It started with a storm.
Late last summer, a storm ran through our part of town. It wasn’t unusual by any means, but my in-laws’ backyard was unlucky enough to suffer a blow by lightning. A tree outside was struck: thankfully it didn’t fall down and damage anything, but the state it was left in necessitated its removal from the yard.
That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head. We were having Sunday lunch at my in-laws’ house and they were telling me about the tree/pointing it out in the yard. The wheels began turning in my brain. I asked if I could go outside to look at it, and after assessing the width and appearance of the tree, I turned to my father-in-law and asked him if I could have it. I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy at that point, but I had a plan for that tree. A plan that took months to complete, but was absolutely worth it in the end. You see – I wanted that tree to become an end table for our new house. And I knew I could convince my dear husband to help me with it. So, shortly after I secured the tree as mine, Justin spent a Saturday afternoon with a chainsaw, cutting it down to size.
There were a few pieces to choose from, but one in particular caught my attention because of the shape – I knew it would sit in a pretty way on the floor…looking like it is growing into the ground.
Funny enough: the process to create this tree stump table was actually very simple. It just takes a long time to complete: you must have patience.
To start: we cut down the stump (of course). We measured the height from the floor to the arm rest of our couch to know how tall the table should be, and added an extra 2 inches to that measurement (to leave room for sanding/leveling). Justin then used a belt sander to level out the log on top and bottom.
When the stump was leveled, it was time to wait. The stump needed to be drained of moisture before any next steps could be taken. So, we set the log under a covered area out in my in-laws’ backyard and let it sit…for about 3 months. At that point, the stump was pretty much dried out (and had lost a few pounds).
Next step: stripping the bark! Justin used a small chisel to strip the bark off the sides of the tree stump. The process wasn’t very difficult, as the 3 month drying process had loosened it up at that point. When the bark was fully removed, we kept the stump outside on our covered patio and began the sanding process (Justin completed this over the course of a few weeks when he had free time).
For the sanding: Justin began with 60 grit sandpaper (over the entire stump). When he’d smoothed it as much as he could with the 60 grit, he progressed to 150 grit paper and repeated. Then, for the finishing touch, he worked with 220 grit sandpaper. After the 220 grit was used on the stump, it was completely smooth to the touch, and there was no fear of splinters for anyone touching it.
When the stump was finally complete with the sanding process, we moved the it inside our garage for about 2 weeks to acclimate to climate control. If you live in a colder area (we are in Florida and it was warm at the time), I would suggest moving it inside your house so the stump can adjust to the typical room temperature.
Next, it was time for the polyurethane coating. We were thinking about staining the wood before sealing it with polyurethane, but we determined that we wanted a natural look for the stump and didn’t want to make it darker at all. If you DID want to stain your tree stump, this is when you would do it. However, we decided to just seal it. Justin applied the polyurethane coating with a foam brush – in a well ventilated area (we opened the garage door)! After the first coat had dried, he used the 220 grit sandpaper over the entire stump. Then, a second coat of polyurethane was applied.
The polyurethane needed 2 coats on the sides and bottom of the stump, but ended up taking about 5 coats on the top (it kept soaking into the stump). When complete, the entire tree stump was shiny and beautiful! We allowed it to dry completely, then flipped the stump over to hammer in some felt feet on the bottom to protect our wood floors from the heavy table.
And then: we placed this beautiful stump table creation in our living room and started enjoying it. I really do love how it turned out, and it has definitely become a conversation piece when people visit our home. I love that we can proudly say we made it. Ok…I conceptualized it, and Justin pretty much made it…but you get what I mean.
All in all, it was a very affordable project (the cost of sandpaper and polyurethane…maybe around $20), but just took a good chunk of man hours to complete. If you don’t happen to have a tree that was struck by lightning in your backyard like we did, you could also look into fire wood lots that would have large logs to purchase: I’m betting it still wouldn’t cost you too much.
Do you love creating DIY projects for your home? What is your proudest DIY accomplishment?