Waterfall Live Edge Mesquite Desk
I have always worked with big box lumber... as in, the stuff you can pull from the shelves at Lowe's and Home Depot. However, with my recent One Room Challenge, I wanted to put my woodworking skills to the test! We have this incredible lumber yard just six miles away from my house. In all of the years I've lived here, I had never ONCE set foot in there. Why? Because I felt intimidated. As a woman mostly... and in part because I always felt like too much of a newbie to even try to walk in and ask for something. Well! I pulled my big girl pants on and took a trip there and it is my new favorite playground! Also, I have found a new favorite challenge - working with live edge wood!
Take a trip to a local lumber yard where they have a HUGE selection of live edge slabs to choose from. This was a giant piece of mesquite wood, 92" long by 22" wide and 2" thick. Amazing.
While it was more expensive for this slab - $286 - it was nowhere near what I expected it to cost. The best part is that cost included them cleaning it up for me! Apparently, the bark will not last well on your live edge piece of furniture, so they removed the bark, any rotten sections and sanded it to 150 grit for me.
Already, I was so impressed.
This is what it looked like when they returned it to me - all clean and ready to work with!
I did not have a track saw or a table saw. So, I had to figure out how to use my simple circular saw. Remember, just a little while ago this was one of the tools I was least comfortable working with!
This was pretty simple to do. I measured for how long I wanted my desk top to be. In this case, it was 40". I tried to mark the straightest line I could - the sides of this piece are not exactly square. So I used a measuring system to estimate a straight line. From their straight cut, I measured down 40" several times and made a dot at that location. Then, it was connect the dot time!
Now that I had my straight line, I set my circular saw at a 45 degree bevel. This just meant my blade was tilted to 45 degrees. I lined it up to the edge of the line and set a piece of scrap wood flush with the shoe of my saw (the flat part that goes on the wood). Clamping that in place, I repeated a measuring system to make sure that this board would be the same distance away from the line all the way down. Finally, I clamped it in place there too.
This is important and I learned this from one of my professional woodworking friends over on Instagram. The live edge board has a lot of life left in it and will bind your blade as you cut. To prevent this dangerous binding, you can take passes - starting shallow and pass along the same line multiple times, adding depth to your cut each time.
It worked really well.
In order for them to fit together and give that waterfall effect of the grain spilling from the table to the leg, you need to cut the opposing angle on the leg piece.
That just means approaching your cut from the other side, with the same 45 degree angle so that you effectively cut a triangle away from the leg edge... Imagine the image above, but with the angled cut going in the opposite direction.
My desk is about 30" high, so I cut the leg to about 32" total (from the long edge of the angled cut to the bottom).
It is important to know how long your hairpin legs (or whatever style you choose) will be for this step. You can factor that information into how long your leg cut will need to be.
I repeated the same measuring technique to get my straight line here. Measure from the top of your angled cut to 32" multiple times and connect the dots.
Cut with a straight cut this time, using that same makeshift jig setup to help keep your blade even. Also remember to make passes as well.
This was so exciting! When the leg could actually stand up on its own. And.....
It was pretty darn close to level!
This part was also brand new to me! I've never worked with epoxy, but you can bet I will be doing it again. It was so much fun!
I used tape to seal off the bottom of the holes so that I could fill them up like little clear lakes. I also attempted to do this with the sides in some areas, but struggled more with that application.
First thing's first - clean up your piece. They recommended using rubbing alcohol and a cotton cloth to help remove all of the dust that might remain. Then, mix up your epoxy. I ordered mine off of Amazon and it came with great instructions. I mixed the resin with the hardener in order to start the exothermic reaction - it starts to heat up on its own!
Once it was mixed well together, I poured an initial sealant pour. This was supposed to help seal the wood and prevent additional future off-gassing from the wood (which makes bubbles). I passed a blow torch carefully over the surface of the epoxy after a few minutes to pop any bubbles that had formed. This was for sure a big learning process for me and I didn't do it perfectly by far. However, the only way you can get better is by learning and trying again!
I followed that up with several step pours to fill it up and spill it over the edges of the holes. Looking back, I believe I would have just done it in one fill up pour, but I will have to test that theory out next time. Each time, I popped the bubbles using the blow torch. I have to admit, that was pretty awesome!
After everything is nice and dry, sand, sand, and sand again. I went all the way up to 800 grit!
I attached two hairpin legs to the underside of the desk's top - about 2" in from the edges.
I failed miserably at this. I could not get my dowel jig to work out right so I ended up just drilling several wrong angled holes into my angled edges (the pieces that butt up against each other). What would have been nice is a true dowel jig that can be adjusted to your work piece angle! I know they have them out there, I just didn't have the money to get it at this point.
Luckily, my woodworker friend reassured me that the glue does all of the work anyway. Dowels can make your life a lot easier when lining up your piece, though.
My husband helped me line it up since this was so incredibly heavy. I glued on several scrap pieces along the corner of this joint so that it would give me a solid angle for my clamp to work with. I just cut each piece at 45 degrees and glued right to the wood.
Then, I applied a LOT of wood glue to both sides of the two edges that were coming together. I clamped it down for at least 24 hours and then removed my blocks using a chisel. Most of them came up pretty easily.
Last steps! Your desk is now standing on its own. I set it on a big cardboard box and then poured one final coat of epoxy to seal the top and sides. While you have scuffed up the epoxy with the sanding in prior steps, the new coat of epoxy turns it transparent again - it was like magic!
For the underside of the piece, I used Minwax Polyurethane to wrap everything up and then moved it inside with some help. It passed its very first test - holding my drink!
Then, I staged it up for my final reveal so you can enjoy some nice after shots!
While it isn't perfect, it is one of my prettiest furniture builds! I am definitely going to give this another shot to see if I can refine my skills on both the cutting, doweling and epoxy resin-ing. (It should be a word!)
For the full reveal post, head on over to my blog where I talk a bit about all of the pieces that went into this room!
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Carla Randall on Aug 03, 2022
You did a fabulous job! A lot of work but it resulted in what I view as a piece of natural art. This little desk will be an heirloom piece for your family. I wasn't aware of live edge pieces being available but you have inspired me to go on a quest. Thank you for sharing your process. 🥰
Laurie Cole on Aug 04, 2022
Gorgeous, I absolutely love this desk you did a beautiful job...makes me want to go get a live edge piece and give it a go.
Those big girl panties really worked. I am very impressed. What could you do/use if you wanted a more rubbed wood finish? Not the shiney of epoxy.....I know the epoxy fills in some of the holes but i love the look of oil rubbed wood......is there an option that is satin finish.