This tree stump coffee table DIY project was brought to us by Brent Graham who did an incredible job of documenting his work for our enjoyment! If you like this post then you’ll love his other work which can be seen on his Instagram account (@bw_graham) and website.
Ending shots first. The teal lake is a piece of blue-green glass inlaid flush into the slab.
A video gives a better impression of the depth beneath the lake.
This huge slab was sitting in my customer’s back yard (where this photo was taken) after heavy rains the night before. He told me it would just rot out there if I didn’t take it because he didn’t have room for it in his new home after moving. He didn’t have to tell me twice!
It barely fit in my van for the ride to my shop.
It had obviously had some love in years past. The rotted section in the middle has been hand-chiseled or chainsawed into a neat pattern…
…and the sides had been cleaned of bark.
The grain and the rot pattern is beautiful. I decided to inlay a piece of transparent blue-green glass to cover the rotted section, making it look like a lake and giving uninterrupted usability to the top.
After initial sanding and wetting, the grain really popped. I counted its rings and gave up around 360-370. It looked to be right around 400 years old! The odor makes me think it’s Douglas fir.
I used a router to flatten the top of the piece. This video ends when I slipped, deeply gouging the top.
Here I’m mapping out the “coastline.” I find it looks best when I allow the glass to follow the natural curves of the wood grain. Here, the pattern really reminds me of a caldera. I’ve taken to calling this project the Caldera Lake Table.
After digitizing my coastline, I take the file to a water jetter, who cuts the glass. He also cut a negative of the pattern into a piece of particleboard. I used that as a template for routing the recess the glass will sit in.
The top has been planed. The glass has been cut. The wood has been wetted. Things are coming together and for the first time I’m really getting an idea for what the finished piece will look like. You can see the deep gouge in the middle that the router made when I slipped. That’ll need to be fixed.
I used a piece of figured walnut to plug the gouge I made in the top, and a second one for another piece of rot. I actually like the extra little flair the plugs add. Happy little mistakes.
To plug each, I cut a rectangular piece of wood and tapered the sides so the bottom had a smaller footprint than the top. After tracing the footprint with pencil onto the slab, I used a plunge-router to rough out a recess in the slab. A hand-chisel then makes the hole a perfect fit. The great thing about a tapered plug is you can have the hole slightly undersized, and the plug can be hammered in until it’s a perfectly snug fit.
Here the first coat of finish has been applied. I’m using Arm-R-Seal satin, which I can just rub on with a wet t-shirt. If I had heard of this stuff earlier, I’d have used it on so many projects…
Feet on the bottom will raise the piece from 16″ to about 18.5″, which is a much more usable coffee table height.
A second coat of finish goes on, then a third.
There was a lot of careful sanding to make sure the glass and the wood fit together snugly.
Here it is in its new home.