If you’ve ever thought about making a tree stump table, fall is a good time to actually do it. That’s right. It’s tree stump season.
10 years ago I made a tree stump table. It got shared, copied and posted about so much it’s one of 3 posts that I consider to have kickstarted my blogging career (thanks in part to Design*Sponge loving it too.) That table still sits in my living room looking as good as the day I made it.
Over 20 years ago when I bought my home I found most of my furnishings at garage sales or at the side of the road. As one does when they’re poor and stores rudely refuse to price anything at $0.
When I could finally afford to paint and redecorate my house 10 years later I didn’t do it gradually. I snapped in spectacular fashion, raining swear words and exasperation over everything. Within 2 weeks I had sold, given away or thrown out just about everything I owned. See here for proof.
I bought some magazines and I started filling my house up again on a minimal budget.When I saw a tree trunk 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 cigarette butts off of it, so it was bound to work out better.
I got me a stump and I made me a table.
I’d like to make a small correction. My table looks *almost* as good as it did when I first made it. Nothing in my home is as nice without little Cleo laying beside it.
Make a Wood Stump Side Table
- 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, 6″ Capita legs from Ikea (these legs aren’t available at Ikea anymore but they ARE available on Amazon.)
- Drill and appropriate bits
First things first. You have to get yourself a tree stump.
Where to find a tree stump?
Keep your eye out for city workers or private tree companies taking down trees. Pull over, ask them if you an have a section of a branch if they’re big or the stump. Simple as that.
Call up places near you that sell firewood. They advertise a lot during this time of year so they’ll be easy to find. That’s what makes fall tree stump season!
I got my stump delivered with my yearly wood order.
HOW BIG SHOULD YOUR STUMP BE?
It depends if you want your table to be on legs or sit directly on the floor. I like the look of legs.
Your legs will be 6 inches high, so figure out how tall your stump needs to be for where you want to put it.
If your sofa has arms at 25″ and you want it to be around level with the arms, then you need a stump that’s 18″ tall.
My stump is 15″ across by 18″ high, with the 6″ legs it’s a total of 24″ high. This brings it to just below the arm of my sofa.
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.
REMOVE THE BARK
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 and a 14′ length of prayer beads.
To remove the stump’s bark, you’ll need these tools to do it:
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 its 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.
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 to sand it smooth.
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.
ATTACH THE LEGS
Get your pre-purchased legs. Like I said, mine are the Capita legs from Ikea which you can’t buy at Ikea anymore but they’ll have similar legs there. Or you can find the same sort of legs on Amazon.
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.
Pre-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!
STAIN IT (OPTIONAL)
If there are any sections where you accidentally took too much of the wood off (it’s lighter underneath) 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 for this walnut stump.
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. Again, the look and colour and grain will be different depending on what type of wood stump you’re working with.
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.
Now you have to seal all that hard work in.
How do you seal a tree stump?
To stop your stump from drying out even more and to keep it from getting marked on top when you put things down on it you should seal your tree stump.
You can use any wood sealer. If you want a completely natural look I’d recommend sealing it with Thompsons Water Seal which will give the look of having no finish on it at all. Just remember that Thompsons Water Seal is water based which means it can only go on natural wood or wood that has been stained with a water based stain.
I used an oil based Polyurethane to make my stump top as durable as possible. I tend to be a big spilly and bangy.
If you’re using an oil based finish use a natural bristle brush.
Seal the whole stump.
Seal the top, sides and bottom of the stump 2-3 times.
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. Seal the sides and underside again 1-2 more times according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Your stump may need up to 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.
Plus the table beside her.
The only drawback to this table? 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.
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