Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How to Select a Log for a Stump Table - Part II

Now you have decided on the type and use for your stump table. The next step is to decide on the type of wood.

Fortunately Nature has provided us with 100s of species of wood. From exotic Amazon woods to the abundant oaks, maples and elms of America. One will never run out of options. The limiting factors are the wood's location, rareness and cost. It is cheap to find a stump in your neighborhood, but if you want a beautiful piece from Africa, the cost will be high. Rather than looking for a specific species, you can simply start with an interesting piece of wood or stump you find. The key is to keep your mind open for all possible uses of a piece of wood. I started my stump table making by going to a local landscape dump. I noticed a pine log that was all dried and a nice size - I had noticed stump tables in designer magazines and thought it would be fun to try and create one. I went home, picked up my chain saw, went back to the dump and cut a couple of logs, took them to my garage workshop, and a hobby/business was formed.

My first stump tables

I will assume exotic woods are out and you want to keep the cost and availability reasonable. This will mean finding a local piece that will make a good table. Stumps can be unique in their configuration which results in a true one of a kind piece, or they can be uniform in shape - round, square, etc. The unique stumps will have unusual shapes, voids from fungus or rot, or be tree base roots. I have found soft woods are easier to work that hard woods like oak. There always seems to be a lot of sawing and sanding, so the softer the better. One thing about pine - the sap never stops running and is very messy.

OK, so where do you find a great log for a stump table? Again, one needs to keep their mind open for possibilities - think "yes, that would make a great table." I have found that many diamonds are hid in an ugly, mud covered log. Early on, I was lucky enough to find a relatively local saw mill. Not a big one, but something that is run by locals, out in the woods. Sure, New York and Chicago do not have a lot of "local mills." But their are mills a few hours drive away, in the woods someplace. Often these mills will have scraps and remnants from large logs, that can be reclaimed into tables. But remember, these might look like "scraps" to you, but they are the assets of the mill. You should be paying for these rough pieces.

Where else could you look for rough stumps? Whenever there is a bad storm, trees are blown down, especially those with a shallow root system. Go out after the storm and find a tree expert who is cleaning up the damage and buy one from them. They will love not to have to haul it away. How about your back yard? Are you planning to take down that old maple? Maybe a true treasure. Contact local tree experts to keep their eyes open for possibilities. Offer them a decent price so they will keep you in mind. Check out your local city. They are always clearing out some area which might have great stump potential.

A final word of advice - never pass up a possibility. Some of my best work started out as ugly little ducklings.

Rough cypress from the mill. Reclaimed from rivers.

Me and 2 of the 4 finished pieces.

The 3rd of the 4 finished pieces.
The 4th of the 4 finished pieces.

Have fun creating diamonds out of Mother Nature's wonders. It can be a true labor of love, creating one of a kind stump tables. However, never feel it could be a good money maker - IT ISN'T - trust me. It is just fun. Fortunately, I am retired and can afford to work my little creativity in this way. 

Have fun. Remember: we are only here for a brief visit, so enjoy every moment.
Smell Mother Nature's roses whenever you have a chance.


John "Gabby" Gabrielson
Natural Creations

(Look for Part III - Finishing)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to Select a Log for a Stump Table

OK, now you would like to make a stump table. You love the natural look of the wood, and it would fit nicely into your interior design plans. But, where to start? You could buy one ready made, or have the fun to create your own. This blog addresses making your own.

First off, you need to decide what type of stump table you want. It can be a side table, located beside a couch or chair. These are normally around 24" high, depending on the adjoining furniture. The diameter can be 12-15", again depending on its use. Do you want a glass top? This often depends on the amount of wood void on the top surface.

Dark finish cypress side table.

Natural finish cypress side tables.

Grey tone cypress side tables.

Natural finish cypress side table, original exterior.

sinker cypress side table in grey tone. 24" high.

Gabby with 24" sinker cypress side tables. Natural log.

The other type of stump table is the coffee table. These logs are generally larger, due to their use as a major table in the room. The height is around 17"+, plus a glass top. The diameter is a minimum of 15-18". The bigger the area, the bigger the log. Be careful, once the stumps get over 15", they are heavy.

Sinker cypress dual coffee table - 24" high.

Pecky cypress coffee table with natural finish. 20" high.

Sinker cypress coffee table. 1/2" glass added. 16" high.

You have now decided on what type of table you want and its approximate dimensions. The next stage is to decide on the type of wood you want, its configuration, any natural uniqueness, and its natural colors.

This stage will be covered in my next blog. Sorry, I go on Island Time - no deadlines. Whenever it happens it happens. Enjoy and see you next time. Take care and thanks for joining me.

John "Gabby" Gabrielson
In the Great Florida Panhandle


Sunday, June 5, 2016

How to Determine the Age of a Tree

How does one determine the age of a tree? The easiest way is to count the life rings in a log. Each ring is a year life of the tree. Of course, it is impossible to do if the tree is standing and alive. One needs to wait until the tree is harvested, then examine the end cut of the tree base log. A tree's life ring determines the age. The ring is like a wood grain around the inner circumference of the log.

Original growth trees, ones that have not been replanted by man, often have 20 +/ rings per inch of the diameter. These trees can be 100s of years old. Here is an end cut of a reclaimed sinker cypress log. There are over 400 life rings on the piece. It was harvested in the late 1800s and laid at the bottom of a FL river until the 2000s. This makes this piece over 500 years old, around the time Columbus discovered America. Any logs this age are called "a Columbus" by the saw mill.

New growth trees are often fast grown commercially or have been privately planted as landscape elements. These can have only 3-5 life rings per inch of the diameter.

Growing conditions can also be shown by the tree rings. Drought years will result in tight, close rings. Abundant moisture will result in wider spaced rings. A forest burn will show as a black ring, if the tree lives. In an old reclaimed log piece, it is interesting to locate various events in history, i.e. the Age of the Renaissance, American revolution, War of 1812, WWI, etc.

Nature is indeed a wondrous place to enjoy.
Smell the Roses and have a great life.

John Gabrielson
Natural Creations