Creating A Custom Piece Starts With the Perfect Slab

We begin!

Wandering the aisles of live edge slabs with a client can be intimidating, but it is one of the most gratifying when they finally see a slab and say "this is it, this is the one!". Becky, a young professional, remodeling her dining room on Cape Cod was looking for that statement piece for her home. 

I checked out her space, took measurements and discussed what her vision was for the room.  Often, I source the slabs, take photos, search online for inventory without the client ever leaving their living room, but Becky chose to join me on the search for the perfect slab.  This was going to be fun!

On a beautiful early spring day we drove 3.5 hours from her home to one of our suppliers in Western MA. Becky had already combed their online inventory and settled on finding the perfect Walnut slab. During the drive we discussed what she was going to see at the mill. Lumber in the rough, looks very different from those tables she admired on home decor websites. She would see walnut that was dull and muted in color, not that deep rich brown. She would see knots, "imperfections" , rough edges and even crevices in the wood. How would she know when she found the perfect slab? We just said, "you will know".


At first, the 3 buildings and row upon row of slabs was daunting. Size and thickness of the slab immediately narrows down the search and of course what would suit her budget. Next would be to look at the shape of the slab and the grain of the wood.  Did she want something with a great deal of "character" or something that was more uniform? We wandered the rows, took photos of slabs that would make the final cut and then after 3 hours of searching, sat down for a break to discuss what we had seen.  

One of the most challenging parts of the process is to manage the expectations of the client and try to get them to envision, what we see, through our years of experience, the final product. The natural character of the wood needs to be respected and admired. What some may see as imperfections is what makes each piece special. The goal is to work with the unique aspects of each slab rather than try to change them. In this way, Becky was very teachable!  She chose a slab that had multiple interesting features in the grain, was a very different width on each end and even had a crevice on one end. The slab she finally chose was one of the first pieces she saw and said "this is it, this is the one!". We searched for another two hours just to be sure.  

Delivery day is always a bit nerve wracking. Transporting and moving a large piece into a space with not always ideal access can be a challenge, but the most concerning is, will the custom piece meet the clients expectations. From a raw slab to a dining table that will see the gathering of friends and family for many years. Becky's reaction was priceless as it came through her door. "I never thought you could see what was in my head for months, but it just walked in my door."

The Process...

Choosing a slab was very different for Rebecca and Portia the mother/daughter team, owners at 45 Surfside Bakery and Cafe on Nantucket. They had been combing the internet for a table that would suit the style and use for their busy establishment. Coming up empty handed and getting ready to settle for something less than they had hoped, they contacted me to create a custom dining and two high top tables. (delete for them)  They showed me lots of images of what they had in mind and I went searching for the slab at several of our suppliers.  Living on an island 30 miles out to sea and running a busy restaurant did not allow Rebecca and Portia to go on a "field trip" to the mills. 

Many photos and conversations later, they settled on a thick, slab of Parota, that has a bold, striking wood grain and distinctive creamy sapwood along the edge. The golden brown hues warms up the sunny space. Back in the shop I was able to cut the 2 high-tops and dining table out of the one slab, so the color and grain would match. Metal legs were chosen and on move in day Rebecca said "It is spectacular, exactly what we wanted for this space, we could not of asked for anything more, thank you."