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Is a Live Edge Dining Table Right for You?

Is a Live Edge Dining Table Right for You?

We here at Ohio Hardwood Furniture recognize that quality is more than just a name. There is quality wrapped up in the brands that we sell here on our website and in our showroom in Ohio, true enough. Names like Leathercraft, Wesley Hall, Thayer Coggin, and Charleston Forge own mystique in their very name that cannot be easily dispelled.

Yet it is not the name alone that connotes quality, but rather the sum of the processes and mission of an organization. Take Wesley Hall, for example. Wesley hall has defined quality in its seating arrangements to the point that the very name “Wesley Hall” connotes comfort.

But the quality of Wesley Hall begins long in advance of you bringing home one of their sofas and adding it to your home. It begins with the high-quality hardwood stock they select for the construction of their furniture as well as the select upholstery they use. It continues with their careful handcrafting traditions and culminates in the fact that every single piece of Wesley Hall furniture is an entirely bench-made beauty.

As you can see, there is quality in a process, and there can be quality in a material as well as in a name. For example, in our own line of hardwood furniture, we use only hardwood stock that has been selectively sustainably harvested. Like Wesley Hall, we are proud to report that we create entirely bench-made furniture as well and minimize waste in every area that we can.

Quality can also be defined by the material as combined with processes. For example, you may have become interested in some of the buzz that surrounds live edge furniture in recent years and been drawn to the rugged, rustic look of it all. Perhaps you are even wondering if a live edge dining table is right for you. This short introduction to live edge wood will hopefully answer some of the questions you might have before you make any lasting decisions that will impact the design of your home.

What Is Live Edge?

But first, we need to get a little more into what a live edge is before we can make inroads on whether or not it is a good match for your home. The design has taken some interior circles by storm in recent years, and it certainly does switch things up a little, so its popularity should come as no large surprise.

Here’s what it is and how it’s made. Most furniture is made from milled planks or logs that are joined together, and for the most part, live edge furniture has this in common with others. When a log is milled, some parts of the end grain and knots are exposed, but for the most part, a plank constitutes only a small sliver of the whole tree that produced the log.

Therefore, most furniture produced today contains only sections of heartwood and occasionally sapwood that have been milled and finished. This gives the classic look of a piece of furniture made from wood, as seen in the picture below of a Copeland Astrid 6 Drawer Case in Cherry.

As you can see, beautiful though the native grain of the Cherry wood is, it is only a small portion of the tree, as can be represented by a cross-sectional investigation. There is none of the tissue from the cambium or the bark present in this construction. Largely, traditional furniture making and woodworking have discarded these parts of the tree as they are high in moisture and difficult to work with and preserve.

Live edge furniture like a live edge table, for example, is typically made up of a longitudinal slice of a tree that stretches from the bark on one side of the log through the sapwood and heartwood to the bark on the other side. Occasionally, live-edge tables are made with the bark scraped away, although the rough irregularities between the juncture of the sapwood and the outer portions of the tree will remain visible.

Consider the picture of a live-edge dining table that is currently in our online showroom, displayed at the top of this article. Admittedly, this particular table shows a relatively esoteric form of live-edge in which the “live edges” of the wood are turned inward, accented with river rock, and joined by epoxy resin.

More typically, live edge construction has the live edges at the edge of the table instead of turned inward, but as you can see, there is more than one way to go about it. What remains, however, is the fact that the edge of the wood, with all of its imperfections and irregularities, is preserved, sometimes with the bark on. As stated, this often results from a full section of a log being taken from the tree from side to side.

Live edge construction presents a unique and pleasantly jarring experience for the viewer, especially when you may have only seen traditional construction techniques applied. However, there are a lot of ways that live edges can be worked into a number of designs in order to make an appreciable mark for the better.

Why a Live Edge Dining Table?

That brings us to why you might want to create a new look for your home or just a room in your home like the dining room, with a live edge dining table. When there are so many options out there boasting of traditional construction, why go with something as unconventional as live-edge?

There are a number of reasons that you might want to consider a live edge table for your home. For one thing, the design is simply captivating. If for no other reason than the simple fact that it is uncommon enough to capture attention, a live edge table will become a fixture of your home.

Yet this is far from the only reason because the native beauty of a live edge table will resonate from the wood as well as or better than traditional finished pieces. With a live edge piece, you don’t just get luster of the finished heartwood. You get to see the boundary between the heartwood and sapwood and the confluence of the living tissue and the skeleton of the tree. There is a multi-hued harmony in each and every live edge piece that cannot be simulated. This is evident with traditional construction but thrown into sharp relief with live-edge. For an illustration, take a look again at the table at the top of this article. The dark beauty of the walnut heartwood is thrown into sharp contrast with the lighter sapwood and set off by the irresistible irregularities of the edges of the wood. It’s attractive in a way that is difficult to qualify and impossible to quantify.

Yet there is more to live edge than the simple fact that it is a break from the norm. Because it is not so much created as refined from a natural look, it is largely compatible with a number of different styles of interior design. Granted, its rustic simplicity might not make the best match for baroque or colonial-inspired designs, but it would resonate with minimalist and naturalist themes effortlessly. Art deco, modern design, and bucolic themes all find a fine match with live edge furniture.

So live edge construction is versatile and refreshing, but it comes with one more feature that makes it popular in many circles, and that is in the fact that it really showcases its origins. One might almost look at a piece of furniture and forget that it came from a tree, from a living organism, in the first place, but that is hard to forget when you look at a live edge table.

A live edge table almost looks like it was dropped out of the woods, even when it has been beautifully joined and finished. It is something like an homage to the tree that produced it and contains not only the natural beauty of the tree but also the imperfections and irregularities that come along with it. That’s one more reason that people love live edge construction and you might appreciate it too.

Things to Look out for

If you’re still on board with a live edge dining table and are thinking about getting one for your home, then you should keep the following things in mind when you are shopping.

Not all live-edge construction takes the form of one single cut of wood. Sometimes several smaller planks are joined together to create a larger table, for instance, if a tree is too small to create the entire surface of the table on its own. Sometimes, however, it is done to skirt imperfections in the would that would compromise the look or integrity of the table. Just be sure you know what you are looking for, as not all live edge is the same.

In addition, you might want to ensure that live edge construction has been properly and slowly kiln dried. Wood takes an appreciable amount of time to be dried properly to prevent warping and checking and it has been worked, and it’s critical that it has been properly kiln-dried, and slowly, before being made into a table. This is more something to look out for elsewhere, as here at Ohio Hardwood Furniture, all of the furniture we create as well as all of the furniture we source from our suppliers has been laboriously prepared, crafted, and finished using only the most selective of techniques.

There are a few more things you should look out for, although these are not things you’ll need to worry about with Ohio Hardwood Furniture’s stock. There are a few things you should look out for in live edge, specifically, checks and voids that can compromise the quality of the wood.

Checks are small cracks that typically form at the end grain of the wood and are typically associated with improperly drying the wood. Wood that has been dried too quickly or exposed to adverse conditions is like to check; this harms not only the wood's integrity but also its visual aesthetic.

As for voids, these are undesirable spaces or gaps in the wood that can be caused by a number of things, such as an infection in the heartwood of a tree. Sometimes it is a concern, but other times the craftsman producing the table will simply try the wood and fill the void with resin. Again, these are not things to worry about when you shop with us, but they are things you should be aware to look out for if you shop elsewhere.

Visit Us in Store

While you can learn a lot about what you like in furniture, including live-edge construction, simply by shopping through our online showroom, sometimes the best way to get a feel for a piece of furniture is, well, actually to get a feel for it. To do that you need to see it, feel it, and interact with it.

Our showroom might be a bit out of the way, out here in Peninsula, Ohio, but all treasures are worth discovering and we are one of Ohio’s best-kept secrets. If you see what you look online and you can arrange a visit, we’d love to see you in the store. Then you can actually take a look at some of our designs and see if you can envision them in your home.

Call Us to Learn More

Of course, if you are too far away and can’t come in, there’s always our online store to shop and we are only a phone call away. Give us a call today at 330-657-2095. We’d love to hear from you, but most importantly, we’d love to answer any questions you have about the differences between live-edge and traditional construction, including what makes it so special. It’s one of the more popular trends in design right now and there are more reasons than those that we have explored here. Give us a call and we’ll explore the matter together.