Last Updated on September 5, 2023 by Web Operator
A live edge table is a wonderful project for you to get involved in because not only is it easy to do, but the end results can be astonishing. Wood including redwood, black walnut, cherry, claro walnut, sycamore and maple all work well with this particular project.
But as with any project, knowing the correct wood to use will make a huge difference. This is even more important with a live edge table where the grain and natural appearance of the wood gives the table its character. So, you want the most amazing looking wood to get the best results.
So, that probably leaves you with a question as to which wood you should use if you do indeed intend to go ahead and produce a live edge table at home. Don’t worry, though, because I will help you with this.
Below, you will find six different kinds of wood that I think you should seriously consider when it comes to producing this type of table. I’m confident you will love the end result you can achieve when you use them, and they are also straightforward types of wood to work with.
But first, let me explain to you a bit more about what a live edge table actually means.
The Basic Concept of a Live Edge Table
The basic idea of a live edge table is simply that you leave a natural edge to at least one of the sides of your table. We are so used to a table with perfectly planed and sanded sides cut to perfection that the idea of having one thing left in its natural state is unusual.
And yet, it will also prove to be a gorgeous table to look at. If it’s a statement piece you are after, then this is it.
By having a live edge, you allow the wood to come alive, and the natural grain and indentations of the wood used for the table will really shine through. This is something where you can bring a rustic touch to an item, but without it being completely dominant.
Now, I admit that it does mean one side of the table is rough, so if you are looking for those perfect clean lines with every piece of furniture, then this is not the solution. Yet, if it’s that eye-catching piece you want to have in your home, this is the perfect piece of furniture.
And the best part?
Making your own version is going to prove to be exceptionally easy to do. But only when you know the best woods out there that will ultimately provide you with the perfect end result.
Thankfully, that’s the part I’m going to really help you with.
Creating and Caring for Your Live Edge Table
But before I dive into letting you know everything you need to know about the best woods, let me take you through how to create and care for your live edge table.
The process is easier than you think. The best part about a live edge table is the way you can pretty much leave the wood alone. It’s all about keeping the wood in pretty much its natural state, so that tells you how you need to do very little to then get this table.
But this is only up to a point. However, the decision as to how natural you have the table, and how much of it, is something that is entirely up to you.
I admit some people do leave the table completely raw and natural, but I don’t recommend that. Instead, I always add some form of protective coating to the wood. This does make things more hygienic for you, and adding the resin or oil takes little time.
I’d always suggest using a transparent color coating. You don’t want to take anything away from the natural color of the wood, and it’s also best to avoid doing anything that would blur the grain of the wood.
For me, I like to keep things plain and simple when it comes to this type of project. I get the wood cut to size for me, leaving that single edge as nature intended, create my table base, attach the top, and the project is done.
The same basic approach applies to the varnishing. Now, the exact way in which you finish the top will depend on the wood you use. For example, if there are significant cracks in the surface, then don’t worry. You can add a resin to those cracks to ensure they are filled, giving you a smoother surface for your table.
I promise that with just a little bit of work that you can end up with a stunning table. I actually wish more people realized just how remarkable a live edge table can be and that they would then go ahead and make their own.
But then, if you did want to produce your own version, then best you know all about the kinds of wood to use in order to get a fantastic end result.
So, let’s work through the six different woods that I feel will provide the best outcome for anybody looking at creating a live edge table.
I feel that redwood is one of the best options out there, and I think this for several reasons.
First, it’s a hardy wood, so it does provide you with a sturdy table, which is always important. Also, it has a gorgeous grain to it, and that’s the type of thing you want to stand out. Keep in mind that the live edge will also tend to have some of the bark still on there, so it helps that the bark is also amazing to look at as well. You just feel as if it has a depth to it that is tough to replicate in any artificial way. The flow of it all is outstanding,
But I would also state that redwood is very easy to work with, when you have the right tools, so you should have no real problems with creating your table without worrying about the wood splitting. This issue of potentially splitting is one that always worries people producing this type of wood. That’s because you need to keep it whole, or you just lose some of the effects with the table, and that’s not something you want to happen.
Finally, there’s also the natural coloring that comes with a slab of redwood. If you add a clear varnish to the top, then you will see how it really pops and comes even more alive than you would have ever thought possible.
When you combine all of those different factors, it’s no surprise that redwood is one of the more popular options regarding a live edge table.
But also, I would suggest you look at some examples online. You will see how redwood gives a gorgeous edge, along with some amazing curves that come naturally with the wood. It has a stunning flow to it all, and that is what makes it stand out when used for this particular item.
I also think that black walnut is yet another perfect type of wood for any individual looking to make a live edge table. You may already know that walnut does come with some fantastic grain, and that’s something that will really stand out when you use a slab of this wood in this way.
But black walnut does give you some darker tones throughout when it comes to the grain. It provides you with almost swirling patterns throughout and different depths of color at the same time. It moves from dark brown and nearly black to lighter shades of brown in an instant, and that leads to this flow that’s difficult to repeat with any other type of wood.
But it’s not only about the color that draws me to use this wood. It’s stable and also easy to work with when it comes to sanding it down, and the edge you can get from its natural appearance is outstanding.
You see, a slab of black walnut can sometimes come across as quite gnarly, and that’s actually something you want to happen in this instance. You want that live edge to be far from straight and to have those twists and turns to ensure it stands out.
Black walnut does this naturally, and it’s up to you to really work with that edge and make the most of it. Honestly, black walnut will do so much of the hard work on your behalf, and that’s a huge reason why this kind of wood is so popular when it comes to a live edge table.
Finally, you can leave the entire table completely natural, or you can further bolster the pattern the wood throws up by adding some of that oil or varnish. I do feel this is the better option simply because it works amazingly well at adding some real depth to the wood.
If you want a live edge table that is darker in appearance and with multiple colors within it, then black walnut is one type of wood I would give some serious consideration to. Yes, it can be more expensive than other options open to you, but if you check out what it tends to look like, then you will see how it’s well worth the extra expense.
Cherry is yet another popular choice when it comes to a live edge table, and while it may not have the same depth of color as you get with black walnut, it does have other very positive attributes.
I know cherry gives you a lighter color, but that’s because you just need to provide it with something of a helping hand to really bring it all to life. When you do, just wait and see how it explodes into life, delivering a stunning table that will take pride of place in your home.
When you look at the grain, you will see it’s lightly packed together, and it has such a gorgeous flow to it. The color difference between the various aspects of the grain adds to the beauty of it all, and those are certainly the sorts of features I would want to stand out from the perspective of a live edge table.
Cherry is also a highly durable hardwood so you need some special blades to work on it, and that is certainly something you want to really focus on when choosing any kind of wood for this type of table. It does mean the table will be able to take a whole lot of punishment, and that may very well be an important point to consider for your own table.
But do remember that cherry has always been a popular wood for woodworkers in general, so using it for a live table does not come as a surprise. Its robust nature will still provide you with a strong edge even when you leave it all natural.
Yet, as I said earlier, I would certainly add some sort of a finish to the wood to really make it stand out. While cherry can look amazing without any help, it blows it up into a real statement piece when you go that extra mile.
I’m going back to the walnut family now, and this time it’s claro walnut I want to focus on. Yes, there is more than one option regarding walnut, and each one is distinctly different.
With claro walnut, what you get is a wood that has more of a reddish-brown color to it when compared to the black walnut I mentioned earlier. Also, this is native to Northern California, while the black walnut is more to the east of the United States.
But they do both share some similarities, and it’s primarily linked to how easy the wood is to work with.
Claro walnut is still a robust wood, and it’s also the grain that makes it stand out and turns it into a wonderful choice for this type of table. At times, the grain can come across as straight, but it can then suddenly explode into this irregular pattern that catches the eye as it takes you on a merry dance.
This is the same as you get for the black walnut, which is no surprise since it’s the same family, but it’s the color and changes in color that help the claro walnut out. For me, I just love how it comes across as quite fluid with those changes, and that’s the thing that leaps out for me when using it for a live edge table.
As I said, this version takes on more of a reddish-brown color, and it moves between different shades within that range throughout the slab. This allows it to take on a real depth of color that you can then work at enhancing the color by using stains and varnish to bring it so much to life that its beauty is going to almost blind you.
Overall, I love claro walnut. I feel it’s a kind of wood that is underrated, and I do suggest you check out some examples online. I believe that, when you do this, you will instantly fall in love with it. I really do think you will feel drawn to using claro walnut when you check it out.
For me, sycamore is a vastly underused wood, and it actually offers you the perfect solution when it comes to a live edge table. What I want you to remember is that sycamore is known for being a hardy wood and also for its longevity. So, in the case of a live edge table, it should continue to look amazing for some time to come, and that’s the sort of outcome you should be looking for.
The grain with a sycamore slab is lighter than you may expect, but that’s why you need to finish it with oil to give it a natural sycamore top look. Alternatively, you can add some stain to the top that will then really bring the smooth grain patterns to the fore leading to an absolutely stunning table.
But I do love the way that sycamore will really spring to life. In my opinion, it does need that oil to bolster that part, but the outcome you can get is really outstanding.
Yet, do you know what else I love about sycamore? It’s the way the grain does come with some slight cracks in it, at times at least. Now, you may think that this is something to avoid, but I don’t think that always has to be the case.
Instead, a number of people will fill those cracks with a black epoxy resin, which also gives some added strength to the table. It does make a difference in filling them in, and yet I also love the contrast it offers when you look at the entire surface.
But I would then suggest that you still cover the entire table with the oil to make everything leap up out of the table. That is one of the keys for a live edge table as you do want it to be filled with as much character as possible. This is one clear way of doing exactly that.
The final option I’m going to mention is maple, and it’s yet another wonderful example of what’s possible when you choose the correct wood for your live edge table.
This wood is perfect because of one key area, and it’s the flowing grain in the wood. It’s gorgeous and has to be the best feature of maple wood. When you set eyes on the grain, you instantly understand why it is so popular when it comes to this type of table.
But that’s not all.
Maple is also highly durable as a wood, so it does lend itself pretty well to being used as the top of a table.
I think these are both solid reasons for including maple as one of my most popular woods to use for a live edge table. But as always, I would add some resin or oil to the surface to just take the appearance of it to a whole other level.
In general, working with maple will prove to be easy to do. It’s wonderful wood, is easy to cut and shape, and then polishes up very well indeed.
Which is Best?
So, out of the six options I’ve mentioned above, which is best? Honestly, there’s no right or wrong answer here as it all depends on what you want to get out of your live edge table. For me, I’d think about these key components.
- What color do I actually want?
- What do I expect from the grain?
- How easy should the wood be to work with?
- Do I need to varnish it, or can I leave it natural?
- Does the kind of wood actually excite me with its character?
It all boils down to the color, grain and overall character of the wood. That is the primary appeal of this type of table, and it comes down to personal preference.
But if I had to choose, I think I would opt for black walnut. It just has something about its appearance that appeal to me. However, as I said, this is a personal thing rather than some sort of industry recommendation.
That is why I always suggest checking out the different woods in advance, and have a good understanding of how it will work in your home. Also, as you may have little experience of dealing with a live edge table, it makes sense to do your research in advance online to get some indication as to what the finished item should look like.
But just remember, each live edge table is unique in its appearance and character. So, only use your research as a rough guide and nothing else.
So those are my six best woods that I think are perfect for creating a living edge table. They each have amazing grain and coloring that can add a real depth of quality to the table, and it will quickly become something of a discussion piece rather than just a basic table.
But in order to get the best table around, it’s best you have some details on the best tools to help. So, these articles could go some way to making a difference for you.