Live edge woodworking was popularized during the 1940s by George Nakashima. It involves showcasing the tree layer directly under the bark. This niche woodworking technique has been explored in a variety of types of furniture, but most notably tables. These include anything from high-end conference tables to small coffee tables for summer cottages and everything in between.
The George Nakashima Tradition
Considered a father of the American craft movement, the Japanese-American was born in Spokane, Washington, and went on to be heralded as a Sacred Treasure by the Emperor of Japan in the early 1980s. He trained in traditional Japanese carpentry and joinery techniques and applied those highly refined skills in a Pennsylvania furniture company after being released from an Internment Camp during WWII. The company grew steadily based on his designs and broke into worldwide notoriety when Norman Rockefeller commissioned more than 200 pieces for his New York estate. Nakashima’s groundbreaking work spurred artisans across the globe to embrace the live edge style. His New Hope, Pennsylvania, home is currently listed on the U.S. Registry of Historic Places.
What Is A Live Edge Table?
While there are a variety of techniques used to create live edge tables, it’s simpler to break down what you would be interested in having custom-built for your home or office into two edge types — straight and irregular.
The most eye-catching live edge tables follow the natural contours of a tree and tend to have waves and rounded edges. This style is quite impressive, particularly when using wide, thick board. The other style maintains a straight edge and may be best suited for conference and dining tables. It has a more formal appeal. There are also two types of material used to achieve these looks.
Cross cuts of a tree are commonly used for circular and often irregular-edged coffee tables. These tend to be single slabs and the furniture adheres to the natural contours. Another approach is to use the joinery techniques made famous by Nakashima and other woodworking legends. Multiple boards are seamlessly bonded together and the live edge is positioned to the outer portions. Most tables enjoy a pair of live edges and two inner wood grain ones. The live edges often distinguish the work due to their lighter coloring. These may be strategically left with a rougher edge, planed back, squared or angled. That choice comes down to personal taste.
For those that embrace a rustic style, there are methods to achieve wide tables. A well-manicured, long-cut can be planed and surface protected. This has become a popular style for country kitchen tables and counter-tops. Book-matched joinery can also be used. This takes twin cuts of lumber from the same tree and joins than at a natural center. It keeps a single-slab look while expanding the table area.
If you are interested in a live edge table, our skilled artisans can create a custom piece for your home or business. Contact WEHRLI Furniture today.