4.18.2018

Semi DIY Live Edge Coffee Table

Back when we were redecorating the formal living room, one of the main pieces I had a hard time figuring out was the coffee table. We had been using a stainless steel trunk as our coffee table before we redecorated, but you can imagine how dirty and snotty a shiny table looks when you have twin toddlers. We needed something with a more forgiving surface. The other thing was that was giving me problems was our sofa because it's really tall and makes normal coffee tables look disproportionate. Once I realized we were working with strange proportions, I figured we might be better off doing a custom table.


I've always loved the look of a live edge table, so I had that in my mind right away. I started a deep internet search to see what was available, and there were quite a few to choose from. They are offered at several stores, including World Market, but none of them were exactly what we needed in terms of length or height. Plus, the husband was craving a project and I knew he would enjoy working on his own live edge table.

I was poking around Facebook Marketplace one day, as I do on a regular basis, and I came across a listing in Fort Worth that was getting rid of quite a few slabs of raw, unfinished red oak. Apparently they had a tree fall down during a storm, and then had a company slice it up into slabs so they could "do something cool with it." This big stack of slabs sat in their garage for over a year before the wife had enough and decided to sell a few of them on Facebook. 

Scott drove across the Metroplex to Fort Worth to check out the slabs, and he ended up buying four 3" thick slabs of red oak - two long ones and two shorter pieces - for $200. We felt like it was a great deal. He brought the different options home, and we propped them on top of our existing coffee table to look at scale. As you can see, they had a long way to go before they could resemble a coffee table.


This is the slab we liked best for the coffee table, but it needed some serious work.


Our first problem with this particular slab was that it was a little bit warped down the center of the wood, so it needed to be planed to be a flat surface. Scott actually has his own wood planer, but it's not big enough to accommodate a slab this wide. This piece was about 5 ft long, almost 32 inches wide and 3 inches thick. 

We called around to a bunch of local lumber yards to see if they could plane this slab for us, but it was still too wide for most planers. We were striking out left and right. 

Finally I was looking through Craiglist and found a guy who was building and selling his own live edge tables. I took a stab in the dark and sent him an email, showing him pictures of our slab and asking how much he would charge to plane and polish it so that we could make it into a table. 

He was super responsive and said he would plane the slab, round the edges and seal the wood for $100. ONE HUNDRED BUCKS. We were sold. You may not be familiar with the market for that type of work, but we knew that was an amazing price. This poor guy had no idea how much work it was going to be when he gave us that price (as he told us later). He was used to working with cedar, which is a much softer wood. He certainly didn't realize he was going to be spending hours and hours working with a very, very hard slab of oak. 

He told us he used an angle grinder to make the slab level, rounded all of the hard edges with a sander and then sealed it with clear lacquer. He soaked the slab with water to make it softer as he was hand-planing it, but even that was a challenge because he was working in a very cold garage so the slab was practically an ice chunk, making it even harder to work with. Poor guy. 

You may be wondering why my woodworker husband didn't try to do this part of the process by himself. The answer is that with the twins at such a demanding age, he doesn't have all day to putter around in his garage anymore. (Sorry, mommy needs help!) We have to pick and choose his projects wisely based on what he actually has time to do, and he does not have time to grind a slab of oak down by hand. It was an easy decision to outsource, and hearing everything the guy had to do to make the slab work for us, I'm really glad we did!

Things got a little weird with the guy we hired, and we were a little worried about whether he'd finish the project. That's always a risk you take when you pick someone off a site like Craiglist. You hope for the best, but you know it has a chance to be a bust. Luckily for us, this particular guy really came through and delivered a beautiful slab of wood back to us only four days after we gave it to him. (We actually felt so bad about how much work he put into it that we not only paid him extra, we also gave him our other long slab so he could make something cool out of it.)


At this point we had a really beautiful, level, polished slab of wood - complete with rounded, toddler-friendly edges - but we still had to figure out the right legs to actually make it into a table.

I searched high and low for the right legs. You would be surprised how many amazing options exist, from wood to iron to steel and everything in between. The legs really are a big part of the puzzle because they can completely change the presence of the table. 

Looking at the other pieces we had in the room, I knew we already had a sofa with chunky, thick legs, a side table with a big base and a big ol' slab of wood for the top of the table. The last thing we needed was a huge, heavy base. 

That's how we ended up with these hairpin legs. They are very strong, but they are visually light. I was especially smitten with the twist at the bottom that makes them slightly more feminine and interesting than a normal hairpin leg. It was nice to be able to choose whatever height I wanted. We went with 18" legs, which makes our coffee table slightly taller than normal, but proportional to our slightly taller than normal sofa.

The last step was for Scott to apply the legs to the slab. Voila, a live edge coffee table!



The table is perfect for our needs. It was quite a hassle, but it was worth it.  


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