Do you love the rustic elegance of a coffee table made from a tree slab? You might have thought it was a complex woodworking project reserved for seasoned artisans with fully-equipped workshops. The truth is, creating a DIY tree slab coffee table is a rewarding and achievable project that doesn’t require a professional workspace or years of woodworking experience. With some basic tools, a touch of patience and a little creativity, you can transform a humble tree slab into a stunning piece of functional art that will be the centerpiece of any room.
In this guide, I’ll take you through the step-by-step process of crafting this unique DIY coffee table. I’ll list each tool I used, where I sourced the wood and the step-by-step process to achieve this beautiful live edge table.
Let me start with a quick look at selecting the right type of wood for your project.
Table of Contents
- What type of wood is best for a live-edge coffee table?
- Where to find the perfect wood slab
- How to make a coffee table from a slab of wood
- Important tips to get the best from your solid wood table
What type of wood is best for a live-edge coffee table?
I prefer to source local timber for all my projects. I don’t like buying expensive exotic hardwoods that have been shipped in from other countries. It’s just not economical or environmentally friendly, especially when we have an abundance of great timber available on our doorstep.
The following tree species are widely regarded as excellent choices for crafting furniture, particularly live-edge tables. These trees are native to the UK, known for their ease of workability and are readily available when you know where to look.
One of the most popular, oak is known for its durability and attractive grain patterns, making it an excellent choice for a live edge coffee table. Its strength ensures longevity and its character-rich appearance adds a timeless touch to any space.
The wood I’ve used on my build. Known for its exceptional durability and resistance to wear, ash wood ensures that your coffee table will stand up to the test of time, making it a practical and stylish addition to any living space.
Another very popular choice, walnut wood boasts deep, rich colours and unique grain patterns, making it a top pick for live edge tables. Its dark hues contrast beautifully with the live edge, creating a sophisticated and stylish piece.
Probably one of the least common, olive wood’s distinctive grain, warm and earthy tones make it an intriguing choice for a live edge coffee table. Its natural beauty and rarity add a touch of exotic elegance to your living area.
Elm’s pronounced grain and contrasting colours give it a distinctive appearance that’s ideal for live edge tables. Its resilience and unique aesthetics make it a popular choice among wood enthusiasts.
Beechwood offers a clean and elegant look with its pale, even grain. It’s a versatile option that complements various interior styles and its durability ensures your table will stand the test of time.
It’s advisable to steer clear of using softwoods for this project due to their specific challenges when compared to the hardwoods mentioned above. Softwoods like pine and fir tend to be less robust, less resilient and are prone to warping and twisting during the drying process.
Where to find the perfect wood slab
The first part of this project begins with sourcing the best wood for the job. Now we know the different types of wood suitable for the job, we just need to find them. I’ve managed to source a slab of ash wood for this particular project, just because this is what was available to me at the time from a local supplier. Here are a few suggestions and where I find most of my wood.
Search the local market
Try the local market first. I found a seller local to me on FB Marketplace. Try searching ‘live edge slabs’ or something similar like ‘oak slabs’ and see what comes up. You might need to widen your search radius but you’ll find someone.
There is a treasure trove of live edge slabs available on this eCommerce marketplace. There are sellers stocking huge ranges of all types of local wood. It’s best to reach out to them to and ask what they have available and current pricing.
The Rustic Wood Barn is one of my favourite sellers. Check them out here:
eBay is another great source of timber. Shops like Specialty Timber Company stock loads of great slabs including Oak, Ash, Elm, Walnut, Perrotta, Mappa Burr, Monkey Pod, Elder Maple, Pine, Cedar And More!
Check our their shop here:
Locating a nearby sawmill is an excellent method to procure local timber for your project. You can conduct an online search or engage with local residents to identify the closest sawmill. I had a successful arrangement with a local sawmill in the past, where they could custom-cut timber to my exact needs and I could also access off-cuts and unused timber, fostering a mutually beneficial partnership.
How to make a coffee table from a slab of wood
Now you have sourced your perfect piece of wood, let me go into detail about how to craft it into the perfect live edge coffee table.
Step 1. Size up your timber
With your slab of wood ready, you will need to size up your project and make sure it will fit in its new home. If required you can cut the slab to size using a circular saw, bow saw or a panel saw. Thick hardwoods can be difficult to cut but with a bit of elbow grease, you’ll be fine.
Above, I’m using my Dewalt circular saw to cut the slab of ash to size. I didn’t take too much off. Just enough to tidy the edges and shorten the slab by a couple of inches.
Step 2. Plane and flatten your piece
I used an electric hand plane to smooth out all the milling bandsaw marks on my slab of ash. You won’t be able to do this with a sander alone, it’ll take years to get a smooth finish. You could also use a hand plane for this job but I find that an electric plane is much quicker. Several passes on the shallowest setting should make the surface smooth enough to remove any deep saw marks and prepare for sanding.
An alternative method to flattening a slab of wood is to set up a router sledge and run a router with a surfacing bit over the slab, backwards and forwards until it’s all even. Check out this helpful video on YouTube for more information.
Step 3. Sanding
This process is one of the most tedious as it’s quite time-consuming. It is however essential to ensure a beautiful smooth finish. I used my 125mm Dewalt random orbital sander for this job. Starting with an 80-grit sandpaper I slowly smoothed over the entire surface and the edges. I continued with this until any of the major marks left over from planing were gone.
This was then followed up with 120-grit sandpaper and then 240-grit paper. To finish off the sanding process I used 320 grit paper for the ultimate smoothness on this ash wood.
Step 4. Making the legs
For the legs, I decided to use some branches from an apple tree that had been cut down the previous year. I removed the bark with a knife and sanded them all down. I wanted to keep some of the rustic charm so didn’t finish them off completely. I then carved the ends to ~1 inch thick so that they could slot into the ash slab.
This was a tedious process using my utility knife but it was fun nonetheless. After some time I was left with this:
Step 5. Fitting the legs
Here’s where it became a little more complicated. Because my slab wasn’t flat on both sides, I had to make a jig to align the legs to the underside of the table. I started by visually aligning each leg and once I had a rough idea of the angle, I drilled 1-inch wide holes at the approximate angle. I’ll show you how I ensured each leg was level in a second.
Here is the jig I made to help align each of the legs. It was a simple 2×1 inch piece of timber cut to 32cm depth and enough width to stretch across the whole table.
Now I was able to cut each leg to the correct length and glue them into the drilled holes. It’s important to apply a good covering of glue to ensure a strong fix between the leg and top. Wood glue will provide a very strong bond but ensure you wipe any excess glue off before it dries.
Whilst the glue dried I tied the leg to the jig to prevent any movement and ensure a perfect level seat.
I repeated this process for all the legs.
Step 6. Finishing touches
With each leg fixed in place, I returned to the top for one last sanding session. With 320-grit paper, I sanded until ultra smooth and all marks were removed.
Before applying a finish to the wood, it’s important to raise the grain. Raising the grain refers to a technique used to enhance the smoothness of the wood surface. When wood is exposed to moisture, such as water-based finishes, stains or even just plain water during the cleaning process, the wood fibers can swell or become slightly rough. This can result in a rough or fuzzy texture on the wood surface.
To counteract this, I often raise the grain intentionally before applying a finish. Here’s how to complete this process:
- Dampening the Wood: First, I lightly wet the surface of the wood with a damp cloth. I didn’t soak the wood; just moistened it enough to raise the grain.
- Allowing it to Dry: After dampening the wood, I allowed it to dry completely. As the wood dried, the moisture caused the wood fibres to swell and stand up slightly from the surface.
- Sanding: Once the wood is dry, I sanded it lightly with 320-grit sandpaper. This sanding action removes the raised wood fibres, resulting in a smoother surface.
- Final Sanding and Finishing: After raising and sanding the grain, I used a Colron Satin Lacquer to complete the tabletop. I applied 4 layers, allowing 3 hours between each layer.
On this occasion, I’ve chosen to apply lacquer because it doesn’t impart any colour to the wood; it remains entirely clear. Instead, it provides a durable satin finish to the wood while preserving its original colour.
I allowed each coat to dry for 3-4 hours before adding the next one. To ensure a thin and even application, I used a lint-free cloth. I prefer this method over using a brush because it prevents the lacquer from being applied too thickly, which can result in improper drying and leave a sticky finish.
There we have the finished project. I hope you have equal success in making your own DIY slab coffee table. Feel free to reach out with any questions in the comments section below. Before you get started have a quick look at some of my top tips and commonly asked questions below.
Important tips to get the best from your solid wood table
Only use dry wood
Ensure the wood is dry before working on it. Wood takes time to dry once it’s been cut down. It can take a year or two for a solid piece of timber to fully season. During this seasoning process, the wood can move, twisting and turning as the moisture evaporates from the grain. It’s important to store the wood on a flat surface an wait until the moisture level is below 20% before you work with it. Larger pieces will take longer to season so be prepared to wait un to 3 years for a large piece to be ready to work on. If you can have the pieces kiln dried this can save a lot of time.
Only use good quality wood glue
When undertaking this woodworking project, it’s crucial to remember that the adhesive you choose plays a pivotal role in the durability and longevity of your creation. Always opt for premium-quality wood glue to ensure a strong and lasting bond between your legs and the top. See below for my recommendation.
How to use epoxy resin when making a live edge coffee table
Epoxy resin is a great way to fill holes and splits in solid pieces of wood. With the use of an epoxy resin kit, you can pour a mixture into the holes that will solidify like glass. Once cured the resin can be cut and sanded in much the same way as wood.
You’ll need to ensure the liquid resin doesn’t leak out of the holes so you might need to build a suitable box for the slab to sit in. You can read more about this process in my other guide all about pouring resin.
How thick should a slab table be?
When dealing with a tree slab for a project, it’s crucial to check its thickness because thinner pieces are prone to warping, twisting and cupping. For constructing a tree slab coffee table, it’s advisable to opt for a minimum thickness of 2 inches.
Tools required to make this tree slab coffee table
Here’s a list of tools I used to craft this DIY solid ash coffee table. You might not need all of them for your own table and may decide to opt for some cheaper models but here are my recommendations.
Dewalt DCS391N 18V 165mm XR Circular Saw
- Powerful and highly efficient PM58 DeWALT fan cooled motor with replaceable brushes
- Extremely durable design, including a cast magnesium base, which allows repetitive, accurate cuts
- Intelligent trigger allows total control over all applications
- Ergonomic handle set with rubber overmould provides optimum comfort to the user
- Key-less bevel angle and depth of cut adjustment with easy to read scale for maximum cordless versatility
- Spindle lock for quick and easy blade change
Dewalt DCP580N 18V XR Brushless Planer
- On-board blade storage and Torx key enable fast blade change and minimise downtime
- Large front and rear shoe for improved stability
- Powerful brushless motor provides smooth planing performance combined with extended runtime
- Lightweight, compact and ergonomic design for comfortable use in all orientations
- Large twin blade drum with TCT blades for high quality surface finish
DEWALT DCW210N-XJ 18V XR Cordless Sander
- Variable speed to match the speed to the application.
- Texturized rubber overmold grip for more comfortable sanding.
- Low height gets you closer to the work surface for more control when sanding.
- Brushless motor provides long run time.
- Replaceable 8-hole hook-and-loop sanding pad for quick, easy paper changing.
WORKPRO Sanding Discs, 125mm/5-inch
60/80/100/120/150/180/240/320/400/600 Grits Assorted
- High Quality Aluminum Oxide Abrasive
- Hook and Loop Backing
- 10 Different Grits
DEWALT DCK266M2T 18V Brushless Combi + Driver
Twin Kit + 2 x 4.0Ah Batteries
- 18V Brushless Combi and Driver
- 2 x 4.0Ah Batteries
- Brushless Motor Technology
- lightweight design allows use in confined spaces
- Two speed all metal transmission
EVO-STIK Wood Glue
- Extra Strong,
- Fast Setting,
- Suitable For All Wood Types,
- Dries Clear
Crafting a coffee table from a tree slab is not only an achievable DIY project but also a deeply rewarding one. With a few basic tools, patience, and a touch of creativity, you can transform a humble tree slab into a stunning piece of furniture that reflects your unique style and appreciation for natural beauty. Throughout this guide, we’ve walked you through the step-by-step process, highlighting the importance of selecting the right wood species and offering tips to overcome common challenges.
Before you jump into this project, remember that your coffee table isn’t just a piece of furniture; it’s a work of art that tells a story. The character of the tree, the live edge and the craftsmanship you invest will make it a centrepiece of your living space, sparking conversations and admiration from all who encounter it.
So, whether you’re a seasoned woodworker or a novice, don’t hesitate to take on the challenge of creating your coffee table from a tree slab. With the right guidance and a passion for craftsmanship, you can turn a natural wonder into a functional masterpiece that you’ll be proud to display in your home for years to come.