As we were starting to furnish our new living room, I was really hoping to create something more unique. I refinished my grandmother’s antique trunk to use as the coffee table but ended up using it as a side table due to its height. I happened to come into possession of a thick cut of large tree trunk that became the inspiration for this Live Edge Coffee Table. The first step in the monster process of leveling out the thick-cut can be found in my other post. This post is about creating the base and top finish.
Live Edge Coffee Table Steps
- 2×4’s (likely only 1 is needed but depends on your slab)
- Decorative Metal sheeting
- Pocket Screws & Kreg Jig
- Spray paint
- Wood screws
- Stain (if desired)
- Wood glue
Live Edge Coffee Table Finish Options
After much belt sanding and subsequent backache on my first slab, I was ready for putting on the finishing touch. For this one, the finishing touch was going to be the polyurethane coating.
When doing a clear coating, one coat is almost never going to suffice. For this slab, I believe I did 5 or 6 coats. The more you do, the more durable it becomes. Obviously, this means you’re in for a waiting game. No special tricks needed here; brush on the poly and wait the appropriate time to dry. Then, do a light sanding and another coat. Repeat.
I used to think it would be necessary to stain to get more color out of the wood. Unless you desire a totally different color, staining is not necessary. The polyurethane brings out the natural tones in the wood. Below you see the difference in the raw wood and the poly-coated wood.
After the polyurethane dried, the top was at long last complete. I can’t begin to describe the pride and relief in finally completing it. After having the huge slab resting against the wall for well over a year, while I tried to figure out how to tackle it, I didn’t know if I’d ever get it done. My husband had asked when we could get rid of it and I had told him I was giving myself one more month to find a way to do it. That was what I needed to kick myself into gear.
By live edge coffee table number two come onto my must-do project list, I was ready to try a “brand new to me” technique, EPOXY! Epoxy (or resin) is essentially like doing 40 coats of polyurethane. I was admittedly a bit scared thinking about how it could go astray. After completing it, I can tell you it’s not that scary if you simply follow the directions. As the instructions will tell you, you have to mix exact amounts of the two chemicals and have two containers to use for mixing. The silly struggle for me was finding the containers because I didn’t feel like running to the store for something minuscule yet again. FYI, it’s much easier if you get these:
My other unknown was how much would be needed. I decided it’d be better to have too much than too little so used the whole kit. Then, it was on to my very first pour!
The anxiously anticipated epoxy pour….
It was definitely necessary to use a flat scraper to spread it around the full surface. Speed is important here folks. The epoxy doesn’t take long to start drying on you. It’s also important to cover your floor to prevent it from adhering as it drips. I wanted it to go over the live edge to protect the bark.
After the pour, it was necessary to blow on the air bubbles to get rid of them. A heat gun or hairdryer works, as does going “ha” on them with your breath. I went with the last method. My girls were perplexed by what I was doing. Thank goodness this project was prior to the pandemic!
The biggest issue I ended up having with version two was the extra porous edges. The epoxy completely absorbed into the edges. I ended up having to do another layer of epoxy to finish it off. FYI, epoxy is not cheap, so I was not thrilled by having to do another layer. My other recommendation (based on this experience) is not to do it in the garage where there are gnats. I kept having to fish those little buggers out of the sticky epoxy.
Version 2: Beautifully Glassy Finish
I made two tables that needed slightly different bases based on the uneven bottom of one of them. The basic idea here was to create two interlocking rectangles.
The height of the leg is dependent on the thickness of the slab of wood and the desired height of the table. I wanted a height of 19 inches, so it would be at the height of the couch seat. The measurement of the ‘leg’ should be from floor to tree slab to hide the ‘base’ 2×4’s. The base 2×4 measurements depend on the width of the tree slab. I decided to make it about 4 inches less than the slab diameter, so it provided enough support for how heavy it was and the top of the legs would be slightly hidden.
Although the four legs will be the same height, the four base pieces will not be the same. Two will be the full length. Then there will be four short pieces. In the photo above, you can see I have the right length of the short pieces when I place a test piece in the gap. With all the cuts complete, the next step is to create the pocket holes with the Kreg jig in the base pieces and drill in the pocket screws. Below, you can see I measured the midpoint on the cross-sections to ensure it would be square before screwing in the pocket screws.
With the pocket screws in place, this table base build was complete! It was so much easier than having to level the tree slab with a router; to that I’m certain. It was then just a matter of attaching it to the tree slab with long wood screws.
Since my other slab was thicker on one side than the other from the chain saw cut, I used a board from a crate table I had made and repurposed. I had to adjust the height of the table lengths based on that difference to ensure the top would be level. (Talk about a pain in the behind.) Then, I built the base in the same way as version one.
Version two was actually the one I started with, so I thought the legs would be just as they were. I stained the base with a dark stain and thought I might have been complete. It looked quite blah, and my husband said he thought it would be better to have more of a solid base. That comment inspired me to consider decorative metal sheeting and away I went to the hardware store. Metal sheeting; another first!
The first time I did this, I used metal cutting sheers (borrowed from a coworker) to cut to the appropriate height for coverage of all legs. It worked alright, but it was definitely difficult to keep from catching my skin on the cut metal. I cut three sides to fit the width of space leaving the stained wood leg exposed.
The second time around, I learned my lesson with the sheers and used this handy dandy little tool to saw through the metal. I also decided on a different method for the edges of the metal sheeting. Given there was a border on the metal sheet, I didn’t want to cut more than one side. This desire gave me the idea to use the whole width of the sheet as-is for each space between legs and wrap around the leg.
Using glue epoxy and clamps, I held the sheeting in place while I screwed wood screws into the available holes to secure it to the legs.
Metal Sheeting Version 1: Exposed Wood
Metal Sheeting Version 2: Covered Wood Leg
I hammered the overhang to fold over the edge to meet in the middle with the other side. I tried using some epoxy glue here. It didn’t work very well, so I recommend skipping it. My last step was to hammer in flat head nails on the outside edge to keep it from flaring out.
Last of all, it was time to spray paint the metal sheeting for my desired bronze look to compliment the bark. It took two coats and then I was finished. Thank the LORD!!
Two Completed Live Edge Coffee Tables
I hope you enjoyed the rundown on how I created these two tables and it inspires you to overcome some of your own fears of taking on bigger projects. As you overcome those little fears, you are sure to build that self-confidence in yourself and your growing skills. For me, it expanded my creativity as well to think of new ways to get to a great end product.
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