Since building and displaying live edge tables for the cafe, there has been a ton of interest in custom Live Edge pieces. The purpose of this post is to demystify the process and give people an idea of what is possible, and how to get your hands on your own piece of live edge furniture. I hope this information helps, whether you plan to build your own, or find local suppliers and artisans to help.
The main consideration in obtaining a unique live edge piece is choosing your slab. Since every piece is one of a kind, nothing will ever be exactly the same as something you’d see in the cafe. This is actually a good thing, because each one is a unique piece of art, personalized to your taste. Here are some local suppliers to help in your search:
Located in Bedford, Nova Scotia, this is the outlet where most of the pieces at Edible Art originated. They don’t do finished tables, but can do sanding and joining pieces together.
Dave Barry / NaturalWood.ca
Dave is a fellow artisan, who is also a supplier of locally milled live edge slabs. As a certified arborist, he brings them down himself, milling and kiln drying them, and also offering his services to create custom pieces.
Located in Blockhouse, Nova Scotia, they are a full service supplier offering custom furniture and kitchen cabinetry. This is where I found the famous 8ft Walnut “Angel” slab at the cafe.
Other artisans are encouraged to get in touch with listing info. Finding the time to build these myself has proven quite challenging, so it would be nice to have more people to refer interested customers to, since the cafe has become a bit of a showroom of rare hardwood live edge pieces.
This stuff is not cheap… but it will last a lifetime. All suppliers sell by the board foot, with the price ranging from from a few hundred dollars for a modest size raw milled slab, to a few thousand for longer, thicker, or particularly rare species.
The materials used in the cafe are all natural, having started off with Linseed Oil, then upgrading to Hemp Oil more recently, which deserves it’s own blog post. The extensive epoxy inlays you see in the cafe are G-2 resin from Lee Valley, allowing you to put anything into your table, from family keepsakes, to jewelry, stone, shells, marbles, and even things like baby teeth. Of course Venezuelan piranhas too!
All kinds of legs can be found on amazon, ranging from bar height, pub height, or standard 30″ height. My favorite legs are stainless steel hairpin, which can be found at Hairpin Legs Canada.
The process employed in creating our cafe tables is not complicated, but it is time consuming. The raw slabs are sanded to 220 grain, with any gaps thoroughly cleaned and taped off for resin sealing and/or inlays. Pouring the resin is an all day process of returning every so often to refill as the resin slowly seeps in, then checking back every hour or two with a hair dryer in hand, which helps to pop the inevitable bubbles. After curing, the resin sanding is quite the process. Once sanded flush to 220 grain, wet sanding is performed in 200 grain increments, all the way to 3000 grain automotive paper or pads for the mirror finish. There are some great youtube videos on all this stuff.
The rule of thumb for the natural oil finish is once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and once a year for a lifetime. While that may work for residential applications, it doesn’t quite cut it for commercial use. I re-oil the tables every month or so at the cafe, particularly the newer ones, since there is such heavy traffic, and the constant wipe downs with bleach water. It’s fascinating to see their properties change as they age. After about three years of this, the oldest tables are pretty much impenetrable, and even refuse to take on more oil, besides a very thin coat. While this is most definitely a long term and tedious operation, the results are definitely worth it. There’s nothing like the warmth of open pore natural hardwood with no petroleum products (polyurethane) involved.
Listing of Cafe Pieces
These are in order of creation, and you can likely see the progression of skill level throughout the process.
Here are some pics from other fun projects:
This obviously has nothing to do with live edge, but I just had to share. This thing has been the center piece of many parties in the dead of winter, and will most likely be the subject of it’s own blog post at some point!