Introduction: Natural Wood Tables

Picture of Natural Wood Tables

I love woodworking, and I have been making these tables for many years. They are not hard to make, but they look gorgeous when they are done.

My instructable will show you how to make your own a one of a kind table like this, without a lot of fancy tools. You only need access to either drift wood or some fallen trees, and a little imagination!

This is my first Instructable and also my entry into the Shop Bot and Furniture Contests. So if you like this project, I would really appreciate your votes!

I have included pictures of some of the other tables I've made. I hope you like them!

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Picture of Materials & Tools
Selecting Pieces of Wood:

For this project I used a piece of cut Cedar for the table top and base and a piece of Juniper for the table leg; but you don't have to use these types of wood! Almost ANY kind of wood can be used.

The table will be more interesting and beautiful if it has some nice bends and color, so use your imagination when you select pieces to use. Look for fallen trees from storms, or from an old logging area, or find driftwood from a lake side.

The pieces don't have to be perfect. If there are some rotten areas, I will show you how to transform the wood into a gorgeous table!

I am using a base that is about 1 1/2 inches thick and a table top that is about 2 inches thick. Make your pieces however thick you want, just leave it thick enough for strength. These tables are not very heavy when they are done.

Note: Make sure your wood pieces are fully dry before you make your table. 

Various Rocks (to fill any rotten areas of the wood)

You don't have to pick any special kind of rocks, just look for pieces that have nice color and shine when they are wet. Some of the rocks I used are called Mica, but use what you are able to find. If the pieces are big you can break them down with a hammer or large rock. Wear safety glasses!


When your table is done, you'll have to finish it with Varnish. The product I used (see photo) is very thick and works GREAT for this project. It makes a varnish layer that is 50 times thicker than regular varnish. You might want to try looking for it online, or buy a similar product where you live. If you must use regular Varnish, simply add enough coats to ensure the wood is well protected and sealed.

Tools & Additional Supplies
  • Hand saw or chain saw to cut the wood pieces to take home and to cut later to size.
  • Sander & Sandpaper (Electric is faster, but you can use a sandpaper block)
  • Planer (if your wood is cut too uneven for a sander)
  • Chisel or other sharp tool (to clean away loose and rotten areas of wood)
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Drill & Drill bit (to cut dowel holes)
  • Pre-made dowels to attach table top (Available at most home improvement stores, or you can make them.)
  • Wood glue
  • A few screws (to attach the base to the table leg)
  • Disposable dish to mix your varnish
  • Paintbrushes to apply your varnish
  • Propane Torch (to heat the varnish and remove any air bubbles. Also recommended by the Varnish I used.)
  • Strong Wide Tape (used on wood edges where rocks are used as a filler, to keep rocks from falling out.)
  • Work bench & some clamps (to secure your wood pieces during sanding).
  • Tape Measure
Varnish can make a mess, so you might also want to use a drop cloth or a large scrap piece of cardboard to protect your work area.

Note: Make sure you use safety glasses, and any ear protection, as needed when using power tools! 

Step 2: Cut Pieces to Height

Picture of Cut Pieces to Height

To cut your table leg to height, start by attaching it with a screw to the base. (see photo)

Then take your table top and figure out how high you want the table. Mark a pencil line underneath the table top onto the table leg. (see photo). Now using a level, draw a level line with your pencil across the table leg where it needs to be cut.

Using a hand saw (or a power saw) cut your table leg to the desired height. (see photo) Set the table top on the table leg to check the overall height.

If you are happy with the height, unscrew the table leg from the base and proceed to cleaning your material in the next step.

Step 3: Clean, Plane and Sand Your Wood Pieces

Picture of Clean, Plane and Sand Your Wood Pieces

When cleaning your wood pieces, look for any loose bark or wood and remove any soft or rotted areas. You do not have to sand the table leg smooth, simply clean away all loose pieces.

Use your planer (if needed) to flatten any uneven areas of the base or table top prior to sanding. 

Then using a block sander or an electric sander, sand the base and table top smooth. You don't have to sand it with multiple papers and make it really smooth. The varnish I recommend fills in a lot of areas.

If you have any rotted areas on your table top (like I did), simply chisel out the rotted material until you are left with strong wood and various holes. (See photos).

Step 4: How to Fill Any Rotten or Damaged Areas of Your Table Top

Picture of How to Fill Any Rotten or Damaged Areas of Your Table Top

Most people would look at a partially rotten or damaged piece of wood as a problem, but I like to look at them as an opportunity to make the table top better!

For this step you'll need the rocks mentioned in Step 1 (Materials & Tools). You don't want to use large pieces, so if you have to, break the rocks up with a hammer or another large rock. Use your safety glasses!

Then fill in the holes (where rotten wood was cleaned from) with the small rocks. (see photo). You might find a paintbrush helpful in getting the rocks where you want them. Just be sure to fill the holes completely! They don't have to be level. I'll show you how to flatten these areas later.

Note: If any of the filled areas are close to the table top edge, you can use some wide tape to temporarily keep the rocks from falling out. (see photo).

Now that the holes are filled with rocks, you'll need to mix a small amount of your varnish, to partially fill the rock areas (see photo). Use a scrap piece of wood to get the varnish into the rock areas. Don't use a paintbrush in this step as it will just move all your rocks from the holes!

Once you have partially filled each hole leave the piece to dry. (Time will depend on amount of varnish used and humidity).

When the first filler coat of varnish has dried you will want to add more varnish to completely fill the holes. Then allow to dry.

Step 5: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

Now that your wood pieces are cleaned, sanded and any rotted areas are filled, you can assemble the table.

We'll do so by reattaching the table leg to the base with a screw. At this point, leave only one screw in the base.

Then carefully drill dowel holes into your table leg so that you can attach the top. (see photos).

Before adding your dowels, you'll want to position the table top onto your table leg, and with a pencil, trace where the table leg will attach to your table top. You'll need to measure where your dowel holes are and transfer the mark onto the bottom of your table top. (see photo). Once you are sure you have measured correctly, you can drill holes into the table top base for the other end of your dowels. Be sure not to drill through your table top!

Once the holes are drilled, add wood glue and insert your pre-made dowels into the table leg. (see photo). Then add some wood glue to the dowels and position the table top in place.

Now use your level and see if your table top is attached evenly. If you need to make any adjustments, you'll find it easier to do at the base. Simply remove the screw and remove some material from the table leg and continue checking until your table sits level.

Once you are satisfied that your table is perfectly level, you can add additional screws to ensure your table leg is secured to the base. 

Step 6: Varnish Your Table

Picture of Varnish Your Table

If you had any areas to fill with rocks, you'll now want to sand the table top flat before adding varnish.

Then use a cloth or vacuum to remove all traces of dust. Be sure to clean well as you'll see any dirt after varnishing.

Now that your table is cleaned, you can mix another batch of varnish and begin brushing the varnish on the table. I always start with the less flat areas, and all the nooks and crannies. Leave the flattest parts to do last to ensure the smoothest result. 

If you're using the recommended varnish, you'll see that it suggests using a propane torch to heat the varnish to remove air bubbles. Follow the directions on the product you are using. If you use a propane torch, be careful not to scorch or burn your table. Keep the flame moving!

Once the entire table is coated with varnish, allow it to dry. 

After your table has dried, you should be able to see if you missed any areas and if you require another coat. This is also your opportunity to correct any problem areas (like un-vacuumed dust that you can see) by sanding any areas as needed, then reapply your varnish.

Once your 2nd coat is done, allow your table to dry undisturbed until fully cured. Check your varnish package for the recommended amount of drying time. You don't want to place anything on your table until you are certain the varnish is cured and dry.

Congratulations! You have now made your very own one of a kind table. 


canucksgirl (author)2012-01-09

This project was made by my dad! I hope you all love it as much as I do. We have been so lucky to have all gotten tables like these for Christmas, and now you can make one yourself. The instructions are very easy to follow, and there are lots of pictures.

Great job Dad!!!

Lmaples023 (author)2016-04-22

Tall excuse me.

Lmaples023 (author)2016-04-22

I wanted to say thank you for this. They look amazing. I do have one question and that's how talk are these tables. thank you for your time. Thank you for the inspiration. All my best.

mrlunna13 (author)2013-05-29

Magnificent work!!

mrlunna13 (author)2013-05-29

Absolutely gorgeous!! Thank you for posting this great instructable!!
Jesse M.

WUVIE (author)2012-06-23

Absolutely beautiful! I can see where Canucksgirl gets her eye for all things wonderful!

CrazyBassFisherwoman (author)2012-03-24

Wow these are really nice!

Attmos (author)2012-02-20

I really love your work. you have inspired me and i think i'll have to try this. thanks.

RetiredFinn (author)Attmos2012-02-20

I thank you.If you find interesting pieces of wood,the results will be pleasing to see.Will you vote for me?

Attmos (author)RetiredFinn2012-02-20

Vote for you? I already did. I have an entry aswell, but its not nearly as artistic. Nice work.

RetiredFinn (author)Attmos2012-02-20

Thank you for voting .Your entries are interesting,keep those ideas coming!

iceng (author)2012-01-26

Verrrry Impressive, putting rocks into woody scars, Wow, great idea.

Iv a large desk with a serious ruined spot that I'm going to try this on
and embed a NIB magnet with epoxy to hold it down under a thin rock :-) 

Beautiful work !


canucksgirl (author)iceng2012-01-27

Hey Alex, Thanks for commenting on my dad's instructable. :)
You should really give the rock treatment a try. My dad has made MANY of these tables, and they look gorgeous when they are done. If you can find some really cool looking, shiny rocks, they work the best, but anything you find interesting will work. - Liisa

iceng (author)canucksgirl2012-01-27

Your welcome Liisa.
I do terrible things to rocks.
Grind them, slice them and sometimes polish and drill them.
It might make a neat ible some day when I can display it properly :-)


canucksgirl (author)iceng2012-01-27

lol.. then, this project will definitely work for you. :)
You should post an ible when you get time about what you've done with rocks. Sounds interesting. (I always wanted a rock tumbler when I was younger!).

iceng (author)canucksgirl2012-01-27

Same rock different light

canucksgirl (author)iceng2012-01-28

Very cool. :) - What are they?

iceng (author)canucksgirl2012-01-29

Over here in rock shops you can buy 3 baseball sized geodes for $6

canucksgirl (author)iceng2012-01-30

really? I've never seen them like that before. Over here you can apparently find them (in some locations), but they look like dinosaur eggs with the crystals and such on the inside. So you have to cut or break them open. But wow, 3 for $6 for these... thats great. You could probably make a lot with them. :)

RetiredFinn (author)iceng2012-01-27

thank you

XoneDaGnome (author)2012-01-17

I've always wanted to do this!! Thank you for sharing!

Now on the lookout for wood....

RetiredFinn (author)XoneDaGnome2012-01-17

thanks;happy hunting for the wood,that is half of the fun!

cjf (author)2012-01-15

Beautiful! I have been collecting manzanita burls out of the river, now I know what to do with them! Love the rock fill idea, lots of mica, garnet, and serpentine around here that will look great. Thanks for posting this great instructable!

RetiredFinn (author)cjf2012-01-17

thank you;your materials sound good

CatTrampoline (author)2012-01-17

Very nice! I like how you explained how to get everything level. I made a very clunky version of this in 1978 and it tends to tip over unless braced against a wall or piece of furniture. I had minimal skills and even more minimal tools at the time.

thank you,if my project was any help,thats good

Beauceron (author)2012-01-14

I love natural wood. Beautiful work, sir! I'm voting for this project but the stars aren't showing up so I can't rate it. Sorry.

canucksgirl (author)Beauceron2012-01-14

There has been an intermitted issue with the rating stars... hopefully they get it fixed soon.

Very nice comment btw, I'm sure my dad is grateful. Thanks. :D

CrazyBassFisherwoman (author)2012-01-13

Wow these are great!

AussieAnglerGal (author)2012-01-10

wow this is just amazing! i'm looking at making a small shed for a writing hut and this is the kinda table i want in it!! its really nice!

Thank you,happy writings!

thanks! if i make it i'll post some pictures!

Make sure you do. We'd love to see it in some different kinds of wood. :D

cool! after floods we get heaps of awesome wood shapes washed up from further upstream so it should look cool!

Absolutely. The more character and color in the wood the better. :D

cool, i'm even getting ideas for a lamp holder....

build52 (author)canucksgirl2012-01-13

It's going to take me some time cause all we have is field trees which are boring trees and not big trees.

canucksgirl (author)build522012-01-13

No problem. This instructable isn't going anywhere. :D

Happy hunting!

build52 (author)2012-01-12

awesome! I am going do this tell your dad great project!

RetiredFinn (author)build522012-01-12

Thanks a lot,good luck

faisalch (author)2012-01-12

Wow, these tables are amazingly beautiful and enchanting. Infact I think these are not only decorative but also useable. Mr. Finn You have got a fantastic idea. I have been impressed a lot.

RetiredFinn (author)faisalch2012-01-12

Thank you,tables are very useful in my home.

kbwillert (author)2012-01-12

Do you think a heat gun would work instead of the torch (I don't have a torch).? Thanks

RetiredFinn (author)kbwillert2012-01-12

Yes,heat gun will give you same results.

kbwillert (author)2012-01-12

Great job! This is an awesome write-up, I can't wait to give it a shot! Thanks :)

Aron313 (author)2012-01-10

Your tables are awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!! Im gona try and make one.

canucksgirl (author)Aron3132012-01-11

If you do, post some pictures. My dad would really like to see them. :D

Aron313 (author)canucksgirl2012-01-12


wheelbme (author)2012-01-10

This is beautiful work! Could you give some instruction on how you cut the table top? Getting a peice cut square (level on top and bottom) with a chain saw would be very difficult. Thanks

RetiredFinn (author)wheelbme2012-01-11

Thank you. You can cut a piece from a tree anyway you'd like to. Then when you have it at home, make one side flat, then measure the thickness that you want and run a pencil line around it. Then all you have to do is cut it.

You don't have to be perfectly square because you are putting the table top together with the base and the leg. When your pieces are assembled, then you'll need to check that your table is level.

I hope that helps.

About This Instructable




Bio: I retired from the railroad after 28 years and enjoy my pastimes as the seasons allow. I like spending most of my time outdoors, but ... More »
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