How to build a Rustic Kitchen Table
Rustic kitchen tables are one of the larger items we sell regularly here at Redwood Burl Inc. By larger, I mean up to just over 20 feet in length. Rustic can have many meanings. When most people think of rustic kitchen tables, they think of a farmhouse table. These were usually made using reclaimed materials, or whatever materials were available to the woodworker at the time.
Using Salvaged Redwood
Here in Humboldt County, CA, in the heart of redwood country, people have been taking a different approach to reclaimed materials for over a century. We’ve been using salvaged redwood to make our version of the rustic kitchen table for years. One big advantage to using salvaged redwood is we are able to make rustic tables out of a single piece of wood. This is due to the incredible size that redwood trees grow to – some have a diameter of close to 30 feet at the base.
Today, old growth redwood trees are a protected resource. Barely a quarter of a million acres of old growth remain. They are found either in state parks or forest reserves of some type such as the Headwaters Forest pictured below.
Before any wood can enter our facility, it must be inspected. We have to know where the wood came from and how it was obtained. Whether it comes from private property or a large lumber company, we are looking for either salvaged “buckskin” logs or harvested tree stumps from private land. Our “how we do it” Page will give you more information on this.
The owner, Landon Buck, personally authenticates the origin of all wood before transporting it to our yard, where it is stored until milled into slabs. We are very resourceful, and from what I’ve seen, we can transport pretty much anything, either by truck with a Gooseneck trailer or a logging truck if need be.
On occasion, the wood sometimes needs a bit more processing before being moved to our facility. In this case we just have to make it smaller and more manageable, as you can see in the following video:
Rustic Kitchen Tables – Milling slabs from logs & stumps
We usually store our wood in our large main yard until it is slated to be processed into a more usable form, such as a slab. We have several mills here at our facility, each one for cutting a different type of material. In the spirit of keeping some secrets, this page is only going to be focusing on our older technology.
In the following short video, you can see one of our mill operators cutting slabs out of a salvaged redwood root burl:
We are very fortunate to have a big enough facility to store all of our cut slabs indoors, year round. All of our wood is stored with “stickers” between them allowing air to move between to slabs, dissipating moisture into the air at a higher rate. In addition, five big truck doors on our warehouse ensure plenty of air flow through our building. Here are some pictures of our storage areas. If you are looking for rustic kitchen tables, our indoor facility is right up there with a trip to heaven from what I’ve been told.
Rustic Kitchen Tables – Determining the size of your table
When determining the size of your rustic kitchen table, there are a few things to consider. The first is the size of your room and the space available for your table. You then need to consider how many people you’re going to want to seat around that table. Lastly, you will need to take into consideration any environmental considerations such as chandeliers and the like, in case you need to ensure the table is positioned in a certain way.
When considering room size, you will want to leave 42″ to 48″ of space around your table for walking and room for moving chairs back away from the table. Also consider other items that will be in the room, such as buffets or serving carts, etc. You can better visualize the tables actual space by setting a sheet on the floor, folded to your table size. Newspaper or cardboard templates will also work.
How Many People Can Sit at Your Table?
To determine how many people will be able to sit down you want to start with a slab with a width of about 36-40″. We then usually estimate about 24″ per/person. A 4′ long slab seats two people on each side while a 10′ table seats five per side. This allows one person on each end, unless your table is in the 4’+ width range, then you might be able to put two or more on each end.
Round or square tables are also an option, below is a chart for sizing round tables:
Determining the Height of Your Table
Lastly, you will need to determine the height of your table. For this, we need to consider your seating arrangement. Normal table height is about 28″ to 30″. However, if you have chairs with arms, you will need to measure the arm height and table thickness to determine your final height. For a counter height rustic kitchen table, you are looking at about 36″ tall. For a bar height kitchen table w/ bar stools, you would want closer to 40″ tall to enable you to scoot under the table top a bit.
I myself have a bar height kitchen table/kitchen countertop with bar stools all the way around it. Because of the height I’ve been able to use a wide base that incorporates some sturdy shelving to store our cast iron pans. The base is also far enough from the edge of the slab top to accommodate wheel chairs as well.
Rustic Kitchen Tables – Types of Grain
Once you have determined the size of your rustic table, you are ready to move on to the next step and pick your slab. You will find our site is broken up into sections accordingly. Longer table are going to require tree slabs like those listed on our dining table pages. These are cuts from the longest part of the tree, the trunk. This is where our big logs come from. For a square or round table, you would want to take a look at our burl slabs. These are from the stump area of the tree and are wider. Keep in mind, these burl slabs may need to be cut and shaped to your final dimensions.
Now it is time to consider what type of character you want for your table. This is essentially the type of grain you’re going to want. The more economical slabs have less going on in them grain wise, or what we refer to as straight grain. The pictures below show examples of straight grain and curly grain.
For pieces with more character, or better grain, it helps to know what type of grain you are looking for. For more information, take a peek at this page on burl and its grain patterns. The better the grain, the higher the premium will be on that wood.
Not All Redwood Logs are Created Equal
The reason for the premium is that not all redwood has spectacular grain. Salvaged logs tend to have better grain than most logs in general. This is because most salvaged logs are usually buckskins, or logs from a previous harvest. These logs were left behind because they were not lumber quality. This is because they had spectacular grain that was not suitable to be milled. At the time, these logs were not worth moving and were left where they fell.
Curl is a perfect example of spectacular grain that looks incredible in a rustic dining table. Curl is a compression grain, and is caused when trees grow on a hillside, straightening themselves out in the process. This straightening causes compression grain on the uphill side of the tree, usually along the edge, but on rare occasions all the way across as well. Because curl is so rare, these high quality pieces demand a premium price.
The Width of Your Table
Another factor that will affect price is width. Wider slabs get a premium price for the same reason, they are far and few between. Since large redwoods are no longer harvested, the only way to get these wider salvaged logs is to buy them from the lumber companies. They know what they are selling, and they too demand a premium as well.
Today, good burl is not as readily available as it once was, even here in the heart of redwood country. People have been hunting burls here for more than 100 years. It was always a good way to make some income on the side, especially in the off seasons. Most people accumulated small stock piles of burl material, to come back for in the off season, which can last several months here on the west coast. All of the easy burls to get have already been harvested.
We have stricter policies in place today, and no longer purchase wood from just anyone without knowing its origin. Today, we’ve taken a firm stand in favor of our environment. If it came to the point where we were unable to get more logs due to an end in supply, we have the inventory to keep our mills running 8 hours a day for another 5 years or more.
Rustic Kitchen Tables – Choosing your slab
Now that you have your final dimensions and an idea of what you are looking for in terms of character, it time to build a table. For larger rustic kitchen tables, I would suggest starting on our dining tables page for slabs over 36″, and our conference tables for slabs in the 44″ – 60″ range. Basically what you are looking for is something the right size or larger than what you actually need, as we can always re-size the slabs smaller. As I’ve mentioned previously, prices on pieces of wood with the same size may vary based on the grain. Once you find the combination you feel comfortable with, give us a call or fill our our inquiry form.
If you don’t see just what you are looking for, take note of the slabs you do like, even if they are sold or too small. When you call, let us know what it is about those pieces that you like, and in our vast inventory we can most likely find you the perfect piece. Only a small fraction of our inventory can be put online and we make updates daily.
Rustic Kitchen Tables – Finishing
Once you have decided on a slab, it’s time to think about finish. The beauty of buying your slabs from us is that you can buy just the material and finish it yourself, or buy a fully finished table ready to use. I personally am the do-it-yourself kind of guy so I have to do it myself! Last year I took a slab home for the kitchen in my own home. However, it was not quite ready for a hard finish. I stained it, installed it, and I’m going to finish it right this summer.
If you decide to do it yourself, you can have your slab shipped directly to your home or a commercial address of your choice. We can help you pick a finish based on your application, and give you some pointers along the way. You can also find some useful information right here in our blog.
Have Us Finish Your Table
The other option is to have the table fully finished for you. You can order it already finished from us or have it done locally. We are able to finish right here in house and we do a fabulous job. We can also have it finished by the best finisher we know, who has been working with our wood for years. Kelly at www.littlebranchfarm.com. We can arrange to have it shipped there on his next regular shipment at no charge, and you will just pay for the shipping from Nashville, TN to your location.
Kelly has been finishing tables for us for years now. He uses his own proprietary finish that dries good and hard and lasts for years. The main reason we do not finish everything in house is climate. We are only a mile from the west coast, and our average daily temperature is only 60°, not warm enough for a finish to dry most of the year. While Nashville has more extreme weather, it is much warmer overall. This makes it more suitable for getting a nice finish to dry.
Rustic Kitchen Tables – Shipping info
We can ship our slabs anywhere in the country and also internationally. We will get you a big discount off of normal FedEx and Con-Way shipping rates. Shipments to a commercial address are going to save you a bit of money, but we are also able to offer residential delivery with lift-gate service right to your door. Finished tables do ship at a higher rate than raw wood, but we still get you that big discount!