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How To Build A Live Edge River Coffee Table

How To Build A Live Edge River Coffee Table

In this woodworking project, I'll show you how to build a live edge river table as made famous by Greg Klassen. These beautiful tables feature a center glass section that flows along the live edge, giving the glass the look of a flowing river. Let's get started!

Tools Used On Live Edge River Coffee Table:

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Materials Used On Live Edge River Coffee Table:

Live Edge River Coffee Table Build Process:

I recently picked up this live edge Cherry slab from my local slab dealer for the bargain price of $55. The reason it was so cheap was due to the severe bowing, twist, and cupping that were all present in the slab. I decided it’d be the perfect candidate for a live edge river table, since those are made by cutting slabs in half, and if you cut a cupped board in half before flattening it, you loose a lot less material.

Step 1 : Flatten Slab, Cut Slab In Half, & Square Up Ends

I ripped the slab roughly down the center using a circular saw and straight edge, and then flattened the two halves using my planer and jointer. If you don’t have a planer and jointer, you could flatten the slab with a router jig before cutting it in half.

After I got everything flat, I squared up both ends of the board at the miter saw.

Step 2 : Create Template For Glass

Next, I needed to create a template for the glass. I cut a piece of cardboard to the rough shape I wanted using a razor knife. I tried to match the flow of the edges of the slab.

I had a local glass company cut the glass for me, and the cost for the cut piece of glass was about $100. The glass itself was over $70, and I really didn’t want to screw it up when trying to cut it myself. They did a great job, and went ahead and sanded all of the edges for me. This is ¼” blue plate glass, if you want to build something similar.

Step 3 : Route Inset Area Into Top Of Slabs For Glass

Once I had the glass, it was time to route the slab to fit the glass. I secured the two slab pieces to my assembly table using clamps, and the clamped the glass to the wood. I also added double stick tape under the edge of the glass to make sure it was flush with the wood.

Now, let’s talk a little bit about the routing. I used a ¼ x ½ template bit and used the glass itself as the template. The router bit rides up against the glass and cuts a perfect line to match the edge of the glass.

After cutting one side of the table, I cut the groove on the other side using the same technique. Once I made my final pass, I checked the depth using a set of calipers just to confirm.

Next, I needed to remove the excess wood from the inset area. To do this, I used the same router bit but had to freehand it. This went smoothly, I just made sure to stay well clear of the line. With the entire inset area cut to depth, I test fit the glass and it fit perfectly.

Once I had all of the excess removed, I cleaned up any router bit marks with a card scraper and sandpaper.

Step 4 : Shape Live Edge & Remove Loose Bark

Next, I needed to do some shaping on the edges of the slab. I wanted to remove any of the loose bark and trim the bottom edges since they were pretty thin and fragile when I bought the slab. I used a chisel and spokeshave to shape the bottom edge, and then refined everything with my random orbit sander.

With the glass placement set, I could trim the excess off of the ends of the slab so that the glass was flush with the slab. I marked a line using a square and then cut to the line at the miter saw.

Step 5 : Sand Slab Thoroughly, Removing Any Tool Marks

Next, it was time for sanding, lots of sanding. I used my drum sander pretty extensively on this project, and it helps so much with efficiency.

My drum sander, the Supermax 19-38, was provided by my friends at Acme Tools, the sponsor of today’s video. I highly encourage you check them out if you’re thinking of purchasing any power tools or other items for your shop.

Step 6 : (Optional) Fill Holes & Cracks With Epoxy

There were a few holes from what looked like carpenter ants in the slab, and I wanted to stabilize these holes with epoxy. I used ArtResin for this, which leaves a really nice and clear filling.

I really love that I can use ArtResin inside due to the fact that it has no fumes, and it allows me to continue working in the shop while it’s curing without having to worry about sawdust getting into the epoxy. If you’d like to learn more about ArtResin, click here

Step 7 : Cut Leg Pieces To Size

While the epoxy cured, I started working on the table legs. The legs are really simple, just rectangles made of ¾” by 3” wide Walnut. I used rough Walnut I already had on hand for the legs, but you could buy S4S or surfaced four sides lumber if you don’t have the equipment to mill the wood yourself. I used the jointer, planer, and table saw to bring the pieces to their final sizes, then sanded all of the pieces up to 220 on the drum sander.

Step 8 : Cut Joinery For Legs

To assemble the legs, I decided to use my Festool Domino XL, but there are a ton of ways to assemble these butt joints. Pocket screws, dowel joinery, biscuits, and more. Dominos are extremely strong and fast, so that’s what I went with. I used 8mm by 50mm Dominos, and used two in each corner.

Step 9 : Drill Holes Into Top Of Legs To Fasten To Top

Before assembling the legs, I drilled holes in the top pieces of the legs for the bolts which attach the legs to the slabs. I drilled a hole large enough to allow the bolt head and washer to sit flush with a Forstner bit.

Next, I drilled holes for the bolt, making sure to elongate the holes towards the outside of legs. This will allow the top to expand and contract seasonally, and elongating the holes towards the outside edge of the legs will force the top to move towards the outside of the table instead of expanding towards the glass. The glass will not expand and contract, so I needed to make sure the glass didn’t have too much pressure put onto it by the wood.

Step 10 : Assemble Legs

Before assembly, I sanded all of the inside faces of the legs with 180 grit sandpaper, making sure to remove any of the lines left by the drum sander. Assembly with the Dominos is pretty simple, just apply glue to the Dominos and inside the holes and clamp everything together.

Step 11 : Cut Channel In Top Edges Of Legs

Once the legs dried, I decided to add a small cutaway to the top outside edges of the legs. This will give the top a floating look once the table is assembled. I did this at the router table, but I didn’t consider that I was routing into end grain and got some tearout on the sides of the legs. I should have probably cut a small kerf with a marking gauge and handsaw to help alleviate any tearout.

Step 12 : Drill & Tap Holes In Bottom of Top

Next, I did a dry assembly of the table and marked the holes in the bottom of the slabs using a center punch.

Traditionally, I would have used threaded inserts to attach the bolts to the bottom of the top, but Marc from the Wood Whisperer sent me one of his new thread taps to try out. To use the thread taps, I drilled a pilot hole of the correct size on the drill press. For the ¼-20 tap I used, I needed a 5/32” pilot hole.

With the pilot holes drilled, it was as simple as running the tap into the pilot holes using a hand drill. I ran them to the depth I needed and then just backed them out. Super simple! I’ll show you how the bolts attach when I get to the assembly part of the video a little later.

Step 13 : Sand & Apply Finish

All that was left before finishing was a final sanding. I brought all of the pieces up to 180 grit using my random orbit sander, and I broke all of the edges using a hand sander. I didn’t want a really rounded edge, I just wanted to keep them from being too sharp. After sanding, I vacuumed any dust of the surface then wiped all of the pieces down with mineral spirits.

For the finish, I decided to try Minwax Wipe-On Poly, a finish I’d never tried before. It was extremely simple to apply, and I just wiped on a coat using a cotton rag, let it dry for a few hours, sanded lightly with 320 grit, wiped off the dust, and repeated this process four or five times.

Step 14 : Assemble Table

After the finish was fully dried, I assembled the table using the thread holes I tapped earlier using the Wood Whisperer Thread Taps. It was really simple, I just threaded the bolts and snugged them up. This will make it extremely easy to flat pack the table if I need to move it or ship it, as well. With the table assembled, it was finished!

Closing Thoughts on the Live Edge River Table Build

Thanks for checking out this woodworking project! This was a really rewarding build, and I would like to thank Greg Klassen once again for the inspiration. Check out more of my woodworking projects while you're here!

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