In this blog article, I’m taking on a large and rather challenging live edge woodworking project. Trapped inside a big, standing dead white oak tree is my new office desk, and my task is to get it out. The design that I have in mind for this project is a desk made from a book-matched pair of crotch sections from the tree. For those unfamiliar with the term “book matching” it’s when you match up two wood surfaces so that they mirror each other, giving the impression of an opened book.
The first step for this build was to slab out the crotch section of this tree where two big limbs came together. As usual, I did this with my Granberg Alaskan chainsaw mill. Even that first step was quite challenging in this case though, as my chainsaw bar was not quite long enough mill out these sections in one, even pass, so, I had to slab out the wood in a rather unorthodox fashion from both sides of the tree, which unfortunately resulted in a not so even or smooth cut.
To make matters worse, the wood was starting to crack and split a little bit right down the centerline of these slabs, so I had to immediately reinforce them by gluing and clamping them together and filling in a few areas with wood filler in hopes that they’d stay together while drying out. Thankfully, the slabs didn’t split during the year-long drying process, however, they did significantly warp…even though I had some very heavy weights set on top of them while drying.
The next step in this project was to remedy the warping situation by leveling out these big slabs. To do so, I used my routing sled to flatten out each section as best as I could…which was a very labor-intensive process, as white oak is an extremely hard wood and I had to remove a lot of material in order to eliminate the warps. By the way, I made some recent videos on both the topics of drying wood as well as how to make a router sled for such projects, so be sure to check those out later in you’re interested.
After I flattened and leveled the bottom sides of the slabs, I built a simple frame to mount the two slabs together on and then secured the slabs to the frame with wood glue and pocket hole screws.
While the wood glue was drying and I took a break from working on the project, I put my heavy weights back on the slabs to help prevent further warping. As I found out from a fellow live edge woodworker and certainly experienced, this white oak has a terrible tendency to just keep on warping and bending every time you do anything to it as it’s such a dense, fibrous wood.
After the slabs were mounted on the table frame, I flipped it over and leveled out the top side of the slabs. I waited until later in the project to level out the top, again to allow for any last-minute warping of the wood before I did a final flattening on it.
As you can see below, there are lots of marks left behind from the routing sled which had to be sanded out, which I did with an old fashioned sanding block, 60 grit paper, and lots of elbow grease.
After the initial heavy-duty sanding, I worked both the back and the top of the desk over with my palm sander, working my way down from 80 grit to 200 grit paper, which was very time consuming for such a big project, but it had to be done.
Before doing the final finish on the top of the desk, I painted the underside and frame with some flat black paint.
In preparation for finishing the top, I went over the entire surface thoroughly with a shop vac and wiped it down with a lint-free cloth. Next, I gave the top of the desk a light coat of Colonial Maple colored stain to bring out the highlights of the wood more.
I decided to do an epoxy resin finish on this desk, so the next step was to apply a very light seal coat. As always, I highly recommend buying mixing and application supplies from your local dollar store, as anything you use while working with epoxy resin is going to be pretty much shot afterward. And of course, you also need to take the time to follow the mixing instructions for your epoxy resin very strictly and don’t cut any corners. So after the epoxy was all mixed up and good to go, I simply applied a very light seal coat to the desk, which really helps eliminate all the bubbles from forming when your do your final finishing flood coat later. Of course, bubbles still form in your seal coat as well, which you have to pop by lightly going over the surface with a propane torch.
After the seal coat dried I lightly sanded the whole thing down, while immediately vacuuming up the dust, as epoxy resin dust is both terrible for you as well as your tools, and then I wiped the whole thing down with some rubbing alcohol in preparation for the final flood coat of epoxy.
Before I applied the final flood coat, I made sure the desk was nice and level, and then poured on and spread out the epoxy resin. While the epoxy began to dry, as always, I had to keep an eye out for bubbles and keep going over the surface lightly with a torch. I also continually scraped the underside of the table edges with a spatula to get rid of all the drips that form while the epoxy continues to spread out and dry. However, they still end up forming to some degree.
After the epoxy was good and dry, which takes a couple of days, I did some touch-up work to the desk. I sanded down the areas where drips formed while drying and then attached and secured the legs, which I put together with a simple set of mounting brackets. After it was all put together, I gave it a touch-up paint job, let it all dry, and set it up in my office area.
So there you have it, that’s an overview of the build. Check out the video below to see more…