Native Edge Furniture

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Jul 12, 2012 | Kevin Stevens

A custom native edge wood desk by the author. When someone looks at a refined and finished piece of wood furniture most will agree that is came from a tree.  It is made from wood, right, and wood comes from trees?  One style of furniture makes the “tree-to-wood” connection even more obvious. This style of furniture is also known as "native edge furniture" and over the years it is still one of my favorite builds.  

Not just for log cabins

Just as log cabins seem to evoke a rustic style, native edge furniture and woodworking does it as well, but on a much smaller and portable scale. Some of the challenges with working with native edge lumber have to deal with the overall design. Some edges are far more rustic than others and this can greatly influence the project.

A good majority of the lumber I use for my native edge work is locally sawn and processed. This is good on a few fronts…native or locally sourced materials are "greener" that those that may be shipped hundreds if not thousands of miles.

Native edge wood at the lumber yard. Photo by the author.

Another is that this wood is acclimated to my local climate. I have done lots of repair work on clients' formal furniture that has traveled from humid tropical locations to the high dry regions where my Denver-area carpentry clients are.  Wood movement and poor engineering can lead to disaster in some pieces.  Building with solid stable material, and using time-tested methods that can accommodate wood movement, are keys to longevity.

Processing the lumber

My primary native lumber supplier sells two basic forms of material. The first is raw, which is basically right off the stack of sawn boards. This lumber is cut on site using a band saw mill and then stacked into a flitch. This is great if you want to keep the color and grain texture the same as you can build an entire project (book matched in some cases) from a single tree.

The other form that they sell is minimally processed.  In most cases this lumber may have been ripped on one side and/or run through a planner. With planned stock it is a lot easier to see the grain patterns. Most of my purchases however are in the raw state. Thirty plus years of woodworking has given me an eye to see grain in the raw and a shop full of tools to convert rough wood into furniture.

Depending on the size of the boards and the scope and scale of the project I will use a combination of hand and power tools to convert nature's bounty in workable and beautiful pieces of art.  Art is a good comparison as each board is unique and therefor each project is one of a kind. 

Here are a few samples of what can be created with native edge material.

A native edge wood jewelry box made by the author.

A native edge wood book case made by the author.

Kevin Stevens of KMS Woodworks is a carpenter, remodeler and tile contractor.

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