One of the most in-demand furniture pieces for homes right now is the river table. The sleek curves and smooth finish of this classic table, which first came to prominence in the 1970s and has seen a resurgence in recent years, make a timelessly elegant addition to anyone's living room. Many major homeware brands sell their own versions of a live edge river table, often with a high price tag.
How to Create Your Own Live Edge River Table From Scratch
Luckily, I've learned that with the right tools and materials, anyone can make their own professional-quality river table with just a little bit of elbow grease! The best part about making your own is that you can create your own pattern on the table that will give you a truly unique and personalized statement piece for your living room. If you're ready to make your own, simply roll up your sleeves and read my simple and straightforward how-to guide to learn more.
Tools & Materials
In order to get this right, you're going to need have the right tools and materials to hand before you get started. Cutting the curves and getting the different pieces of wood to fit together perfectly can only really be done with some serious hardware, meaning that an electric buzz saw and sanding belt is an absolute must.
Here is the full list of tools and materials that I used to create my first epoxy river table from scratch:
- 4 hairpin steel table legs: I opted for an industrial style look for my table legs, which is why I chose a matte black color, but you can choose any legs you want.
- A pack of 40 grit flap disks: These are essential for getting the live edges that you'll want for your table.
- A set of IRWIN parallel clamps: These are what you will need to use to hold down the planks of wood before you start carving them.
- A Cutech 40160H-CT 6" Bench Top Spiral Cutterhead Jointer: If you already have your own jointer at home, you should be fine, as long as it is adjustable.
- A GLUBOT fastcap wood glue dispenser: This makes it a lot easier to apply the wood glue before you put the whole thing together.
- A SuperMax 19-38 Drum Sander
- A Festool 571782 RO 125 FEQ Rotex Sander: A high-quality sander like this will give you the smooth finish you are looking for.
- Festool 574432 Domino Joiner DF 500 Q Set
- General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat, 1 Quart, Satin
- Large slabs of high-quality wood for the table surface: You can use cherry, oak, or walnut.
- Some 2x4 plywood planks to use as the templates for the edge cutting.
- A rubber mallet.
First up, you're going to want to make sure all of your materials are to-hand before you get started. I laid the wood I'd chosen for the tabletop face-down on a flat surface, and then placed the plywood boards on top of them. Make sure all of your cutting and sanding tools are at the ready and take the time to clear the room completely, as I learned that this whole process requires a lot of space.
I used the plywood as a stencil for my live edge table that would allow me to know exactly how to cut the wood the right way so that all of the pieces would slot together seamlessly at the end. First, I took a pencil and used it to draw the 'wave' pattern on the plywood boards. I made sure to draw patterns on my plywood that complimented each other, as you'll want these boards to fit together. Don't worry about cutting it just perfectly, as you can sand them down to perfection later on. Once I was happy with my lines, I then used the saw on my jointer to make the cuts on the plywood.
Once I was happy with the cuts I had made on the plywood, the next step was to attach them to the tabletop pieces. As I mentioned earlier, I did this because the plywood cuts act as the 'stencil' that allows me to make accurate cuts into the tabletop the first time around, meaning none of that high-quality wood has to go to waste. I used some wood glue to attach the plywood boards to the wood and then clamped them down in place before I began making cuts to the actual wood. Make sure the boards are perfectly aligned before you start cutting.
The next step is to start cutting those faux live edges! Using the plywood as a template, I simply followed the edges I had cut earlier and made the exact same cuts to the tabletop wood. Remember to go slowly and carefully during this stage, as a misplaced saw can throw the whole design out of shape. Follow the edges of the plywood carefully to ensure that the cuts you make are an exact replica.
If you have managed to make the cuts just right, all of the tabletop wood slabs just fit together nicely. I assembled my tabletop boards on a flat surface and assessed how they would slot together. If it doesn't quite fit, feel free to make some extra cuts if you need to! Once I knew that everything would fit together perfectly, then the hard part was officially over! I then just needed to pull the plywood off. When doing this, a good yank should do it, but if you're having trouble then use a flat tool to get between the plywood and the tabletop wood to yank it free.
Then it was time to properly assemble my epoxy river table into one piece. I used my domino joiner to punch domino holes along the edges of each board at regular intervals, taking care to ensure that all of the holes were made at the same intervals and that all of the boards matched up with each other so that they would fit. Use a tape measure if you want to guarantee that all of your dominoes are marked in the right places, as getting this wrong might mean that you will have to start again from scratch. Just do as I did and take your time with this somewhat delicate process.
Before joining all of the tabletop parts together, it's important to make sure all of the edges are as smooth as possible. I took my sander and firmly ran it along the edges where I had marked and placed my dominoes. Not only will this help to get rid of any sawdust that built up during the placing process, but it will also make sure that any rough edges are removed and that the pieces will slot together more easily when you're ready.
Now it's time to attach the boards of your live edge river table. The first thing I did was grab my glue gun and run it along the edges where I'd marked your dominoes. Then, you'll want to place the wooden dominoes in the marked areas and hammer them in with a rubber mallet. Make sure that all of the dominoes are firmly stuck in there and that they don't wobble when you touch them. Once you're satisfied that everything is in place, the only thing left to do is to lift the boards and slot them in place to create a single slab. When mine was completed, it measured about 27 inches in width.
Don't be surprised if the single wooden slab looks a little bit misshapen as first. This is where your saw and sander will come in handy. Simply make any additional cuts you want to the edges in order to give it the curved style that you want with a live edge river table. Once you've done this to your liking, grab your sander and start filing down the edges until they look soft and smooth, just like you want them to.
A long-lasting river table needs a sleek and smooth finish. Grab your oil-based topcoat and a paintbrush and start applying a generous coating to the top surface of the wood. Make sure that every inch of the wood is covered in the seal. Once this has dried, you can flip it over and do the same to the sides and the bottom of the tabletop. After this, you'll want to leave the whole thing to dry for a little while.
Now it's time to make sure your table is completely and totally free of rough edges. Just grab a piece of cardboard and start scrubbing the top. This will help get rid of any rough wood and ensure there aren't any unseemly bubbles on the surface. Make sure to go over every inch of the tabletop and don't be afraid to use plenty of elbow grease!
Once this process is completed, all that's left is to attach the table legs. I took my power drill and the screws that had arrived with the legs, and fastened the leg brackets to each corner of the table. After this, you can attach the metal legs. Remember to make sure that all of the legs are aligned so that your table isn't off-balance.
After this, simply place your table where you want it and voila! This project may make you break a sweat, but it's completely worth it for a truly unique statement piece that will stand the test of time. If you liked this project, make sure to share it with your friends who might want to create a DIY wood river table of their very own.