Willow Twig Furniture

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Introduction: Willow Twig Furniture

About: high school teacher

How to make a little willow table. Process can be extended to create all kinds of furniture. I make part of my living from doing this (though not this particular item anymore, so feel free to copy it)

Step 1: Cut Some Wood

Willow is everywhere. It grows anywhere there is water and no one to hack it out. It's like the American Bamboo, I've learned to make all kinds of stuff out of it.

For this little table, cut
4 legs, 18" long, thumb thick or larger
4 bottom sides, 14" long, thumb thick or smaller
4 top sides, 12" long, finger-to-thumb thickness
a bunch of twigs size: pinky-to-pencil

Step 2: Tools and Fasteners

Tools
Drill, Preferably cordless, with keyless chuck.
Tape measure
Hammer
Pruners
knife (I REALLY like the cheap Sweedish carving knives like the one shown here. Get them from Woodcraft Supply for about $8)
pruning saw

Fasteners
3" screws
2" screws
1 1/2" ring-shank nails (you can use normal nails, but use these if you want your project to last a LONG time)
1 1/2" pannel brads (like a little nail, but coated with paint, and it has little rings around the shank)
1" pannel brads.
you can find all these at Home Despot

Step 3: Building Frames

Assemble the table by making two flat frames from your legs and side pieces.
The thing to remember about working with willow:
YOU MUST PRE-DRILL EVERY HOLE no matter how small. I use an 1/8" bit for the screws, and a 1/16" for the small nails. The reason you have to drill holes for everything is that willow is harvested green, then it dries after you assemble it. We all know that wood shrinks when it dries, so as it shrinks, it squeezes on your screw, and cracks. Engineers call that "Failure".

Start by drilling pilot holes in the ends of all the side pieces.
Drill holes in the legs, 2" from the top and 14" from the top.
The picture shows nails in the screw holes, that's just so you can see them.
Screw through the legs into the sides.
Remember: the top side piece is 12" long, and the bottom is 14", so it's not going to be square when you are done. Don't worry about angles, just flex it and rack the wood until it looks right.

Step 4: Make It 3D

Once you are finished with the two frames, it's time to add the remaining four side pieces.
Drill holes through the legs at a right angle to the first holes. Locate this set of holes 2.5" from the top, and 13.5" from the top.

Screw through the legs into the side pieces. It should look about like this:

Step 5: Finished Frame

Do the same thing to the second frame, and screw it onto the assembly from step four. By the way, you should use a 3" screw any time you are screwing into the end-grain of a stick. End grain is soft, and it needs all the holding power it can get.

Now you have something that's starting to look like a table! Set it on a flat surface and rack it and twist it until it sits level. You may have to remove some screws, redrill, and reattach pieces to get it right. That's why you use mechanical fasteners.

Strangely, I rarely use a square to get this thing right. Frankly, if you eyeball it, you will be close enough.
(Dovetail purists beware!)

Step 6: Braces:

Cut some pieces of willow about "thumb-to-finger" sized, about 6 to 8 inches long. Trim their ends to 45 deg angles so they become diagonal braces. This brings up the Second Rule of Willow Furniture:
EVERYTHING MUST BE BRACED WITH A DIAGONAL
Willow is flexible, and the joints you put in it are flexable too. A strong structure has to have diagonal braces on evey side to be stable.

Locate the braces reaching from the bottom side pieces, down into the legs. Predrill and nail with ring-shank nails. These baby's hold TIGHT! If you ever want to remove them, you will have to split the wood out around them, because they will NOT come out without breaking something.

Step 7: Twig Tops and Shelf

Take all those twigs that you cut and lay them out on the bench.
Starting in the middle, lay them out on the top to form a table-surface.
YES, you do need to predrill each one, even for those itty-bitty pannel nails. The only exception is if you are using an air-brad nailer, then you don't have to predrill.
Nail the twig down, snip it to length, and do the next one. I like to use about 7 twigs across the top and another 7 across the bottom shelf. The bottom shelf should run at 90 deg to the top. It makes the table stronger.

Step 8: Finished!

This little table is great as an end table, a night stand, lamp stand, or plant stand. It is strong enough to support my weight, and you could use it as a stool if you add larger diagonal braces.

You can use this technique to create all sorts of willow furniture. Everything pictured was created with these guidelines:
Predrill Everything
Diagonal Bracing on every surface
assemble two surfaces as frames, then connect them with sides. Add diagonals and twig surfaces.

Happy Cuttin!

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35 Comments

this is still my favorite instructable. I have made so many tables, shelves, using this basic design out of Yucca sticks.

What’s the best way to make seats for chairs?

Love all your twig furniture!!! Can't wait to get started on mine. I am using Mulberry branches for my little table. Can I use a nail gun for the entire project and bypass the predrilling? Thanks, GAiL

1 reply

nail gun needs to shoot brads or slightly bigger.

If you carve stisks to a point and use this device (unibit)

http : //ww w.google. com/products/catalog?q=unibit&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=10014930799030620460&sa=X&ei=JNhYT-z7JoPc0QGM0r3ZDw&ved=0CHIQ8gIwAw

(remove spaces or google unibit, pick a short fat one) you make a point on stick ends. Use carpenters glue, exterior grade is what you want. Cheaper then the Ape Glue, just as good, although the polyester glue they make is nice) Then using nail gun with small nails to set while the glue dries.

you can use a rat tail rasp to make small notches in the cross beams that make up the shelves then a drop of glue on each piece (and notch) will give you a rock solid table top.


I love this thing good for campsite building for scouts!

but

If you intend to bring INTO your home beware. It took me over 3 years to erradicate the bugs from my kitchen after bringing and keeping a certain walking stick into the kithchen. And this can be an annoyance or a call to a real bug miester to slaughter them.

If the parts are all small enough and you predrill them (and make a few spares) you can put in a warming oven set to 160 or so and bake them for 30 minutes which I THINK may kill all the bugs/eggs/larva. I carve walking sticks and use "tree wood" as my carving pals referred to it. I allow sticks to dry for 9-12 months before carving so there is less chance of checking, and I peel them as well.

just a thought from a fellow termite. The better half and I rented a cabin once that had a lot of furniture and a faux balcony done this way.

I may need to make one JUST to have excuse to carve.

ttfn

Also, maybe bamboo would work better for bathroom furniture? There's loads of bamboo growing right outside my house that no one harvests. It just grows and the forest caretakers cut and leave it every year.

That looks really good!
I'm going to college this coming fall and I'm looking for some cheap bathroom furniture.
Would it be possible to have wood like this in a bathroom (not in the shower, but pretty dang close) that will be steamed up most of the time?
I really want to make this, but I'm thinking the steam might mess with the screws.

I like this table and i can make this kind of table my self. Thanks to give me procedure to make this kind of furniture. I think this furniture is more successful in America.
patio furniture clearance

Wow, this is a great Instructable. I was looking for an inexpensive introduction to the topic of building furniture with willow, and yours is very clear. thanks so much.

my grandpa made something like this 40+years ago and its still in great shape I keep the tv remote on it in the basement

I like it, a great challenge for creativity.

Has anyone ever tried to Gumbo-Limbo wood for any furniture. I wonder because a Gumbo-Limbo branch will grow on its own after planting it by burying the branch about 6 inches in the ground, however the Gumbo-Limbo grows best in sandy well drained soils like in Florida so it might not work in all regions of the USA. Taking that into consideration, if you would use the Gumbo-Limbo to build your furniture, you could have furniture growing in your yard! http://www.christnerswholesale.com

 there is an abundance of willow in my back yard right now, because our willow tree (the biggest one that is... there are still 5 or 6 more) got cut down. I might use some of that tree for this kind of thing.

just wondering if a nail gun would be just as good?  ive never made anything like this but i want to after reading this!

The other pieces of furniture at the end are awesome, actually. I don't know why this got a 2

Nice work. Im not sure where to get that type of wood where i live , but i dabble in this very satisfying hobbie using pine from Grand Canyon ,Ariz area.  Although I try to keep the fasteners down to a minimum by utilizing tenon cutters into a mortise ( hole)  and wood glue.  Props on your imagination. You can view my instructables at :How to make a custom pine log table>

where do you get willow from cos i have to pay a fortune for it for my hamster to gnaw on

just like outdoors man 2014 said about weaving i tried it by getting twigs then putting them on a metal tray with some water on then put them in the oven to make them flexible to weave them together

I was wondering if using found twigs makes the furniture less sturdy or if you knew how to tell if it is good wood or not. I was planning to start building some stuff this summer so I don't know much about it. You seem to have some experience. Is it better to cut it off the tree?