Things You'll Need
Angle grinder with wood carving blade
Random orbit sander
Okay, you finally got that tree stump pulled. Don't haul it to the landfill or burn it, make an end table instead. If you know you want to make a table but don't have any stumps to pull, scope out the brush piles at new construction sites and get permission to haul one away. Once you have a stump, making a table takes just a few hours of power tool work and a couple of creative decisions.
Choosing the right stump may be the hardest part of this project. Softwoods (cedar and pine) weigh less than most hardwoods, giving them an advantage in material handling. Make sure your stump is less than double the length of your chain saw bar and that you have enough friends and/or equipment to load and unload the stump safely. Then it's just a matter of cutting, grinding and sanding away everything that doesn't look like an end table. See the last slide for a complete list of tools and materials you will need.
Unload your stump in a spot where a muddy mess isn't going to cause a problem. The one pictured was rescued from a brush pile that was just about to be burned.
Clean all soil and stones from the roots with a pressure washer. The pressure washer will most likely remove the bark as well, depending on species of tree and how long it has been down. This is a messy process, but very important. Any stones left will damage your chain saw chain and your carving wheel.
Evaluate the thoroughly cleaned stump to determine the cut line. Further up the trunk is safer (in terms of not damaging your chain) while you will have a more curvaceous look closer to the roots.
Cut away some of the root appendages to give you a better look at your cut line and anything that might be lurking there, ready to dull your chain. While using your chain saw, follow all manufacturer's safety instructions and wear all recommended safety equipment.
Cut the root ball off, establishing the foot of your table. Keep the cut as square to the center of the trunk as possible. Use a very sharp chain and take your time. Cut the top square to the trunk and do it as straight as possible.
Reduce the spread of the root end to an aesthetically pleasing size, using your chain saw and an angle grinder equipped with a wood carving disc. When deciding where to cut, keep in mind where the table will be used and the proportion of the trunk to the root end. Use the angle grinder to taper the cuts on the larger roots and to smooth out any unsightly rotted sections or damage from bulldozers, etc.
Belt sand both ends smooth and flat, beginning with a very coarse belt (40 grit). Once the bottom is flat, check your workbench with a level, then check the top of the table. If the top is parallel to the bottom, your table will be at the same reading as your workbench. Make adjustments by belt sanding the high points and blending them into a single plane that is parallel to the foot. Once the top and bottom are flat and parallel with each other, use a finer belt (60 grit) to remove the scratches from the coarse belt.
Sand the top and bottom smooth with a random orbit sander, starting with pads finer than the belt you finished with (80 grit recommended). Use progressively finer grits to achieve a smooth surface (120, 180 and 220 recommended).
Smooth the tooth marks from the angle grinder with a detail sander. Blend the machined sections into the natural surfaces.
Finish the stump with a protective coating. A soy-based polyurethane was used on the table in the photos.
You'll find the stump table very versatile in both appearance and function. As shown here, it can be used with the root side up, offering a larger table area and a different, more dramatic appearance. With the root side down, it even makes an excellent stool if you need extra seating when friends are over.
Read, understand and follow all manufacturer's safety instructions when using power tools.
Jeff Farris has focused on instructional communication since 1980. His work includes instruction manuals, promotional materials, video scripts and web content on a variety of hands-on topics. His work has been published in "Scuba Diving" magazine as well as several websites. He holds a Bachelor's degree in marketing from the University of Missouri.