Stumped
How to Make a Tree Stump Table

Before I sold everything I owned and painted my whole house white I couldn’t buy a decorating magazine.   Why you ask?  I couldn’t put any of those nice things in my house.  It’d look stupid.  I’d look stupid.  My house would look stupid.  No matter how you looked at it, everything led to stupid.

I found most of the stuff in my house at garage sales or at the side of the road so the latest doo-dad from Fancy Store just wasn’t going to fit in.   A lace doily and a bowl of Scotch Mints?  They would fit in.  See here for proof.

So anything featured in a decorating magazine dated anything later than September of 1840 wasn’t exactly going to blend.

When I finally painted and redecorated my house, I bought some magazines.  And I started filling my house up again on a minimal (non-existent) budget.  When I saw a tree stump table teetering on stainless steel legs in Canada’s House and Home magazine, I thought “I’m gonna make me one of those”.  For free.  Yay for free furniture!

Crap.  That’s what got me into trouble with my house in the first place.  Decorating it with things I had found at the side of the road.   However, this free thing didn’t require that I scrape dried up earthworms off it, so it was bound to work out better.

I got me a stump and I made me a table.  And you can too.

stump-table-with-cleo

 

 

 

Materials:

*  Tree stump

*  Sandpaper (medium and fine grit)

*  Polyurethane (high gloss, semi-gloss, satin … whichever you want)  I used satin which has just a nice sheen

*  Paint brush

*  1 package of 4 Capita legs from Ikea (I used 6”)  $19.99

Drill and appropriate bits

Since I already have a tree stump table, (the one I made when I redid my house) for this post I had to make another.  So when I went to order my fireplace wood I told the old guy who runs the business I needed a stump to make a table out of.  He dragged me to the back of the woodpile and pointed to a huge walnut log.  He said that’s your table.

He got out his chainsaw and eyeballed a perfectly level cut.  The stump table had begun.

He threw it in my trunk and I took it home.

I don’t care how you get your stump … just get one.

That is step number 1.  Get a stump.

Your legs will be 6 inches high, so figure out how tall your stump needs to be for where you want to put it.

My stump is 15″ across by 18″ high to bring it to the just below the arm of my couch.

Allow your stump to dry out for at least a month.  It’ll lose several pounds and the bark will loosen, making step 2 easier!

Coincidentally if you allow yourself to dry out for a month you’ll lose several pounds too.

You can dry the stump outside for a couple of months, then bring it inside for a couple of weeks.

If your stump was already cut and dried from wherever you got it, you can just bring it inside for a couple of weeks.

Now the work begins.  You have to remove the bark.  Sometimes this is easy, sometimes it isn’t.

The first stump table I made was from Oak. The bark just pulled off with my hands.

The second stump table I made was from Walnut.  The bark was a nightmare to remove.  I needed an array of tools, a swear jar and my boyfriend.

To remove the stump’s bark, you’ll need these tools to do it:

A Hammer

A Prybar

After your stump has dried inside for a couple of weeks insert the prybar between the bark and the stump.

Hammer it enough to loosen the wood.

Then either keep hammering or pull the bark loose with your fingers.

Keep doing this all the way around the stump until all the bark is off.

And yes, you do need to remove the bark.  If you don’t, over time it’ll loosen and fall off on it’s own leaving you with a cruddy looking piece of crud as a table.

If the bark is particularly stubborn, like this stupid thing was … do the same thing but with wood chisels.

They’re sharper and will cut through the fibres between the bark and the stump better than a prybar.

Be careful  not to hack into the wood with the chisel though.

Now your stump is cleaned of its bark.

plain-stump

When it’s dried out the stump might split a bit like this.

That’s O.K.  It adds character.

The stump now needs to be sanded to get all the little hairs and slivers off it.

You need a smooth stump.

Use a variety of sandpaper grits.

Get rid of all the hairs.

Sand until you can run your hand over the stump and it feels smooth.

Once your stump is smooth wipe over it with a damp, lint free cloth or a tack cloth.

A lot of wood dust will come off.

Now flip your stump over and get ready for the fun part.

carrying-stump

Get your pre-purchased legs.

Mine are the Capital legs from Ikea.

Each leg comes with a bracket that you screw into the base of your table.

Place your legs on the underside of your stump.

You can use all 4 legs or just 3.  I’m partial to 3, but 4 is definitely more stable.

Use a measuring tape to make sure they’re an equal distance apart.

Once you have the legs positioned, mark the holes in the plates with either a pencil or a marker.

Remove the legs and fit your drill with the appropriate sized drill bit.

Drill holes at the spots you marked for the screws.

Once all your holes are predrilled, place your legs and brackets back on and screw them into place.

To make my life easier, I put all my screws into a little dish.  Don’t question it.  Just do it.

Now all your legs are on!

Now it’s time to finish the table.

If there are any sections where you accidentally took too much of the wood off you can skim over it with some stain.

I have a whack of different cans of stain so I picked the one I thought would match the best.

Appropriately, it was “Walnut” stain.

Just wipe it onto the light portion of your wood with some paper towel.

It just darkens it up enough to make it blend in a little better.

There will still be a colour variation, just not quite as distinct.

The staining is a matter of choice.

On my first stump table I didn’t do it … on this one I did.

Let your stain soak in and dry.

Then get some of this  …

… and one of these.

If you’re using an oil based finish use a natural bristle brush.

Seal the whole stump.

Sides … (that’s a fast moving cat in the background by the way)

… and top

The top of the stump will get really dark, but it’ll lighten up once the finish sinks in and dries.

After your first coat dries gently sand off any burrs and bumps.

Remember … just sand lightly.

The sanding will leave the finish with a white haze.  Don’t worry about it.

It’ll go away once you apply another coat of finish.

Speaking of which … your stump will need another 2 or 3 coats around the sides.

Plus it’ll need a total of around 6 coats on the top.  Because of the open grain, the finish soaks into the top a lot more and requires more coats.

Always let your finish dry the recommended amount of time in between coats.

Once you’ve completed all coats of finish you can admire a thing of beauty.

stump-table

the-original-tree-stump-table-tutorial

The only drawback to this table?  Not a single dried earthworm on it.  Plus, everyone who sees it is going to ask you to make them one.  Now, thanks to me, you can just direct them to this website and tell them to make their own.

This one by the way … went to my niece for Christmas.  Yes, the niece who famously chucks things.  She’s the chucker.  This finished stump table weighs close to 70 pounds.  So good luck chuckin’ that little niece.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some decorating magazines to peruse.

 
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