The Walnut Live Edge "Crash" Table

I was commissioned to build a dining table using an awesome slab of Walnut. I thought it would be interesting to pair w-beam legs with the slab. Have a slight industrial feel. Having the table legs intersect, or "crash" through each other would be a visual feast, and quite a challenge. Below the original design narrative:

This slab of wood is massive, and thick, dense and solid. It conveys permanence. The grain shows age and tumult, but more than that shows wisdom. The creases around a mother’s eye, the rough hands of a grandfather; aged yes, but ultimately imbued with love. To dine upon this slab is share in ritual and celebration, the tree envelops the guests in a silent embrace. The tree will be cleaned, and finished to expose its wonderful grain, but with reverence, not with a showy, high gloss, but with a humble satin varnish; protection from the inevitabilities of dining, but respect for the wood.

balance the mighty slab, a pedestal will be constructed that equals the tree’s visual weight. Powerful steel I-Beams will be made to collide, pass through each other, ultimately to support the table top. By bringing the legs to the center of the table top, the visual size of the table will be somewhat reduced. The table will show both lightness and robustness. The heavy slab seems to float over the legs, the strong beams intersect effortlessly.

Original Concept Render

Concept of the frame:

The Finished Live Edge Table

Finished Table

Underside showing leg intersection

The Build Process

For many more pictures, please check out this google photo album.

I began by measuring the slab at fixed points so I could create a rough solid in CAD to visualize and plan the legs.

Measuring the slab at fixed points to digitize.

The legs were positioned in space and then intetsected in such a way that they could be assembled in a puzzle like fashion. There would be one leg with no cuts and it would serve as the "key" to lock all the parts together.

Rendering of the leg joints

Here is an example of one of the legs on all four sides showing the crazy compound cuts that were required. For certain legs I ended up cutting them into two sections and re-welding them later to ease the fitting process.

One of the legs from all four sides showing the cuts

A 3D printed model of the leg concept so that I could wrap my head around what went where. It was tricky to visualize this through building it, as everything was at a strange double angle to everything else.

A model of the legs

I used a CNC router to cut specific angle jigs to set one part of the compound angle for cutting the ends of the legs.

Cutting out the leg jigs on the shopbot

The other angle was set on this big band saw using a digital angle gauge. The beams were clamped to the power feed table.

Setup of one leg to cut on bandsaw

Then fed through slowly. These cuts turned out great. After the initial cuts the leg was flipped over and the legs were cut in the other direction. The result was two compound angles with parallel faces. One to sit on the floor, and the other to support the table top.

Mid cut of huge beam on huge bandsaw

I cut card stock templates to scale of all the faces of the legs and transferred them to the beams with marking dye and a scribe.

Laying out for the intersection cuts.

Then began the horrendous process of plasma burning out some of the metal then grinding, grinding and more grinding to get all the cuts to fit. Here is a partially cut beam.

Midway though grinding the beam cuts

I ended up dismantling a abrasive chop saw to get the power and depth for grinding in some of the cuts. This was a lot of work.

Using a cut off saw in a crazy way

Good thing these beams were extraordinarily heavy, it made the constant set-up and tear-down of the assembly really easy! (kidding) I test fit onto a separate jig plate with little hooks to hold the beams in place, while other elements were ground to fit.

Initial leg fit-up and grinding in

Once all the parts were fit I tacked everything, and began filling in welds in various areas, eventually doing all the seam welds I could reach. Some of the welds were left exposed. Some were ground down and sanded in to return the beams to continuous sections.

Finishing the leg welding

The whole frame was then sandblasted to remove weld scale and rust, as well as blend in grinding marks. After grinding, this was the second most onerous task of this project.

The legs after sandblasting

And taking the third would be sitting out in the freezing cold with a weed torch, heating up the whole frame and then rubbing it with oil for a blackened finish. This finishes up the bottom of the table.

Midway though oil blackening the legs

For the top, I began by repairing any loose areas of the slab and then filling every crack and check with epoxy resin. This required several sessions of application, sanding and re-application. I also had to do this after the main flattening operations.

Filling the cracks with epoxy

The bottom of the slab was decked with a fly cutter on the CNC router, then a recess was cut for the support plate.

Shopbot of bottom of the slab

Additionally, two grooves were cut for supporting braces.

Cutout for the lower braces

I used a custom made edge plane thing (top left) to help find the high spots and slowly fit the grooves so the braces would slip fit in.

Fitting the braces to the table top

The braces were then fit into their slots.

Braces test fit

Then they were welded together along with recessed threaded inserts to accept the legs.

Welding the braces

Originally I thought it would be cool to heat color the braces and leave them exposed, but after installing them I wasn't blow away by the look. Even though this would not be seen under the table, it still bothered me.

Final brace install

The solution was to fit walnut covers into the brace recesses and sand them smooth with the bottom. After the finish you can barely see them.

Covering the exposed braces with wood

Then I moved on to decking the top of the slab.

Flatten the top of the slab on the shopbot

Once the slab was roughly decked, I moved on to using a belt sander to remove the major machining marks. I then moved on to stepping through various grits on the orbital sander to make the surface extremely smooth. All the surface bark and debris was removed and then the edge surfaces were smoothed with a die grinder and cleaned and sanded. Finally I installed a couple of cocobolo bow ties in one main crack on the side.

Install the bowties in a crack

After ensuring all the cracks were filled with epoxy and everything was sanded to perfection I applied the finish. Three coats of Waterlox to each side. Here is coat number one.

First coat of finish

And the second coat:

Second coat of finish

And the final coat, awaiting to be mated to the finished table legs and delivered to the customer!

The two halves of the table project about to come together

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A full list of projects can be found on the Projects page.