Stumped. How to Make a Tree Stump Table

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.

DIY tree stump table sits beside classic Eames chair in white room.

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.

Tree stump table on stainless steel legs sits beside a comfy chair with a Siamese cat sitting on it.

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

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, 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.

DRY IT
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.

Walnut tree stump with bark.

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.

Walnut tree stump with bark.


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:

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 its own leaving you with a cruddy looking piece of crud as a table.

Removing bark from a tree stump by inserting a chisel between the bark and the wood and hammering.

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.

An array of chisels and a hammer sit on top of a debarked tree stump.

Now your stump is cleaned of its bark.

a debarked tree stump sits on a white tile floor.

When it’s dried out the stump might split a bit like this. That’s O.K. It adds character.


SAND IT
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.

3 sand paper blocks sit on top of a tree stump.

Get rid of all the hairs.

The side of a tree stump that shows little splinters.

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

Sanding the side of a tree stump using a sanding block.

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

Tree stump being wiped with a tack cloth to remove any sawdust.

A lot of wood dust will come off.

Cloth showing the amount of dark sawdust left on stump after sanding.

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

Karen Bertelsen lifts a heavy tree stump.

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.

Ikea capital legs for adding onto tree stump to make a 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.

Stainless steel legs positioned on underside of tree trunk to make a side table.
Use a measuring tape to make sure they’re an equal distance apart.

Using a yellow measuring tape to make sure table legs are spaced evenly.

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

Marking drill holes with a pencil onto wood stump.

Remove the legs and fit your drill with the appropriate sized drill bit.
Pre-drill holes at the spots you marked for the screws.

A stump is predrilled with holes for attaching legs.

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

Screwing legs into base of tree stump table.

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!

Ikea Capita legs affixed to bottom of tree stump table.


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.

A woman's hand holds up a small can of Minwax wood finish with a yellow label.

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.

Wiping a thin layer of stain over the side of a tree stump.

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.

SEAL IT
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.

A small can of Minwax Plyurethane in clear satin, sits on a tree stump.

 

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

Natural bristle brush being held up by woman's hand.

Seal the whole stump.

Seal the top, sides and bottom of the stump 2-3 times.

Brushing finish onto a nearly completed tree trunk table on legs.

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

Finishing the top of a tree stump table, which will take several coats to seal because of the open grain.

 

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

A close up shot of the side of a tree stump table shows little hairs that were raised after sealing it.

Remember … just sand lightly.

Lightly sanding side of tree stump with a sanding block.

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.

A siamese cat sits on a Mongolian lamb covered chair next to a tree stump table with stainless steel legs.

Plus the table beside her.

Tree Trunk Table

Tree Trunk Table

Yield: 1 table
Prep Time: 30 days 10 hours
Active Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 30 days 14 hours
Estimated Cost: $25

How to make a tree stump table.

Materials

  • Tree stump (your choice for size)
  • 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 (or similar)

Tools

  • Drill

Instructions

Get your stump and allow it to dry out for at least a month. It will lose weight over this period and the bark will shrink away from the wood.

If you let your stump dry outside, as opposed to inside you'll still need to let it dry out inside for another couple of weeks to acclimatize it.

Once the stump has dried out remove the bark from it using a prybar and a hammer to chisel it away. Be careful not to gouge the wood stump.

If the bark is difficult to get off let it dry longer or carefully use a chisel with a hammer to remove it.

Sand your stump to get it smooth and then run over it with a tack cloth or damp cloth to remove any sawdust.

Flip the stump over so you're working on the underside of it and screw in the legs. Pre-drill your screw holes and make sure to measure so your legs are equal distances apart.

Stain and seal the table if desired.

Notes

If you want a very natural look to your stump, use a water based stain followed by Thompson's Water seal.

For optimal protection and a bit of a sheen on your stump use an oil based stain and a Polyurethane finish in satin.

Recommended Products

I'm an Amazon affiliate some I get a few cents when you buy something I've linked to.

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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Stumped. How to Make a Tree Stump Table