how to build a live edge table on a budget
Budget, DIY, Home Decor

My Live Edge Table Journey

I always dreamed of having my own craft room – a place where I can work on my art, crafts, repairs, and all kinds of DIY projects. When we moved into this new house, which had a spare bedroom, my dream came true. I began assembling my perfect work room, complete with storage space and a large work surface in the form of a DIY live edge table.

I started off with this grey plastic folding table — it was ugly, but got the job done.

My imagination drew a beautiful rustic solid wood table. After all, a work space should be conducing positive energy and inspiration. You have to feel good in a space in order to produce good results. So I started hunting for the perfect table. At first I wanted rustic reclaimed wood, but quickly fell in love with the live edge options that are so popular nowadays.

Live edge tables are expensive!

Bookmatched Live Edge Table
Of course I had to set my eye on the more expensive wood type – black walnut – but I figured if I was going to do this, I better make a really nice table that would last many years.

I was in no position to buy a new one. But even on kijiji the tables were going at $2000 minimum for a cheaper wood, and closer to $5000 for a premium wood, like black walnut. However, I saw plenty of cheap raw slabs that could be turned into a table. That’s when I decided to DIY a live edge table. Since I don’t own machinery required for flattening a slab – they look flat on the photo, but that’s deceptive, and to become a table they need to be properly leveled – I started looking for a place where I could buy the slab AND have someone level it for me.

bookmatched black walnut live edge table inspiration
I also absolutely fell in love with the bookmatched tables, where two slabs were joined in the middle and a lighter colour stripe ran through the middle, like in these photos.

I finally found a company that was trying to clear slab inventory and had a wood shop, so they were willing to level and rough-sand the slabs for me, plus deliver to my home (!), all for just $500 for a pair of gorgeous 10 feet long black walnut slabs. That was half of what other companies wanted. Since I wanted my table to be only 7.5 feet long, I got the 2-foot cut offs as a bonus (maybe one day I’ll DIY a live edge coffee table or shelves).

Learn From My Mistakes

raw black walnut bookmatched live edge slabs for table
What the slabs looked like raw

I got unlucky with an early winter here in Toronto. When I received the slabs in November, ready to be glued and finished, it became too cold to work in the garage. I was forced to wait until spring. Alas, when spring came and I attempted to put the slabs together, they didn’t fit. Temperature changes make wood “move”. Although the boards still looked flat, they warped slightly and didn’t align. I had to contact the same guys and ask them to re-level the slabs for me. They offered to do the glue up too, and with delivery it came to another $350.

Lesson Learned: If you’re building a DIY Live Edge Table, don’t let your wood sit too long

The joined and glued slabs arrived with the top leveled flat and roughly sanded. The bottom was more rough and not really flat – but no big deal. I set up two sawhorses and started working. The first step was to remove bark from the edges and smooth them out, then finish-sand the top. I found that using an electric sander was a bad idea, because it was leaving nasty scratch marks, so I resorted to hand sanding for the top.

click on pictures to see full size

The next step was to fill any cracks and holes with epoxy. Most DIY live edge table tutorials show liquid epoxy being used for this step. I was a little hesitant to try the liquid. I bought some professional grade putty epoxy (already black in colour) and used that. It was a pain (literally) to use, because the putty was so thick that I had to use strength to push it into the crevices. My fingers hurt afterwards, but the end result was good.

Once cured, the epoxy was ready to be sanded and the top was ready for finishing. I decided to avoid using chemicals and chose pure tung oil for the finish. Lee Valley carries pure tung oil (most stores don’t have the real deal). It was really easy to use. The rule of thumb is to slather it on, wait for 15 minutes or so (to let the oil penetrate), then wipe off excess really well.

IMPORTANT! Wipe off well! You don’t want any oil remaining on the surface, as it will gum up and ruin your next layer.

Another thing I did was attach metal plates on the underside to reinforce the glue line. This is probably not necessary, but I wanted to be safe. Always pre-drill before screwing anything into the wood – you don’t want it cracking.

Problem Solving

Of course no project goes without some problem solving. After I oiled the top about 3 times, I realized that the lighter sapwood (that beautiful lighter edge and middle that I was really going after) somehow got blended with the rest of the wood and turned dark. I was pretty upset, but found a solution: I bought wood bleach and it worked like a charm! I did end up having to sand the top again, else the bleach wouldn’t work. Wish I knew about that sapwood problem before I started oiling, but you learn from mistakes. After researching I found that indeed walnut heartwood sometimes “bleeds” into the sapwood, turning everything a dark colour. Funny enough, that is usually considered a good trait, as most furniture makers want an EVEN colour (and even STAIN the sapwood to match the darker heartwood).

At last I could do the finishing. I did a total of 10 oil coats, with 24-48 hours drying time between each coat. Once fully dry, I brought the ready tabletop into the designated room and installed the base. I was planning to buy the Metaltech stainless steel legs from Rona, but was lucky to score an identical looking one on kijiji for only $60! This one was steel with chrome plating.

PRO TIP: For installation, use lag bolts that are smaller than the base holes, and insert washers. This will allow for wood movement during seasonal changes and prevent cracking.

All finished!

diy live edge black walnut table with metal base

DIY Live Edge Table Cost Breakdown

  • Wood Slab – $500
  • Gluing and leveling – $350
  • Sanding paper (I already had this, but new would be about $6)
  • Wood Bleach – $25
  • Mineral Spirits – $6
  • Tung Oil – $28
  • Wiping Rags – FREE (use clean old t-shirts)
  • Table Legs – $60

TOTAL: $975

Love my new work space!

Now I have a beautiful, huge table. I figure I saved at least 50% with this DIY, but really a black walnut live edge table in this size runs at about $4000! It’s 7.5 feet long by 3 feet wide – plenty of space for my projects. And I’ve already tried it out with my new Baltic amber creation. Did I mention, I make my own jewellery. Just like with home decor, whenever I want something and can’t find in store, I make it myself. It’s such a rewarding process to make something with your own hands – you get to enjoy it all that much more. But if making your own jewellery seems complicated, I also take custom orders. Visit my Azore Jewellery facebook page to learn more.

If you enjoyed this DIY story, check out my other DIY projects

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *