The Story of Live Edge

You may have come across a live edge table on your favorite HGTV show, social media feed or home décor magazine and are wondering just what it is and what its all about, heck even Ellen has one!

The History of Live Edge

Live edge tables have basically been around since the invention of tables. Arguably, they were first made popular by architect George Nakashima who crafted a series of live edge furnishings in 1946. In fact, many architects of the mid-Century era, like Nakashima incorporated organic live edge characteristics into their furniture designs. They deliberately chose to work with wood to highlight natural imperfections, knots and gnarly characteristics.

What is a Live Edge Table?

“Live edge” or “living edge” refers to the incorporation of the natural profile of the tree into a least one side of the table. Live edge wood is milled or sawn into slabs across the width of a log. Live edge furniture is considered more environmentally friendly as it utilizes much more of the natural resource with minimal waste. Further, and in part because of the scarcity of black walnut most live edge slabs are milled from salvaged trees or other reclaimed sources. In most cases the bark is removed from the finished product. There are many reasons for removing the bark including longevity, practicality and hygiene. With the bark removed the live edge is made smooth while retaining its organic shape.


Live Edge Table Pricing

There are many factors which determine the price of a live edge table. One main factor is the live edge slab itself. Black walnut is known as the premium domestic hardwood. It is extremely scarce and is often salvaged one tree at a time requiring a large crane (in many cases) to lift and load log(s) from their point of origin. Obviously another significant factor is the scale and size of the slab. Larger slabs come from larger trees that can be hundreds of year in the making. Large equipment is required to lift, transport and saw or milling these wide logs into slabs. Another more common type of live edge table top utilizes bookmatched slabs. A pair of slabs coming from the same log in a sequence and like opening the pages of a book they mimic each other’s grain pattern and characteristics to make an eye catching, seamless table top. Finally the third and less common type of solid wood live edge table uses multiple “skinny” boards joined together with only the two most outer boards containing live edges.

In addition to the hardwood slabs another significant factor in determining the value of live edge tables is craftsmanship. Specifically weather the table is entirely handcrafted from start to finish or if it’s aided by some form of automated machinery which removes the artisan to one extent or another. Further, with the growth in popularity over the past several years many companies in the wood working industry have added a live edge line of products to their repertoire. With limited exposure and/or experience generalist providers are significantly challenged to compete with the caliber and efficiency of larger scale live edge industry specialists.

Understanding the origin, scale, species and methods to produce the live edge slab hardwood lumber is critical. This coupled with the craftsmanship of the maker and the creation process will ultimately determine value and provide an objective comparisons in the vast alternatives of live edge providers.

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