Introduction: Rustic Decking and Table Top From Tree Trunks

Picture of Rustic Decking and Table Top From Tree Trunks

Using just a chainsaw, a cordless drill, an angle grinder and a hammer, tree trunks straight from the forest can be turned into fantastic old world style rustic platforms such as decking and banquet sized table tops.

Difficulty:..........You need to be able to use a chainsaw
Cost:..........
Satisfaction:..........
Hazards:..........You need chainsaw training

Step 1: Chainsaws and Tree Trunks

Picture of Chainsaws and Tree Trunks

Before we start, just a quick word about chainsaws - they are probably the most dangerous hand tool you will ever use so make sure you get proper training in how to use them safely and wear the appropriate protective clothing, namely kevlar trousers, protective boots, face mask and ear deaf enders. Also, the chain mechanism should be well maintained and properly adjusted and the teeth should be sharp. Never start the chainsaw near the re-fuelling site or you might cause an explosion. The chain itself does not need to be a specialised rip chain for softwoods.

Now for the tree trunks. It's very difficult to find absolutely straight trunks and all the ones I used were slightly banana shaped due to the prevailing wind in the forest where they grew. My trees are western red cedar as this is easy to cut and very durable in the outside. Everything here is made from 4m long trees trunks.

The first step in construction, whether it be for decking or a table top, is to position the tree so that it bananas in the vertical plane as shown in the photo. Now it can be carefully sliced into 2 halves. Keep on slicing up tree trunks to produce as many sections as you need. This technique is not amazingly accurate, but it does give you an amazing rustic old world style finish which a bigger table based machine would not do.

Step 2: Line Up the Tree Slices

Picture of Line Up the Tree Slices

Now we have the components of an unusual puzzle which must be sorted and pieced together. Basically, the slices are placed on wooden bearers alternately top to tail and with the curves nestling in together with each other if this makes sense? If you have a load of bananas you could lay them on the table and they would fit together along the curved edges of one another. Same with the wood except they are top to tail as well. The photos dont really show this too well as it is quite subtle.

When the puzzle has been assembled, squash all the slices as tight together side to side and trim down between each slice with the chainsaw - technical name: "running the kerf". I'm sure this will make absolutely no sense to even the most seasoned lumberjack so let me explain further. The idea is to get the slices to fit together better and running the chainsaw down between the slices just trims off the points where the slices touch each other and not much more. Now the slices can be squashed back together again the process can be repeated until there is very little gap at all. See the second photo. Don't get too carried away as these structures actually require gaps between the sections to allow water to trickle through, but should not be so big that a dog could get it's paw stuck in, for example.

Step 3: Tie the Sections Together Using Battens and Screws

Picture of Tie the Sections Together Using Battens and Screws

This is a temporary measure to keep the sections together whilst the whole structure is turned over. Get some friends to help you. Obviously, you don't need to do this if you're making decking as the sections are assembled in situ, using shims under the sections to get an overall flat result. The table top is different. The second photo shows the table top inverted.

Step 4: Cross Bracing

Picture of Cross Bracing

The cross bracing that I used is some pieces of beech that were pre-machined and I got cheap in a local auction. You could slice up some more tree trunks to get the same thing.

Position the cross braces across the table top and assess which bits of section need to be chiselled off the allow the cross brace to sit flush. No need to measure anything, it can all be done by eye. Start up the chainsaw and carefully carve out a shallow channel along the structure as shown in the photos.

Place the cross section in the channel and nail in with galvanised 4" nails at angles of 30 degrees. Repeat this a total of 5 times to get a nice secure platform.

Now spin the platform over and check for any petrooding nails, which should be ground off with an angle grinder before anybody steps on them.

Step 5: Trim the Platform Ends

Picture of Trim the Platform Ends

Remove the battens and trim off the uneven tree slices at each end of the platform with the chainsaw.

Step 6: Test Drive the Table Top

Picture of Test Drive the Table Top

Before inviting the neighbours around for home made cider, check that it works well with one person first. Get some feedback as to correct height, stability and taste.

Step 7: Have a Party!

Picture of Have a Party!

Now invite the neighbours around to admire your handiwork and marvel at the fact that it was all done with hand tools.

Comments

TrollFaceTheMan (author)2014-09-27

"Step 7 Have a Party!" XD Good Job!

That's the most important step!

Of course :)

Yes there's not much point unless we can share it with people.

RyanMoore22 (author)2014-09-01

If I could do work like this I would quit my day job. This is great and very inspiring. I think wood working is my calling yet I wear a suit to work every day. I wish I could break away from that!

Hello Ryan and thanks for your comment. I am glad this has inspired you. Do you have time to do woodwork at the weekend?

I do. I'm building a car bed for my son right now. Its a loft bed and I'm going to make it look like its on a mechanics lift. The, "Lift Loft."

I have some old 10"x10" barn beams. I wonder if i could do something similar with those...

Very cool!

Hey, just watch out for nails in those old beams! They blunt the chain pretty quick.

Good call. Thanks!

No worries!

This looks amazing! Well, all your picture look awesome, it makes me want to go on vacation!

Thanks Danger! You're very welcome to visit the Isle of Anglesey if you're passing this way, especially if you can dig up carrots!

I might have to make plans to visit if it's all as beautiful as these pictures!

I think it's beautiful, and there's more to come. Next instructable will feature some underwater photos taken around the coast of the island, but it is hunting based. Even more beautiful and largely untouched by mankind.

Well, we have our hunting contest starting on Monday! Looking forward to reading more!

Yes, I noticed that! I just hope nobody finds the hunting part offensive.

dorybob (author)2014-08-20

Very nice work. Since you like to play with chain saws and if you want to step into the deep end, check out the various chain saw mills at:

http://forestry.about.com/od/portamills/tp/port_chain_mill.htm

The Logosol is very nice but salty. Below are photos of a 8 in by 8 in maple beam I completed yesterday using a Haddon Tool chain saw mill (unsure if still available). Not the same rustic look as yours but I find any big chunk of wood beautiful. Safety first and last.

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)dorybob2014-08-20

Hello dorybob. Thanks for the comment. I did look at chainsaw mills before doing the decking, but they were far too expensive for a one off job like that. After I finished the decking a friend said that he had one that I could have borrowed! I chose not to borrow it for the table top as the trees were fairly slim and knobbly - do chainsaw mills work on knobbly wood? I used a massive bandsaw to do the cabin cladding - waney edged timber. Still have about a dozen trees left - what next?

LynxSys (author)Tecwyn Twmffat2014-08-21

Most chainsaw mills will work on just about any wood, provided that the chainsaw has enough power, that the bar is long enough, and that the mill is used correctly. If the difficulty is that the knobbly part is on top of your log, you can use a plank as a reference plane as shown in the first picture of "Step 1" in this excellent Instructable. There are quite a few different styles of chainsaw mill, but the one shown there appears to be quite good in terms of portability and ease of setup.

dorybob (author)LynxSys2014-08-21

Ditto all that LynxSys said. I trim any large knobs and lag bolt a 4in by 6in board as my reference plane. Band saws are the big sisters of chain saw mills; you've worked both ends of the spectrum. I hired a local woodworker with a Woodmizer in this instructable: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-construct-ribs-for-an-18-foot-Grand-Banks-d/

because of the size of the wood and wanting less waste (i.e., thinner kerf). I'm sure you'll find another interesting project for your remaining trees and maybe borrow your friends mill. (grin)

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)dorybob2014-08-21

Yes, I think I will use a mill one day soon! Thanks!

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)LynxSys2014-08-21

Cheers for that. I checked the instructable and it looks fantastic.

jimsims (author)2014-08-21

Great work. Very cool table. Your technique of ripping between the adjoining pieces has been called "running the kerf" by a woodworker friend of mine. It's the next best thing to a joiner.

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)jimsims2014-08-21

Wow that's really cool that the technique has a name. I googled it and it only has a few mentions on the whole of the interweb. I'll add it into this instructable. Many thanks Jim!

Ninzerbean (author)2014-08-20

I love this 'ible, and the table, and I have a huge piece of cedar trunk to work on. My favorite chainsaw story is when I bought mine and was bringing the Kevlar pants up to the counter the salesguy said "You know those cost $100, are you sure you want them?". Of course afterwards I thought of lots of better answers but at the time all I could think to say was "How much do you think a trip to the emergency room costs?"

Accidents are not called 'on purposes' for a reason, so I am glad you had all the safety stuff in your 'ible.

And good luck with the cedar trunk!

TOP COMMENT! A tree surgeon i spoke to said he saw a guy bleed out after the saw kicked back and sawed through the femoral artery.....he said the guy was dead in less than 2 minutes, and there was NO WAY to stop the gusher.

$100 is cheap even $300 as when you have done the job, you can always sell the saw and the protective gear to recoup some outlay...plus the money you save on the lumber makes it basically free.

Yes, safety has to be top priority. Thanks for the thumbs up!

bongodrummer (author)2014-08-20

Love it, thanks for sharing. I admire your skill with the chainsaw ripping! Final thing looks lovely.

Thanks Bongo! Yes, it does take a bit of skill and generally being able to handle large powerful hand tools.

karalalala (author)2014-08-19

This is really lovely. I especially like it as decking. Thanks, this and your marrow beer instructable rock. Totally following you now!

wow .....

My ego is going to go thru the roof ...... my go and have a cup of tea! Seriously though, thanks for your enthusiasm!

steampunkpotato (author)2014-08-17

could this possibly be used as a raft?

Yes, very likely, but you'd probably need more bouancy for more than 1 person.

jjdebenedictis (author)2014-08-17

I love this! In particular, your weathered deck with all the greenery cascading around it looks just amazing!

This is a photo of my Gaff - A lot of the greenery is hops that I planted a couple of years ago - also some willow. I want the whole building covered in green leaf eventually. You can hardly see the decking from this angle.

Thanks! I'll try and find you another photo.

MsSweetSatisfaction (author)2014-08-17

This turned out wonderful. Thank you for sharing your process!

Yes, I was especially pleased with the decking - I really dont like the industrial stuff that I could have bought. Only downside was this involved a lot more work.

BLR_RAVI (author)2014-08-17

very nice to see this..great work

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)BLR_RAVI2014-08-17

I think the hardest part was extracting it out of the forest ..... But that's another story!

bricobart (author)2014-08-17

My type of work, love it!

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)bricobart2014-08-17

Thanks Brico! Chainsaw is one of my favourite tools.

MsSweetSatisfaction (author)2014-08-17

This turned out wonderful. Thank you for sharing your process!

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