Natural edge or live edge lumber has become a quite a trend in the past few years and many lumber stores are now offering a variety of species that are either single or double sided live edge. Unlike purchasing ordinary lumber, and selecting it for grain, color, and type of cut, natural edge lumber is unique because every board is different.

Often the cost of this natural edge lumber is premium priced, and of course, there are all sorts of different choices in how the edges look so, first of all, finding a piece you like at any one of the lumber stores who offer it, then getting the optimum usage from that natural edge plank is imperative. 

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Probably more than any other kind of lumber, you really need to have a good idea what you are going to make and the dimensions of it before you even start looking for natural edge lumber ... unless of course, you are just buying lumber on "spec" which I do from time to time, then hope it will fit what I want to do with it when the time comes ... I still have some pieces that haven't found a use yet ... but one day  .... one day ....

The piece for this project is to build a natural edge coffee table, preferably with steel legs. Something I have done very seldom. I love the look of wood and steel together or even wood and chrome. I think they contrast well together so I am really looking forward to this build.

The dimensions I am working toward is about 38 - 40 inches long and about 18 to 20 inches wide and with a thickness of about one inch.

With these numbers in mind, it was easier for me to start looking for some live edge lumber that would fit, Of course, I first started to look for live edge lumber that was square and parallel, and although you do see it from time to time, more often it is "V" shaped, just like the tree it was cut from, wide at the bottom and narrowing as it goes up the tree. Often the only time you find live edge lumber that is shaped square is when it is only one side, such as what you might find for a fireplace mantle. 

Live Edge Wood

The lumber I finally find that is dry enough to use, is this nine and a half foot long plank, double live edged, with a couple of nasty knots and one edge with a saw cut in it, but as I looked at it I envisioned that if I could cut a couple of the pieces I needed out of it and glue them together, I might actually end up with what I need ... and save be driving ??? how much to find something else, or not find something else that works and could take how much longer ... days, weeks ?? That is why I finally decided on this particular plank, Maybe not perfect, but I think I can make it work ... and, after all, it does look pretty good.

The first thing I did was make myself, out of scrap plywood, a template that was half the side of what the table top should be, which was 10 inches by 40 inches. With this, I could lay this on my live edge board to see which parts would work the best ... that is exactly what I did for finding the optimum pieces. 

Once I had the 2 halves of the top, the next thing is to joint one side of each of the halves, but I don't happen to own a 10-inch jointer, but I did make a planing jig a few months ago that can actually do a great job of jointing wide boards. You can see more of that here How to Joint Wood on Your Planer 

As it happened, one side was already flat, the other needs little in the way of "jointing" to make it flat. Once that was done, all I needed to do was flip the boards over and thickness plane them down to one inch.

Once the boards were planed to the thickness I still needed to clean up that gluing edge at the back of each board, this was easily done on the jointer and when I put the 2 sides together, they fit like a glove ... a perfectly flat, straight joint. 

In order to make the top as flat and even as possible and save myself some time sanding, I used my Dowelmax doweling jig to align the 2 tops. A number of years ago I would have used my biscuit joiner but since acquiring this doweling jig, it does a so much better job, I quit using my biscuit joiner and ended up selling it to a cabinet maker who uses it where it should be, in the making of MDF cabinetry, where they were designed to be used in the first place. 

Live edge wood joints

After doing a dry fit to make sure all the dowels lined up, I glued both sides of the top, making sure to use a liberal supply of glue so that there would be squeezed out on both sides of the joint. A glue starved joint will lead to "voids" ... areas where there is no glue so there is a tiny hole left between the joint and they are awful to try and fill so it's easier to deal with a bit too much glue up front that try and fill those tiny voids all for the want of a few pennies of glue.

24 hours later I unclamped the sides and scraped the joint to get most of the glue off. As usual, the dowels did an excellent job of aligning the top and after scraping most of the glue off, I could feel that the joint was as near perfect as I had hoped, almost perfectly even edge to edge, which means moderate sanding is all that is required now to have that top perfectly ready for a finish. 

Live edge wood slab

In another video, I will be finishing the top and then attaching some steel legs to what will eventually be .. the live edge coffee table

This article is a subset of the series I recently completed on How to Save Money Buying Wood, and of course, I could not cover everything in a few short videos, so this article and video are to supplement that series and this specific video -

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Copyright Colin Knecht

 Working with Live Edge Wood