Awesome Table from a Stump
Last fall, lightning struck a tree during a rain storm and it toppled over in our yard. Huge pine. We pulled out a few nice chunks for stools or tables down at the fire pit and cut up the rest for firewood.
One piece, near where the lightning struck it, was all splintery. I pulled that aside thinking it had character.
This is what the bottom of that piece looked like after the tree was cut into logs. Nothing but a simple chain saw slice, straight and even.
The tree had been struck by lightning in the past, woodpeckers had ravaged it drilling holes, then it was struck again. It was done for. The sides and insides shown above, from the rot and lightning strikes, are just like they were when the tree fell down. The bark pretty much popped off the trunk on impact.
I had a 24″ round beveled piece of glass from another project that would be the perfect size. You may have seen the stump on the porch once when it was raining.
Our friends from Montana were coming for a visit. I told my guy what I wanted to do and he said, “This is a Norm project.” I knew what I wanted, but I needed a master woodworker to tell me if I was thinking it through correctly. Norm is just that guy.
This wasn’t that hard of a project. I don’t really like long, drawn out, involved projects that take forever. I tell myself I don’t have the time. I expect that’s more likely due the fact I’ve the patience of a gnat.
I’m going to tell you how to do this in 7 words.
Yes! SEVEN Words:
Okay, you can go now. You know how to do this and don’t need me to bore you with redundant details.
No? You want details? You want to know what worked and what didn’t? This post is twice the length of most I’ve written to you. So you are forewarned. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and relax.
Here’s the long version with details:
The first thing to do with this stump was to cut off the jagged points to the height I needed for my table. Coffee tables and end tables are generally in the 18-25″ height range. Measure where you want the finished cut. I was hoping for about 24 inches. I measured all the way around the stump with a yard stick and marked dots with a Sharpie on the wood 24″ from the floor. This was little more than eye-balling where to mark, because the stump was wider at the bottom than the top. I held the yard stick vertically straight and guessed as well as possible. Using a sawzall, I cut across through my dots.
If Mary Poppins is to sex what an electric kitchen knife is to slicing tools; a sawzall is a Kardashian. It has one hard working blade willing to do anything. Passengers are always leaving magazines on the planes. Deep reading like People and Us Weekly. I learn stuff I never knew could even be known. Like how hard working that sweet little Kardashian family is. They’re just working girls. Even Caitlin gets to be a working girl now.
It’s that red thing I’m holding.
This was not a solo project, as you can see from my guy holding the points for me while I sawed. I also had Norm and Marj’s help. It was a group effort.
Next, I sanded the whole thing as much as possible with a palm sander (It’s that blue thing sitting in the back ground in the first picture.) using 60 grit sand paper. There are parts within the trunk the sander wouldn’t reach. Those areas I sanded by hand. Other places really deep inside I left rough.
Cutting the top off to make it the right height and have a flat surface for the glass to sit on was the hardest part of this. Not the cutting itself, but getting the odd shapes all at the same height while making them level was just about impossible with hand tools. The largest flat surface is not perfectly level, it’s close, but not perfect, so the glass doesn’t sit level. That has to be corrected.
I placed a level across the top to determine where it was most uneven. Using a side-grinder, I ground down the high spots as much as possible. This is a small hand tool Norm fixed up for me. He found it in my guy’s shop and bought a hard, round, sanding blade. It did improve my poor cuts, but not enough. This would have to be addressed before I added the glass top.
This is a close up of how the wood looked, sanded but not yet cleaned.
To clean out the saw dust and cobwebs, I hosed the whole thing down while scrubbing it with my plastic kitchen scrubby brush.
I let it dry on the porch over night.
I found a 3″ sponge brush in my guy’s shop and, using a dark walnut-y stain, stained it all over.
The sponge brush for this project was better than a regular bristle brush as it could be squeezed into some of the skinny places and cracks to fill them with stain. They’re cheap throw-away brushes you can get by the bagful in multiple sizes and are ideal for small projects.
The stump soaked up the stain pretty quickly and I applied 2-3 coats in places to make it as dark as I wanted. I let that dry 3-4 hours.
(If you look in the background of the picture below you can see a couple of the stumps we used for tables and stools for our fire pit.)
The next morning . . . no, actually throughout the whole day, I just started in the morning . . . I lightly sprayed it with several coats of satin polyurethane.
I know I said “varnish” in the 7-word list above, but that’s a verb. As in, “I’ll varnish this with polyurethane.”
I coincidentally used Minwax for both the stain and the polyurethane. I receive no compensation from Minwax or Home Depot to use these products. We already had the stain on hand. When I searched for polyurethane, Home Depot carried several miles of shelf space dedicated to Minwax . . . which is obviously their favored child . . . and few other brands.
Minwax it was.
Norm said he preferred Deft brand, but Home Deport apparently doesn’t carry it in my area.
Below are closeups of my stump after the stain and polyurethane.
I propped it up on pine cones to keep the stump off the paper because I knew when I began spraying it with the polyurethane the newspaper would stick to the stump. I was too lazy to walk down stairs and get a couple of 2×4 pieces or bricks to use as props. The pine cones were in the fire wood bin upstairs by the chiminea. Did I tell you I’m lazy?
I used two cans of polyurethane and sprayed inside and out, letting it dry 2 hours between coats. After the first coat, I noticed little hairs from spider webs I’d missed and splinters of wood. I hand sanded it several times. The finish is not slick like finely finished furniture, but smooth. You won’t get splinters. The inside is deliberately rough. And you will get a beautifully stained and satin polyurethaned splinter there.
As you can see, I have the main base and the cut-off points to work with. The small tips or points were sanded, stained, and sprayed with polyurethane just like the base. Thanks to Marj there’s a plan for them, too.
It needed little legs to allow for air flow because I didn’t want the wood staining the floor or growing mold because it was outside. I added nylon chair pads on the bottom to hold it up off the floor.
The glass was nearly level when placed on the stump, but not enough. I thought about what else would level the top. I have some silicone bumpers I’d bought for the kitchen cabinet doors. I could use bumpers and squirt glue all around the bumpers to hold them in place. No, tacky.
I thought I should glue the glass to the base for stability. I didn’t like the idea of using my favorite super-type glue, E6000, because moving the table would be a problem. The glass is 24″ in diameter. The stump is 12″. I could see the glass popping off and shattering. No, dangerous.
Norm suggested a hot glue gun. Hot glue makes good bumpers and, while the seal would be fairly secure, it wouldn’t be that strong. The glass could be gently pried from the wood base if need be. I used hot glue on the base and attached the glass. It seemed to do the trick, except that I could see the hardened glue through the glass—which I didn’t like.
The last thing I did was attach the small cut-off tips on top of the glass above their original position on the stump. Maybe the tips would cover up the glue so it couldn’t be seen. Nope. I could see them.
This needed some research, but I had two 4-day trips and a 3-day trip coming up. Over the next 15 days, I’d be gone eleven days. It would have to wait.
Unfortunately, about a week later, the glass popped off the dried hot glue with the slightest pressure. The rough wood surface held tight. The glass surface was just too slick.
If the stump had been a sturdy 3- or 4-corner base to sit the glass on, I wouldn’t need to secure the glass to the wood, silicone bumpers would have been enough. But, it’s more of a 2-point base—one large enough to hold the glass, the other quite small. So I went researching on the net for a solution.
I found the site, The Forestry Forum, with this suggestion: mirror mastic
Something I’d not considered was my materials. This is wood, an organic material that will be affected by changes in humidity and temperature, I wanted to attach to something that was inorganic, glass, which would not be affected as much. The wood would expand and contract depending on the surrounding conditions. The glass would not.
I needed a glue that would not harden—so it would expand or contract when needed—but would attach the glass to the wooden base.
The Forestry Forum suggested mirror mastic. I removed the glass, popped off the bits of hot glue, and reglued the glass using the mastic. You can see the glue a little through the glass, but it’s a dark blackish color and not noticeable like the milky silicone of the hot glue. This works.
I found similar items online for $500 and up. Using those things I had on hand and counting only the things I bought, I’ve got about $30 in the table.
Update: I kept looking at the mirror mastic. It was working and not overly noticeable, but I wasn’t happy. While it was dark, I could still see it. Then, after about three months, the glass top popped off.
I decided to use E6000.
I cleaned off all of the mastic, our son sanded the top of the stump clean of any residue, and I opened a new tube of E6000. It has worked perfectly through the winter sitting on our covered porch and has now been inside for a few weeks as a coffee table.
A few weeks ago, while it was still on the porch, a neighborhood cat jumped up on it to get to my empty glass. The table fell over, the cat ran off, and my glass broke. BUT!! The glass table top didn’t pop off the stump base. The tips didn’t pop off the glass table top. It survived in great shape!
Until next time. Be sweet.