Hardwoods, Live Edge, Epoxy
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When we think about wood, there are two main types: Softwood and hardwood. What many people do not know is that this classification has less to do with the actual hardness of the wood but more to do with the tree itself. Trees with needles, like Spruce and Juniper are classified as softwoods, whereas trees with leaves, like Maple and Oak, belong to the hardwood classification. There are some softwoods that are actually harder than some hardwoods, so while hardwoods are typically more dense and solid, that is not true in every situation.
Hardwood tables and desks are often made of a couple of different wood species. Domestically, Maple, Walnut, Hickory, Cherry and Oak are what you might expect, and the number of species increases dramatically if you look at wood not native to the United States, those that are called 'exotic', like Purpleheart, Padauk, Wenge and Teak.
Many of the tables I have created start with Walnut or Hickory as the largest part of the table top. Walnut is a little softer than Hickory, but has such a unique grain pattern, ranging from almost black to a very light tan. Hickory is also a very good choice. It is much more uniform in color while still having some grain character, and while it has wood pores which are more open than Walnut, it is a much harder wood as far as longevity. Hickory is actually one of the hardest woods you will commonly find here in the United States. (Yes, even harder than Oak!). If I am building something for myself, I also like to throw in something unique or unexpected as well to add color and appeal.
A traditional table or piece of furniture, whether constructed of soft or hard wood, has boards that are most commonly uniform and smooth.In contrast, Live Edge wood retains at least one natural edge making it slightly more irregular and appealing in some applications. If the piece of lumber is thick and of enough length, it can be turned into a live edge table or desk.
Live Edge tables also make a great starting point for a River Table, where epoxy resin is added to the table to form what looks like a river. I use a couple of types of epoxy resins in my workshop depending on how deep a 'pour' I am looking for. The three types I use come in two parts, and when mixed and then colored, they can be poured into the wood design. The reaction of the two parts creates a mixture that gives off heat and it must be carefully monitored for several hours, ensuring any air bubbles that form are quickly eliminated with a blow torch.
Below are examples of how a live edge versus straight edges look with epoxy.
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