The Story of Live Edge Furniture

Live edge designs have been around since man started creating furniture and are experiencing a modern renewal.

"Live edge" refers to a process of using wood, generally in furniture or shelving, where at least one side is left untouched or natural. Here are some slabs with "live edges:"

Live edge wood comes from trees and is milled the same exact way as "standard" wood, with one major exception:

The above image is oversimplified for illustration purposes, but you can see the trunk on the left yields 40 2" x 4"s with 20-25% waste. The same trunk cut for live edge products yields eight single live edge slabs that might be used on a joined top (discussed below) and eight solid slab live edge planks (in the middle with the "live edge" on both sides), leaving just 5-8% waste.

Live edge products are considered more environmentally friendly because more of the wood is used. In a sense each tree goes further. Furthermore, it's very common for live edge furniture to be crafted from a felled tree or tree branch, or other reclaimed source.

Generally, live edge is available with either the bark on or off. Leaving the bark on means full on natural - completely untouched by manly tools.

The bark can also be removed, which is the more common variation of live edge. This method creates a much smoother edge while still retaining the original organic shape of the tree itself. In this case, a skilled carpenter removes the bark with a drawknife, and then spoke shave. This is generally done by hand with the goal of retaining the natural curves and contours in the wood. From there the edge is sanded with 120 and 180 grit sandpaper, typically with the rest of the table. The table on Ellen's set has had the bark removed:

Either way, bark on or off, the table surface is oiled and dried and then shellacked.

The main factor that determines price on a live edge table is how the top is made. A solid slab top (one piece of wood) has to come from a single, very large tree. The top is cross-sawn from a single whole trunk as shown above. Obviously, rarity is a factor here. A standard dining table is 36-40" wide. If you picture the tree that's 40" wide, and tall and straight enough from which to cut a large, flat top, and you can start to see why solid slab tops are difficult to come by, much less mass produced.

Solid slab tops also require significantly more of the construction to be done by hand. Due to their size, they don't fit into most planers (the machines that make wood flat), so a solid slab top has to be hand-planed and then sanded down with a drum sander. Both of these processes are time and energy intensive! A notable exception here is wall shelves, mantles, console and coffee tables.

Obviously, there's a huge range depending on table size, but a standard solid slab live edge dining table is usually between AED9000 to AED15000, depending on the size, and type of wood.

A bit of History

Live edge furniture was originally popular in mid-Century modern homes, most notably by architect George Nakashima, who crafted a series for Knoll in 1946. Like many designers and architects of his era, Nakashima was a strong proponent of integrating natural, organic elements into his designs. Think Fallingwater, for example, and you can understand why Nakashima deliberately chose wood that was imperfect - burrs, knots, you name it - and then tied the beauty of nature, flaws and all, into his designs.

Understanding that live edge was a popular design choice in mid-Century modern homes makes it easy to understand why it's popular now. Quite frankly, the era between 1940 and 1965 produced some of the most memorable homes, furniture, and design concepts of all time. Think Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.  In addition, people are moving back to hand crafted bespoke products, and away from mass production, heralding the age of the craftsman.

An added benefit to live edge tables is that they're not specifically modern or contemporary. It is timeless, and just depends how you dress your furniture what type of style you have. To see more have a look at our Blog:

9 ways to style your Live edge Dining Table

At Mr Paintsman we love that every live edge table is completely unique. In many ways, you can consider them works of art,  a little bit of nature soothing modernism's harder edges.

If you're leaning towards purchasing a solid slab dining table, your best bet is to come into our warehouse to hand-select the wood, and be a little more involved in some of the design decisions that go into creating a live edge table. Because each slab is unique, it's not uncommon for knots and imperfections in the wood to create some choices. You can leave it natural or we can resin fill the cracks to add dimension to the table slab.

Join the bespoke family and call for appointment to view the slabs today. 800paint.



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