How to Make a Stump Side Table

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Building new side tables for the living room or den is an ideal use of the tree stump or trunk. Cut your own, or check local landscaping companies to see if they have any they’d like to get rid of.

Most side tables are 20 to 24-inches high. A two-foot length of trunk is light enough to handle and repurpose as furniture, though you can use any size or shape stump to fit your home’s style and needs. Just make sure the stump is steady; you don’t want a table that tips or is uneven. If you’ll want legs, be sure to pick these up from a home improvement or design store.

  1. Start by cutting each end of the stump square.
  2. Bring the cut pieces of stump inside the house or garage for several months to dry and adjust to the inside humidity, especially if the wood was recently cut. The cut ends will be moist to the touch if still green. Do not place a moist stump inside your house! This process is worth the wait.
  3. Remove the bark using a hammer and chisel or pry bar. When the bark has been removed, sand the sides and ends with medium grit sandpaper and slowly graduate to fine grit. A small ¼ sheet power sander will make this part of the project go much quicker. But, it can also be done by hand with a sanding block. If you plan on sanding the stump by hand, be sure to get a radio/Mp3 player, drinks and anything else you’ll need to pass the time- this will take a while.
  4. To apply a finish to the side table after you’re done sanding, wipe down the stump with a tac cloth and apply a coat of stain. If using an oil based stain, be certain to apply it with a natural bristle brush. Some stains ask to be wiped off after several minutes to get to the desired color. Follow the directions on the can. Apply a second and third coat of stain if needed. Each coat will darken the color, so approach this slowly, once it’s stained, that’s the color you’re stuck with.
  5. When dry, finish sanding the stump with extra fine sandpaper.
  6. Then, to seal the wood, apply several coats of polyurethane clear. The top and bottom will require additional coats to seal them.
  7. Attach the legs if needed and the side table is complete!

Last Updated: January 16, 2013
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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