Bring the rugged outdoors inside with a lumberjack table, a crown cut tree slab with axe handles for legs.
This burly wood table showcases the trees natural grain, and the live edge gives it a rustic and unfinished look. The legs are real axe handles seated inside the bottom of the wood slab, further enhancing the woodsman feel of the table.
I managed to get this wood slab for free from a scrap pile at a local artisanal furniture maker, which I then hand planed to a smooth finish before casting the entire slab in clear resin.
Follow along and I'll show you how I transformed a large slab of scrap wood into an eye-catching rustic lumberjack table.
Ready? Let's make!
Step 1: Get wood
I found an artisanal woodworker that uses burl wood to make furniture. They make tables on commission and leave the off cuts in a pile outside their shop for anyone to take. Most of the wood left outside are small unusable scrap, good only for firewood, but every so often they leave larger pieces like the one I collected.
I happened to be by one day and saw a large milled crown section in the pile of free wood. Assuming it was a mistake, I stopped inside and asked if the wood was supposed to be outside for the taking as it was in great shape; They said I could have it!
I loaded into the back of my car next to the tacky picture frame I had just picked up for my paint swatch art Instructable. It was a tight fit in my tiny car, but I made it work.
Step 2: Examine
When I got home I could examine the wood and see what I was working with.
The slab was reasonably flat, but had a rough sawn finish from where the slab was milled. This looks like small ridges on the surface of the wood, caused by the large saw teeth the woodworker used to cut this slab down to size. This rough surface will need to be smoothed down to make a nice surface for a table. The underside had a large burl which was making the table excessively heavy and uneven, I planned to remove this, too.
Step 3: Trim bottom
There was a large burl on the bark side of this slab. This burl was making the slab lopsided and heavy on the underside, so I decided to cut it off.
With the flat side of the slab down on the workbench I measured up and scored a line around the burl with a handsaw. Using a scrap of wood the same height as the cut mark, I used the scrap as a gauge to ensure I was cutting the burl evenly. After sawing for a while I inserted a few wood shims as I cut to prevent the wood from binding on the blade.
Step 4: Planing
Flipping the slab so the top surface was facing upwards, I could start working on the show surface. I used a block plane to even and smooth out the surface. I did this before sanding to remove any high spots on the slab, and ensure a even surface.
With the blade set to a shallow depth I started pushing the plane at a 45 degree to the grain. This took a long time, and required the blade to be reset to different depths to get a nice even surface. I also planed the ends of the slab.
Step 5: Smooth top
The block plane has leveled the surface. There's a few scratches from the plane where the blade wasn't seated perfectly, but that will be sanded out.
Step 6: Sanding
I started with a course 60 grit sandpaper on a random orbital sander and worked my way up to 100, 180, 220, then 400 grit sandpaper. Taking my time to sand the entire slab surface completely before moving on to the next grit. In between sandings I cleaned the sawdust up.
Wear a dust mask, it's going to be messy.
Step 7: Resin
I had lots of resin left over from the glow table, so I decided to put it to use here. This resin is great for encasing things, but also for making a nice, high-gloss bar top finish. I used 1:1 mix ratio of clear casting resin.
This stuff is messy, so don't forget to wear protective gear and cover your work area with sacrificial paper or a drop cloth before starting.
Step 8: Seal underside first
The underside won't be seen much so we'll start with protecting this area first, then flipping the table over and cleaning up any drips before sealing the front.
Mixing up a large batch of resin I covered the flat areas first, then poured resin into all the bark crevasses. The bark took a lot of resin, so I started from the highest areas of the underside and let gravity help draw the resin down towards the edges.
Once the entire underside was covered the resin was left to cure for 48 hours. The resin was hard after about 8 hours, but since there was plenty of deep areas the resin was poured into I decided to give it plenty of time to cure and harden completely.
Step 9: Prepare top surface
After the underside resin had cured the table was flipped over. Around the edges of the table top there was evidence of where resin from the underside had dripped, these were cleaned up with a sander and coarse grit sandpaper.
Wearing a dust mask the edges were sanded down to remove any dried resin drips, then sanded smooth with a fine grit sandpaper to make even with the rest of the table top.
Step 10: Pour resin for table top
This wood slab had a large void where a branch was once. Per the casting resin directions, you can't cast depths more than about 1.5" inches, this is becasue this casting resin is exothemic and deep casts cause loads of heat and can crack or cause large bubbles to form while curing. Instead I poured resin into the branch void in 2 shallow fills, waiting about 4 hours between pours to allow the previous resin pour to cure.
Step 11: Blast with heat to pop bubbles
A fun trick to pop bubbles that form when pouring casting resin is to use a propane torch (a heat gun can also work). With the flame set on low, quickly pass the flame over the casting resin to pop the bubbles. The resin itself isn't flammable, but your material is, so be careful.
An alternative is to get close and breath hot air on the bubbles (but the propane torch is more fun).
Step 12: Pour resin for table top
once the voids in the table top are filled the surface resin can be cast. Mix up a large batch of rein and apply liberally onto table top, ensure all areas a re covered. Any drip over will seep into the bark on the underside and not be noticed, so it's no big deal if you're a little sloppy.
Make sure that you cover the entire surface, and both ends.
Like the underside, the top was left to cure and harden for 48 hours. After, you may notice that there are spots that look a little dry. That's because the wood has soaked in the resin, so you'll need to apply a second coat of resin to ensure you have a nice uniform high-gloss finish.
While the resin in curing we can move onto making the legs.
Step 13: Axe handle legs
To give this table some style I used these hickory axe handles for my legs.
I sketched out the angle I wanted the legs to be at, it was about 22 degrees. I transferred this angle to the same place on each axe handle, then set the chop saw to the same angle and cut the top off each handle.
Step 14: Sand those legs
Hickory is a lighter wood, which didn't match the tabletop, so I decided to stain them darker to match.
I started by lightly sanding the handles to remove the protective finish, then applied a few coats of dark stain with a foam brush. Hickory is a very dense and hard wood, and the stain didn't penetrate very well. I applied the stain liberally with many coats to get the right colour I wanted.
Step 15: Trace leg eyes
The top of the axe where I had cut is the eye of the axe. I traced this outline into the underside of the table slab where I wanted the legs placed, ensuring even placement for all 4 legs.
Step 16: Cut openings
Before routing the openings I started by cutting the traced outline with a sharp knife, then drilled out the beginning of the openings. This will help prevent chip out and make the routing easier.
Step 17: Router setup
To ensure good seating for the axe handle legs the openings were routed. Since the legs are on an angle the routed openings will also need to be on an angle. I used a 1.5" deep 5/8" stright routing bit. A deep router bit is needed to give the legs plenty of room to be fully seated into the underside of the slab.
To achieve angled routing I used a router tilt base
Step 18: Routing
The router I used had a top bearing that was slightly larger in diameter than the router bit. This made routing the opening a little difficult as the opening would be slightly too small if I used the bearing on the traced openings on the underside of the slab.
I made a template based on the axe eye, the template was slightly larger than the traced eye to account for the bearing. This template was taped in place over where I had started the leg openings, then routed out.
Step 19: Glue and screw
After ensuring a tight fit in the routed openings wood glue is applied in the opening, ensuring good coverage on all sides. The axe leg is inserted, then secured with a long wood screw through the handle and deep into the underside of the slab.
Step 20: Furniture movers
To prevent scrapes when the table is moved I added furniture movers to each table leg. I bought the kind that hammer into the feet.
Step 21: Place table
The lumberjack table is now ready to be placed. Whether you've got a rustic cabin to enjoy your table apres-ski or just arranged in your cozy apartment, this table will be both stylish and functional.