How to Make Tables and Benches From Fallen Trees

Ways to turn a variety of fallen tree cultivars into rustic or modern tables and benches, using the roots, trunk and branches.

Some of the most coveted furniture is create from the simplest materials, such as fallen trees. Almost every part of the tree, from the root to the trunk to the branches, can be used to make rustic tables and benches. If you're not into rustic furniture, that's OK -- you can find a way to make anything designed from nature's lanky goods appear modernly whimsical.

A Rooted Base

When a shallow-rooted tree falls, the roots or shoots often pull out of the ground. Some root systems -- heart root from a pine or oak tree, for example -- along with a bit of the trunk make attractive organically formed table bases:

  1. Cut the trunk and tangle of sprawling shoots level and to the table's height; dining tables stand about 30 inches high, and coffee tables, about 17 inches high. 
  2. Clean the wood with a garden hose and large, soft brush -- a car-wash brush will do. 
  3. Apply a sealer to protect the wood and rid it of any insects. 
  4. Attach a tabletop, using brackets.

Branching Legs

After cutting them level, strong, stocky maple or birch branches seem like ready table or bench legs, but be patient; they need to dry for a year or more, so that they won't shrink unevenly later. Rungs and cross braces keep the legs stable; add more nails and glue where necessary, if your table or bench wobbles. Peel and paint the legs a lively accent color for a contemporary finish.

Cypress Slabs

Cypress-tree slabs make durable, shapely tabletops; use them as bench seats by cutting the slabs crosswise. The base grows from 3 to 6 feet in diameter -- ideal table sizes. The swamp-loving bald cypress cultivar grows with knees that form a bulbous shape near the trunk base, and make randomly curving, interesting slabs. Attach a heavy slab top to a strong Z-shaped iron base for a modern twist.

Simple Stumps

Simple upright stumps can make ideal bedside tables or end tables for the living room. For a bench., turn a 3-foot-long or so stump sideways and cut a flat bench seat from the edge, using a chainsaw. For either a stump table or stump bench, attach short, sturdy steel screw-on legs for a contemporary look and more height, if needed. Again, cut the wood level for practicality, and apply sealer; and, if you like, scrape off the bark and paint or stain your rustic pieces to comply with a modern or minimalist design.

Things You Will Need

  • Fallen trees and branches
  • Rip saw
  • Table saw with miter fence
  • Leftover latex paint and brush
  • 4x4s
  • Chalk line or tape
  • Disk sander
  • Coarse, medium, fine and extra fine sanding disks
  • Power drill
  • Drill bit set, including countersink and hole saws
  • Stain, varnish or shellac of your choice
  • Clear acrylic wood treatment
  • Carpenter's glue, biscuit joinery or dowel and bung joinery
  • Brass wood screws

About the Author

Lorna Hordos has owned a home-flipping business for more than two decades. She uses her construction and interior design experience to write friendly, conversational home and lifestyle articles for Daltile, Marazzi, Lowes and numerous other publications. She also enjoys writing for children, and has been featured on the cover of Humpty Dumpty magazine.