Our bedroom has built-in cabinets either side of a Velux window. They’re handy for storage, but they were a catch-all for clutter. I felt like they were crying out to be better utilised. I wanted to add a big piece of wood to the top and turn it into a desk and vanity area, ideally with a live edge (also called a waney edge), where the natural edge of the wood slab isn’t squared off.
Naively, I thought it would be pretty straightforward – find wood, put on top. Done.
Where and How to Buy Live Edge Wood
Turns out, it was a little more complicated. The room is 3.3 meters (a little under 11′) wide, and therein lay the first hurdle. There are plenty of places to buy live edge wood slabs – eBay is good, and even B&Q. But there are not a lot of places that stock anything over 3 meters long.
I eventually found a timber yard a couple of hours away that sold timber slabs in extra long lengths. When I called them, they suggested I drive down and pick something out. They said I’d be able to take it home that day. There was a lot of lovely wood to choose from.
On their advice, I picked a lovely – and surprisingly affordable – piece of oak and paid £80 for it. Only when I went to load it into the van did I notice that it had not been planed evenly – the middle was much thicker than the edges. The sales girl was obviously aware of this. One of the other guys who worked there commented on it but she shushed him, hoping I wouldn’t notice. She was happily going to sell me a piece of wood that was obviously not fit for purpose. She got pretty crabby when I found out. It meant she had to spend more time helping me hunt down something that would work.
I settled on two planks, because I couldn’t get a single piece that was deep enough. I asked for one plank completely squared off and another keeping one waney edge intact. It turned out that they actually couldn’t plane it that day, so I had to drive back to London empty-handed, on their assurances that it would be ready to pick up in 5-7 days.
Getting the Wood Home
They eventually called me three weeks later to let me know that it was ready for pick up. Although they did offer delivery, it would have cost nearly as much as the wood itself. It also wouldn’t fit in my car, though. Fortunately, I have a very generous father, who drove down in his van and collected it up for me. They hadn’t cut it to size, even though I’d paid for it, so we just had them chain saw the end off so it would fit in the van and we worried about getting a straight edge later.
It cost £330 for the wood and the cutting. We live in a rental, and although I’ve basically custom-built something to perfectly fit this house, it’s also perfectly temporary. Nothing is attached, so I can take my lovely wood with me if and when we move and use it for something else (a smaller desk, a table, shelving). I did look into buying a manufactured counter top for the sake of the budget, but even the cheap Ikea ones, at that length, weren’t much more affordable. And anyway, this is so much nicer.
Building the Desk Top
Once it was in the house, my Dad kindly cut it to exactly the right length using a Japanese pull saw. Normally, he’d use a different tool, but it was all we had to hand. And it worked, really quite well.
I wasn’t sure we’d get it up the stairs – there was a plan B that involved hoisting it up the back of the house and through the window – but thankfully it just fit.
We attached the two planks together with seven metal brackets (like these) spaced out underneath. Adding wooden braces would make it stronger, but the brackets do the job. I also added furniture pads underneath, so the wood top won’t damage the built-in cabinets underneath.
Finishing the Live Edge Desk
The shop had rather butchered the edges when they ran it through the planer (also not what I paid for), but they turned out fine with a good sanding.
We used a coarse grit sand paper on the edges, and a fine grit on top, then dusted it off so it was ready for oiling.
The Desk is Done!
I’ve got one last bedroom post planned, because I need to talk more about that lamp. But I do so love how the desk turned out.