Perhaps you’re aiming for a rustic look for your home or maybe you just have eclectic tastes? If you’re passionate about the environment and about sustainable furniture, there can be nothing more eco-friendly than a tree stump table.
Using the ultimate reclaimed material, a tree stump table is not only a unique fashion statement for your living room, but it is also a useful addition to your home.
Ideal as a coffee table, side table, or simply for decoration, it is a great project for anyone who is interested in woodworking, and is simple enough to be carried out by anyone with just a few standard tools and in just a couple of days.
The good news is that if you are making your own tree stump table, you will only really need a handful of basic tools that most keen DIY enthusiasts will have in their workshop or garage. You will need:
- An orbital sander and sanding discs (either polyurethane or shellac in 80, 120 and 250 grit)
- Stain brushes in small, medium and large sizes
If you would prefer, you can use regular sandpaper instead of an orbital sander, however the job will be completed more quickly with an orbital sander. If you wish to attach legs to your table, you will also need a drill and appropriately sized drill bits for attaching the legs. Depending on the stump that you choose, you may also need to have a handsaw to hand too.
Other Essential Items
As well as the basic tools that you will require to make your tree stump table, you will also need some essential safety equipment. This includes:
- A dust mask
- Safety goggles
- Safety gloves
Of course, you will also need a suitable tree stump as well as some stain (satin leaves an attractive sheen). If you are attaching legs to your table, you will also need to buy some of those too together with suitable attachments.
Finding A Tree Stump
You may already have found a tree stump and it may have inspired you to try out this DIY project, however if you don’t already have one to hand, there are several ways of getting hold of one. A clearing company or tree trimming company may be a good place to start if you are hoping to buy a suitable tree stump.
On the other hand, you may want to collect your own tree stump. If this is the case, you will need to draw a pair of parallel lines in the size that you want, and then use a saw to cut the stump. A sharp blade is essential to getting a straight line, and the straighter you can make the line, it will take less work later to achieve the effect your desire.
Drying Out Your Stump
If you have cut your own tree stump you can’t immediately rush into making your table. Unfortunately, you will need to wait until it has thoroughly dried out. This could take a month or as long as 6 months, but once the process has been completed, the stump will be a lot lighter and its bark will be considerably looser, making the next step of the process much simpler.
If you have cut your own stump, you should leave it drying outside for a couple of months and then bring it indoors to dry out for one further month at a minimum. Even if you have acquired your stump from elsewhere, it makes sense to allow it to fully dry out for a couple of weeks inside your home before starting work on it.
Always raise up the stump from the floor as this will allow much better air flow and it will also ensure that no mold grows on its base, especially when leaving it outdoors to dry. If you allow the stump to dry out more slowly, there is less chance of the stump cracking, and while cracks aren’t the end of the world, you will achieve a more professional look if you have a flawless stump.
Removing The Bark
Once your tree stump has fully dried out, you should find the bark much easier to remove. This is good, since this is the next stage of the process. Take your tree stump outdoors, since the process is quite messy and you won’t want to clear up lots of shed bark from your living room carpet. When removing the bark, you should follow these steps:
- First put down a large piece of cardboard or sheet under your work surface. This will make tidying up afterwards a lot simpler and quicker.
- If the top surface of your stump is very uneven, you will need to even it out, either using a handsaw if the stump is particularly at an angle, or by using a 60 grit sandpaper sponge if it just requires a little smoothing.
- Use a chisel to gently remove the bark from the stump. Take care not to dig the chisel into the wood of the stump as this will damage it. If you leave the bark on, your stump table may look rustically attractive, but it will not be able to seal fully and then you will find that the bark will start to peel away in any case.
- If there are any stubborn spots of bark which are difficult to remove, you can use a hammer as well as your chisel for a bit of extra force.
- If there were any branches attached to your tree stump, these too will need removing. You can use a saw to remove these stumps so that they lie flush to the sides of the stump.
- Depending on the type of wood that your tree stump is made from, the bark could be easier or more difficult to remove. Some types of tree have bark that peels easily away, and can be removed by hand. Other kinds of tree require a lot of effort.
- Once all of the bark has been removed, you can clean up the workspace, picking up the cardboard or sheet and dumping all of the dust, removed bark and wood pieces into the garbage.
Strip And Sand Your Stump
Once all of the bark is removed, it is time to finish stripping and then to sand down the stump.
- The first step is to use some 60 grit sandpaper to strip off any large remnants of bark that still remain on the stump and then to clean up the stump.
- Next, you need to remove any sharp edges on the bottom and top of the tree stump by using a piece of 80 grit sandpaper. You should also bevel them for the best possible finish. You can also use the same sandpaper to further clean the sides of the stump and to make it even smoother.
- Ensure that you have beveled all of the edges, including in the knots and splits. You can use a spirit level on the top of the stump to check for any raised areas that need sanding down to make them level.
- In order to achieve a completely smooth finish, you should then progress to using some 120 grit sandpaper and finally some 220 grit sandpaper to achieve perfection. When you run your hands over the wood, it should feel completely smooth with no lumps, bumps, or sharp sections.
- You will find it quicker and easier to use an orbital sander for this task if you have one, however, remember that you should always move the sander in a consistent forward and backwards movement to ensure that you don’t accidentally create any low areas.
- Once you have finished this step, your stump should look a lighter color, however, this step does produce a lot of dust, so you may want to work on a piece of cardboard or on a sheet to make cleaning up quicker and easier.
Cleaning The Stump
Now all of the bark and all of the rough hairs and patches have gone, it’s time to finish cleaning the stump ready for the next stage.
You should use a shop vac to run over the surface of the stump and its crevices to ensure that all specks of dust have been removed. Next, use a tack cloth and run it over the surfaces of the stump.
This will ensure that it is completely clean with nothing that could spoil the stain finish. A lint-free, damp cloth works equally well for this purpose. Once you have finished this step you should see that the color begins to return to the stump and it will no longer look so pale.
Attaching The Legs
You may not wish to attach legs to your tree stump table. Many people who carry out this project prefer to leave their stump as it is because it has a more natural appearance, and if this sounds good to you, you can skip this step and move straight onto the varnishing and sealing stages. However, if you want to add legs, you can purchase a set of legs from a hardware or furnishing store.
- Place the legs onto the base of the stump and use a measuring tape to ensure that you have place them at an equal distance from each other to ensure maximum stability.
- If the legs have come with an integral bracket arrangement to fasten them to the surface, you will need to draw the holes for the brackets onto the stump before removing the legs once more.
- Using a drill and an appropriately sized drill bit, you can then drill the marked holes before replacing the legs and brackets into their previous positions and screwing them firmly into position.
- You may wish to attach the legs in a different way, for example by drilling holes into the base of the tree stump to match the size of your chosen legs and then mixing some epoxy and putting it into the drilled holes before pushing in the legs and allowing them to cure for a secure and stable result.
Staining The Table
Now your legs have been attached (if you are using them) you are ready to embark on the final stage of making your tree stump table – the finishing process.
- If you have any areas where you have removed too much wood from your stump by accident, you can disguise it at this time by applying some stain in a matching shade. There is usually no need to use a brush for this – simply using a piece of paper towel to wipe it gently onto the wood is generally adequate to make it blend more naturally with the color of the wood.
- If you would prefer not to stain your tree stump table, there is no requirement to do so. Many woods look equally good when left in their natural state. However, if you would prefer a stained table, or if you think that you would rather have a different color to the natural shade of the wood, you can apply the stain of your choice using a stain brush.
- Allow the stain to soak thoroughly into the wood for the best result and then leave it plenty of time to completely dry out.
Sealing The Table
If you have skipped the staining step you can progress straight to the sealing stage, otherwise, you will need to wait for your stain to thoroughly dry out before embarking on this final step of the making process.
- There are many types of sealant, however, one with a satin finish will produce the most attractive looking table for your home.
- Always pay close attention to the instructions on the can of sealant that you are using, and take care to use the right kind of brush for this task. For example, if you are using an oil based sealant you will need a brush with natural bristles.
- Be aware that satin sealants always look cloudy when they are first applied, so don’t be alarmed when you apply it!
- Begin by brushing your first coat of sealant onto the top of your tree stump and then progress to brushing it onto the sides. First, use a large brush as this will ensure that you obtain full coverage and then, once you have done this, switch to a small brush and fill in any gaps and small areas that have been missed. You can also use the smaller brush to remove any excess sealant which has gathered in crevices or cracks where it has pooled or dripped.
- You may notice, depending on the type of sealant that you are using, that the tree stump becomes much darker during this process. Again, there is no need to worry, as this effect is only temporary, and once the sealant has sunk into the surface and dried it will return to its original shade.
- You must then wait for the coat of sealant to dry completely. Once this has been done, you should use sandpaper to gently remove any remaining burrs or bumps. It is imperative that you only do this extremely lightly as otherwise you risk damaging the stump and having to start all over again. If the sanding leaves the surface of the stump looking white, there is no need for concern as this will return to normal once you add the next coat of sealant. Make sure to clean away all of the dust from this process before applying the sealant. You can do this by using a shop vac and then by using a tack cloth as you did earlier.
- Once your first coat of sealant has fully dried and you have lightly sandpapered the stump once more, you can repeat, applying a further coat of sealant to all sides of the stump and its surface. You should wait for around two hours at an absolute minimum for the first coat to dry before you apply the second coat. If you wish, you can then wait another two hours and apply a third coat around the sides for an even more professional finish.
- The top surface of your tree stump table will need around 6 coats of sealant in total, as its open grain means that more of the sealant will soak into the wood and therefore further coats are required to achieve the same finish.
- Remember that you must always wait for each and every coat of sealant to fully dry before you apply the next, otherwise you risk damaging the finish.
Once the final coat of sealant is on the stump and has fully dried, your tree stump table is virtually complete.
You should wait for around a week, keeping your table indoors the whole time to ensure that the drying out process is completely finished before you use it.
Once your tree stump table is ready for use, you can move it into any room of your home as a stylish accessory or useful piece of furniture, or even give it to someone as a gift. They are sure to love your upcycled table just as much as you’ve loved making it!