Have you ever seen natural tree stump side tables in your favourite home decor stores and thought “Hey, I bet I could make that!”? Me too — so I did! Today I’m showing you how we made our very own Natural Tree Stump Side Table! I mentioned earlier this summer that I’ve been obsessed with natural wood textures and was lusting after a side table very similar to this one (which retails at $249 at West Elm). I always prefer to make things myself rather buying them, because you’re able to create exactly the look you like at a fraction of the cost. I promise it’s simple to do, and you can make it in a weekend (seriously!).
This idea for this project started a couple of years ago when these tree stump side tables started popping up everywhere. I always knew that I wanted to make my own, because I just couldn’t justify the price tag. This summer, I spotted a nice piece of wood out at my Mom’s acreage — they’re always chopping down damaged or unwanted trees out there for firewood — and I thought it would make a perfect side table! The most important and difficult part of this project is sourcing your tree stump. The type of wood doesn’t necessarily matter, but make sure you like the general shape and ‘bones’ of the stump.
All the materials I needed to purchase for the project came in at a grand total of $99.10. Compared to $249 price tag of a similar table from West Elm, that’s a $149.90 savings! And, if you already have some of these materials, it would cost even less to make.
Be warned, when you see the tree stump in its original form, it’s hard to imagine how it comes together to be a finished piece of furniture! It is a laborious process, but it’s not difficult.
Note: I originally referenced this blog post for a general idea of the materials I’d need and what would be involved, but I ended up taking different steps and using different materials to achieve the look I wanted.
What You’ll Need
• Tree stump
• Chisels in various widths
• Sanding sponges in 60, 80, 120 and 220 grit
• Large, medium and small stain brushes
• Tack cloth
• 1 can of Varathane (I used a satin finish)
• Face mask
• Big piece of cardboard, or something to catch the wood debris
• Handsaw, or Sawzall (depending on your stump, you may not need this)
DIY NATURAL TREE TRUNK SIDE TABLE
Before You Begin
The stump needs time to dry out. Ours had about 6 months to dry out fully, but a minimum of 1 month of drying time in an indoor environment is recommended. This will ensure the bark is easy to remove and make the process easier. While it’s drying out, the stump may split — that’s okay! I love the split in our stump, it adds character and a unique touch.
Also, work on this project outside if you can. As you’ll see, it makes a pretty big mess and generates a lot of dust — you may want to wear a face mask.
1. I highly suggest having a few drinks while you’re working, especially if you’re working outside on a nice day! We drank my White Citrus Sangria frozen and it made a delicious sangria slush! Don’t worry, I’m still doing Sober September, we made this table back in August. 😉
2. Put down a big piece of cardboard, or something similar to catch the debris before you start. Even if you’re working outside, this makes cleanup so much easier.
3. First, you’ll need to level any uneven surfaces on the top of the trunk either with a 60 grit sanding sponge or a saw (depending on how uneven the top is). If you’re happy with how the top looks, cool.
4. Then, you need to remove the bark — this is necessary. If you don’t, the stump won’t seal properly and the bark will eventually fall off anyway. We used a few different chisels, and found that it came off quite easily.
5. One side of the stump had a lot of extra sap and bark remnants on it, so we carefully removed as much of that as we could with a chisel (and a hammer in stubborn spots), working with the grain in downward motions. This stump looks like a mess at this point — don’t worry, it will all come together!
6. Once the bark and sap remnants are removed, if your stump had branches, you’ll need to saw any branch remnants down be flush with the rest of the stump. We used a Sawzall for this.
7. Clean up your work area — dump all the wood, bark and dust off the cardboard, and into the trash. Give the cardboard a good shake.
Stripping & Sanding
8. Start by using a 60 grit sanding sponge to strip any major bark remnants and clean the stump up.
9. Then, we used an 80 grit sanding sponge to remove the sharp edges on the top and bottom of the stump and bevel them. We also ran the 80 grit over the sides to further smooth them — making sure to get into the split and knots in the stump and bevel all the edges there as well. The goal here is to have an entirely smooth surface when you run your hands over it.
10. The stump was looking pretty good at this point, so we moved on the 120 grit to really refine the wood, and 220 grit to finish it off and make it ultra smooth. You’ll notice a lot of dust with this step, and the stump will start to look very light in colour.
11. Then, vacuum the stump and all crevasses to remove all the extra dust (we used a shop vac for this that stays in the garage permanently). I also shook all of the dust off the cardboard and vacuumed it, too. It’s important that you remove all the dust from your work area at this point — flip the cardboard over if you need to, or just remove it until you start the sealing phase.
12. Now, run a tack cloth over all surfaces to remove any remaining dust. Keep rotating the cloth so you’re using up all the available tack to get the dust off of the stump. See how the colour starts to come back as the dust is removed?
Note: I didn’t want to stain the stump, because I love the natural textures and colors of the wood. If you want to stain your stump, now’s the time to do it. Follow the directions on the can, and when you’re happy with it, move on the to the sealing phase.
13. Make sure you follow the directions on the can of varathane you’re working with. If you’re using a satin sealant, it will look cloudy until it dries clear. Start with the first coat on the top, then the sides. Go in with a large brush first to get everything coated, and then follow up with a small brush for the details. Then, use the small brush to remove excess sealant from the any nooks and crannies where it may have pooled and dripped.
14. Allow the sealant to dry completely between coats, following the instructions on the can. I let mine dry about 2 hours between coats. Apply 2 more coats to the top and sides.
15. Once the 3 coats have dried, you’ll probably notice that the top of the stump feels rough — this is because the sealant soaks into the natural texture of the wood and emphasizes it. We sanded the top down again with 120 grit sanding sponge, followed by 220 grit to ensure it was really smooth to the touch.
16. Check out the sides of the stump. The sealant may have dripped and pooled on the sides or at the bottom, so lightly sand that away with 220 grit sanding sponge.
17. Vacuum up the dust, then remove any excess dust with the tack cloth, like you did in steps 9 and 10.
18. Apply the 4th coat of sealant to the top and sides.
19. Then, apply 1 more coat on just the top.
20. Once the last coat is fully dry, you’re done! Make sure you follow the complete drying directions on your can. I let the stump dry for a week indoors before use.
I gave this Natural Tree Stump Side Table to my friends Kelsey and Frank for their wedding gift! It was difficult to part with it (my family helped me make it, and my Mom affectionately named it Stumpie!), but at least I can still visit at Kelsey and Frank’s place. It’s okay though, I have plans for a big natural wood coffee table (see the raw wood in this post, under #6). Once I’m finished making that one, I’ll definitely post about it here, too!
But before I gave it to them I played around with using it for a recipe shoot. It makes a great prop! Here’s the link to my Peppered Pear Elixir.
Here it is in Kelsey and Frank’s place! Kelsey loves natural, cabin-y things, and is using the table in her reading nook. Check her out on Instagram!
Are you guys planning to make a Natural Tree Stump Side Table? If you do, let me know how it goes! I’d love it if you could tag me on social media or leave a comment for me below. I hope this post is helpful, and if you have any questions for me, please leave them in the comments below. I’ll do my best to help you out!
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored, and contains my genuine thoughts, ideas and recommendations.