as putting simple legs on a gorgeous slab, but it can also be intricate, as best shown by the wonderful woodworking of George Nakashima. The job of a live edge furniture maker is to craft in a way that elegantly displays the unique characteristics of each particular tree. Although there are many types of trees, each individual tree is one-of-a-kind, and has gone through particular events over the course of its life. Rather than just using a tree as a resource, the live edge woodworker attempts to create a piece that speaks to the life of the tree.

Cut Differently

For people who don’t know much about carpentry, it may come as a surprise that not any wood can be used to make live edge furniture. For wood to be used in live edge carpentry, the tree that is the source of the wood must be cut differently than it would be cut for normal lumber.

In dimensional lumber (which is typically what you find in hardware stores and what is used in construction), the trunk of the tree is cut in a grid pattern. Imagine drawing a grid with equal-sized boxes on the top of a tree stump. Now, imagine the lines extending through the entire length of a tree’s trunk. These lines show where the tree would be cut to create dimensional lumber.

When dimensional lumber is being cut, the goal is to create equal-sized planks of wood. Due to this goal, the edges of the tree trunk are often not utilized in the process, which is why you probably won’t see any tree bark during your next trip to the hardware store.

To imagine how the wooden slabs used in live edge woodworking are cut, think of a tree stump with straight lines drawn in the same direction across the top of the stump. Once again, imagine these lines extending throughout the entire trunk to understand how the slabs are made. Unlike cutting for dimensional lumber, cutting for slabs utilizes the whole (or most of) trunk of the tree.

At its core, live edge woodworking is simply utilizing slabs that feature the natural ends of the tree. The way the tree is cut is a large part of the reason it looks so much different than other forms of woodworking. Moreover, the cutting pattern makes use of parts of the tree that would otherwise be considered “scrap”, so live edge woodworking can cut down on waste, too.

An image of the edge of a beautiful ash coffee table from JCDC Woodworks
An image of a live edge maple table inspired by the work of George Nakashima
An image of the gorgeous natural, seasoned edge on a walnut slab table crafted by JCDC Woodworks
The top view of a beautiful, multicolored live edge walnut table from JCDC Woodworks

The Influence of George Nakashima

It is difficult to talk about live edge woodworking without talking about the work of George Nakashima. Nakashima was a woodworker and architect whose unique and spectacular designs had a major impact on woodworking in the 20th century. Nakashima frequently left the live edge of the tree on his work, and one of his express purposes was crafting furniture that allowed the beauty of the individual tree to shine.

Over the course of his life, Nakashima developed numerous designs that have since become iconic in woodworking. Nakashima was born and raised in the United States, but he traveled the world in his early life and his work elegantly displays that fact.

Nakashima took inspiration from Japanese architecture and woodworking, and he was able to develop a unique style that centered on live edges, smooth tops, and graceful designs. Like the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright (who was a contemporary of Nakashima), Nakashima created his work to be harmonious with features found in nature.

At JCDC Woodworks, we try to craft furniture that draws on the work of George Nakashima. His work is an inspiration to woodworkers everywhere, and our team takes pride in making live edge pieces that follow in his footsteps.

Display Natural Beauty

As we have mentioned above, one of the main purposes of live edge woodworking is to display the natural beauty found in the wood. Ultimately, this means taking steps to preserve the natural edges, the characteristics found in the wood, and allowing the grain to speak for itself. There are multiple techniques used to accomplish these goals.

In some forms of woodworking, the wood that is used is frequently stained or painted. Unless it is for the legs of a piece, you probably won’t see paint or stain used on a live edge table. Instead, epoxy or a similar clear resin will be used to protect the surfaces of the table. If the wood is split or features knots that could compromise the structure, then the furniture maker can use bowties or resin to strengthen the wood without taking away from what makes it unique.

Live edge furniture is a wonderful way to showcase natural beauty through a piece that is built to last generations. A finished piece should protect the wood while also giving it the ability to showcase the life it went through.

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Types of Wood Commonly Used

Since the purpose of live-edge woodworking is to showcase the natural beauty found in the tree being used, you will want to understand some common types of wood prior to buying a live-edge table. We briefly explain the differences between some of the common wooden slabs below. Be sure to browse the collections on our shop page to see specific designs that utilize these different types of wood!

Black Cherry

Black (also called “American”) cherry trees are naturally found in Eastern North America, which means that they grow near the JCDC Woodworks shop. These trees can grow close to 100 feet tall, and fully grown trees can have trunks up to five feet in diameter. Cherry wood grain is often closed and straight, and a slab can feature various grain patterns. Depending on what part of the tree it is cut from, cherry slabs can vary in color from a pinkish brown, to a red hue in sunlight, and even to a pale yellow. Cherry is widely renowned for the way it ages and changes color over the life of the tree.

Poplar

Poplar trees also grow in Appalachian and Blue Ridge forests near the JCDC Woodworks shop. They can grow to heights of 160 feet with eight feet in trunk diameter. The wood grain is typically uniform and straight, which gives slabs and planks a simple but graceful appearance. The color is usually a pale yellow or white, and it can be effectively contrasted with darker woods such as walnut.

 White Ash

Just like the two types of trees above, white ash trees can be found in the Appalachian and Blue Ridge forests of Eastern North America. Ash trees are typically similar in size to cherry trees, with their trunks ranging from three to five feet in diameter. The grain on white ash planks and slabs is usually regular, and the grain is typically somewhat coarse, similar to oak. While cherry can come in a wide range of colors, ash is a little more limited. It is usually a light brown or beige, and the color of a slab can darken a bit over time.

Red Maple or Sugar Maple

Both sugar and red maple trees are found in Eastern North America. Sugar maple is the type of tree used in the production of maple syrup, so you may already be familiar with a byproduct of this type of tree. Red maple trees are more typically found near the JCDC Woodworks shop, but both can be found in the Blue Ridge and Appalachian forests of the United States. Both of these trees have narrower trunks than the other trees on this list, with an average diameter of two to three feet. Sugar maple trees can grow to 115 feet tall, which is slightly taller than the maximum height of red maple trees. Both trees typically create wood with fine, straight grains that can be wavy in spots, and their slabs can range in color from a white cream to dark, reddish-brown hues.

Black Walnut

If you ask someone who knows a thing or two about different types of wood what their favorite types are, chances are decent that black walnut makes the list. Simply put, black walnut trees create astonishingly beautiful, elegant wood. Black walnut trees are naturally found in the Eastern United States, just like all the other trees on this list. They can grow as tall as 120 feet, and their trunks are relatively narrow, topping out at around three feet in diameter. Walnut wood grain is usually straight, but the pattern is not always regular. The most notable feature of black walnut is the color of the wood. Hues can range from a pale brown to dark brown with even darker grain patterns. Certain slabs have red and even purple hues, which creates a majestic appearance.

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Live Edge Table Designs

You may have decided that you would like a live edge table, and maybe you have even selected the types of wood that you want incorporated into the piece. Now that you know this information, what type of table will work best for your needs?

Read on to learn more about the different options that are available for live edge tables. Be sure to browse the JCDC Woodworks shop for specific designs or contact us if you would like to order a custom piece.

Dining and Conference Tables

Dining tables and conference tables are some of the biggest pieces of live edge furniture available. These pieces will command a presence in any room, and they are created to have enough room for large families or business meetings. Unlike many dining and conference tables, live edge tables usually will not have straight and uniform edges since they follow the natural edge of the tree.

Coffee Tables

Coffee tables are among the most popular live edge tables available. The slabs used for coffee tables are smaller than those used for dining tables, which makes them a fantastic addition to living rooms and waiting rooms. Leg designs can vary from simple posts to complex center structures, while the design of the top depends entirely on the particular slab used.

Side Tables

Side tables are a simple and often affordable way to add natural design elements to a room while also playing off of the aesthetic of a larger piece. Side table designs vary greatly, and they are often sold as a set paired with coffee tables.

River Run and Epoxy Tables

These are some of the most unique live edge designs created. River run tables join two smaller slabs into one piece, with a stream of colored epoxy down the middle. When crafted properly, they can look like a river flowing right down the middle of a table. Epoxy tables also utilize colored epoxy, but typically use it to fill in holes or cracks on the table. Colored epoxy gives builders an excellent opportunity to complement the natural colors and patterns of a wooden slab.

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What Makes JCDC Woodworks Unique?

Whether it comes from the tree, the hands of the worker, or both, there is a special story behind every piece of furniture crafted at JCDC Woodworks. Live edge furniture is the perfect medium for us because it uses unique and diverse pieces to display the natural beauty found in the wood. Each piece of furniture we craft gives our workers a chance to showcase their personal stories and capabilities.

At JCDC Woodworks, we take pride in employing people with disabilities. Our company is not-for-profit and we operate with a mission in mind. We give opportunities to people with physical, mental, and emotional needs so that they are able to find meaningful work. We strive to maintain a positive working environment that empowers our workers and gives them the chance to craft meaningful, creative, and inspired furniture.

When you order a live edge table from us, you get more than a gorgeous piece of furniture. By ordering from us, you get the chance to help others tell their story, grow in their personal capabilities, and feel better about daily life. We are proud to craft beautiful furniture that provides opportunity for growth and empowerment.

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Order a Live Edge Table

Are you ready to order a live edge table from JCDC Woodworks? Browse our collection now! If you see a sold item that you like, then be sure to contact us to see if we can create a similar piece. Our team can create custom pieces based on your needs or recreate the past work we have done with new wooden slabs. Simply get in touch to learn more about the process!