When I saw this wood stump side table (#15) on Jillian Harris’s website, I really liked the look of it, but not sure I wanted to pay that much for a wood stump. I started searching for a DIY option and found the instructions here to be doable, so decided to give it a go.
The Stump Search
My biggest obstacle was to find an inexpensive (or free) wood stump. I live in a suburban city so I didn’t know where to find any. This is where Craigslist came in handy. I found someone offering free wood stumps and I was so excited. I asked my husband if he would be interested in creating something like this from West Elm and surprisingly, he said yes!
When I called about the wood stump, the owner couldn’t be nicer. She was curious and wondered why I would be willing to drive more than an hour for some wood stumps. I told her that I was interested in making them into side tables. She said that’s what she had intended to do as well, but never gotten around to doing it so decided to give them away instead.
That weekend, my husband and I drove up to this beautiful property in Northern California which was lined with abundant white rose bushes. The owner had mentioned that the wood stumps were next to the barn, so I was expecting some small little dilapidated sun-bleached paint chipped barn, but no. This was a serious industrial barn.
The owner could’ve very well just thrown away the stumps instead of having strangers on her property (and during a pandemic no less), so I was so grateful that she listed them on Craigslist for free. We picked up 6 stumps– the most we could fit into the back of our minivan. The largest one was very heavy. I’m glad my husband was there to do the heavy lifting.
The owner asked me to send pictures if I ever finish my project. She said she would be curious to see how they turn out. I think my husband was surprised when I actually started working on them. I was motivated to finish this project and send her pictures of the finished product so that she knew her efforts weren’t in vain.
Before You Begin
If you have a choice during the wood stump selection, try to find one that is already leveled. If not, you may have to do some heavy-duty sanding or some extra work to level it. Not sure if you can tell, but all the wood stumps I had were not leveled so my husband had to level them for me with a router.
Make sure your wood stump is dry before starting. Because the owner had intended to make them into side tables initially, she had left them out to dry for months already. The bark was practically peeling off by itself. There was one stump that had some stubborn bark, but with a little persistence, it finally came off.
I used the instruction here as a guide. She does a great job of listing all the tools and materials you’ll need.
Chisel off the bark
This was actually quite therapeutic and very easy since the tree stump has already been left out to dry. I had a harder time with the smaller piece here.
Here are all the pieces after I’ve chiseled off all the bark. Some of the stumps had branch stumps, so I had my husband saw it off.
I don’t have a photo of this, but I used an electric hand sander for most of the sanding. You can certainly also do this manually with coarser grit sandpaper. I did have to manually use sandpaper to access the nooks and crannies.
Decide if you want to stain the wood. I like the natural wood color so skipped the stain.
Since I was using the wood stumps indoors, I sealed them with a water-based sealant. I used Polycrylic clear satin finish and followed the directions on the back. I applied 3 coats. In between each coat, I used fine-grit (220 grit) sandpaper to lightly sand the dried sealant.
Adding Chair Glides
I added chair glides to provide a bit of protection for my floor. You can certainly skip this step if it’s not a concern for you. If you do add this, it helps to predrill the holes and then hammer in the nail in chair glides.
The Final Product
I now have a one of a kind side table. I love the natural look of the wood stump. After I sealed it, the color of the wood deepened to a rich honey brown. I’m so glad to have this little side table to rest my drink!
If all this sounds like a lot of work, and you would rather just purchase one. You can check out West Elm, Home Depot, and CB2. Try looking at Etsy too but I think the shipping might be cost-prohibitive.