We are often asked by potential clients to show them pictures of live edge Walnut slabs so that they can choose two or three to make their showpiece dining or conference table from. While this is a valid request and completely understandable, we are usually left asking if they can trust us to select the slabs that best represents what they have in mind for that dream table. This is not due to arrogance on our part but rather an attempt to make certain that they are a very satisfied client when their table is installed in their home, restaurant or conference room. We recommend letting our trusted professional table makers pick you the perfect pieces as our rough cut kiln dried slabs are water stained, surface bleached and quite unattractive after the long drying process.
Let me explain a bit about our live edge slabs, where they come from and what they look like after they have been removed from our kiln. When our Walnut logs are first cut they are 90% moisture content and are literally dripping wet. As they are stacked, freshly cut from the sawmill, they are soaked, as if they are sweating. By the time we have transported the slabs to our air drying facility and stickered them, they have already been water-stained, a condition that remains until wide belt sanding which is the beginning of the table making process.
To further exasperate the "fugly stage", as we call it, the kiln with its high temperatures tend to make our Walnut slabs look bleached out to a point where a casual observer would not believe that the slabs are indeed Black Walnut live edge boards. With the slabs having been taken all the way down to 6%" moisture content during the kiln cycle, the washed out appearance of the slabs is quite apparent. This bleaching, the water staining and the rough cut surface makes selecting raw slabs a very daunting, if not impossible task to the untrained eye.
Here is a perfect example regarding a custom live edge dining table we crafted for a client in Pennsylvania. After months of searching, he finally found us, and he desired to have a Black Walnut live edge dining table made for him that was unique with plenty of interest or "wow factor". He described to me that he wanted movement and variation in color with darker tones with "highlights" and of course the light sapwood that is so appealing in Black Walnut live-edge. He also wanted some knots, filled of course, and a general feel that his table came from a living tree. These are all relativly common and easily found traits in Black Walnut slabs for us but it is often quite difficult for the novice to see these characteristics rough cut slabs.
As we conversed, our client asked for images of slabs which I did provide. Of course none of the images I provided came anywhere close to looking like one of our finished tables, which he had already fallen in love with by that point. Our client began to feel as if "his ultimate table" did not exist, which is an emotion that many custom table seekers express to me. His doubts and frustration were getting quite deep but I did my absolute best to assure him that all of our stunning live edge Black Walnut tables come from these ugly, water stained and bleached out slabs. I begged for his trust and assured him that his concerns were quite common and he finally let go and let us do what we do best in "finding the perfect slabs for our clients live edge table tops".
The first image that I had provided our client was one of two slabs, from the same tree of course, that I knew would make his dream table a reality. He had immediately rejected these slabs, but with over a decade and a half of experience looking deeply into rough cut slabs, I knew that he would love the table these slabs would evolve into. To provide a visual example, the images below show this set of rough slabs next to his finished table.
As you can see, the rough slabs look nothing like the finished table. The drab, water stained and washed out appearance is gone and the underlying beauty of this Black Walnut has been revealed to the world. Ten minutes after the delivery and installation of the table in our clients dining room, I received a phone call from him stating that the top was beyond his expectations and apologizing for being a pain in the you know what. I think he was genuinely shocked but I assured him that his doubts were completely normal and quite acceptable since I knew the final outcome before I even selected those first slabs to photograph. Again, this is not meant to be arrogant in the slightest but it is rather our job to select the perfect raw, stained and ugly kiln dried slabs and turn them into a unique showpiece live edge table that will endure generations.
The dying southern Wisconsin Black Walnut tree that provided these slabs lives again as a showpiece live-edge dining table in our clients' Pennsylvania home.