Fig. A: The rough base, freshly cut from a dead
madrone tree. Fig. B: The top, cut from a section
of walnut tree trunk.
Fig. C: Evening out the top with a belt sander. Note the
wood blocks used to secure it. Fig. D: Fine sanding with
an orbital sander makes the top silky smooth.
» Tripod-like tree branch
» Cross-section of tree trunk
» Various sanding devices
» Dowel screw
» Drill and bits
» Vise-Grips or other locking pliers
1. Find a suitable branch junction.
For the base of your table, you’ll need to find a tree
branch like mine. The branches should be thick
enough, about 1½", to support a reasonable load:
at least a stack of books or magazines, although
probably not a person (Figure A).
It’s unlikely that you’ll have a suitable tree on your,
your landlord’s, or your neighbor’s property. Check
with a local arborist. They cut down trees all day
long. Let them know what you’re up to, and for little
or no money they’ll probably have a nice base for
you in a few days.
TIPS: Look for a deciduous hardwood.
Conifers won’t offer 3- or 4-branched junctions.
They’re also filled with sticky gummy resin.
It’s also best to find a tree that’s been dead for
a while. The wood will be dry and stable, which
If you do have a tree available, grab a saw and cut
it down. Now, downing trees is pretty dangerous
work. My tree was small and manageable. If you
don’t have much experience with tree work, find
someone with experience to help.
When obtaining your base, leave plenty of extra
length on all the legs.
2. Get a slice of trunk for the top.
For the top of the table, you’ll want a cross-section
of a larger tree, about 10" to 12" in diameter. Once
again, an arborist is your best bet. Just have them
cut a few cross-sections of a tree trunk. Ask them
to cut 2" to 3" slabs and to make them as even as
possible (Figure B). In this case, it will be difficult
to find dry wood. So just go with “green” hardwood.
I recommend maple, oak, or walnut.