Welcome to my first Instructable! Hope you enjoy it.
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A few years ago, my wife had a client who wanted a table that looked like a tree for her breakfast nook. She had searched high and low, but couldn't find what she wanted. She heard that my wife, an artist, might be able to help her out. A couple of weeks later, she got what you see here.
We made this in our garage and forge, using scrap iron, Oriented-Strand Board (OSB), concrete countertop mix, and a few odds and ends.
Step 1: Gather Materials
available at your local steelyard for ~$.50/lb or
FREE if you know how to scrounge (cue Sanford & Son theme)
-5" x 16" steel pipe
-1" square tubing, various lengths
-12-gauge sheet metal scraps
-1"x1" scrap angle iron
Wood: 1- 4'x8'x3/4" sheet of OSB, cut in half
1" x 4" boards for forming concrete
Concrete countertop mix (different brands available)
(2) Sheet expanded metal lath (~ $7 @Home Depot)
(1) Tube of Liquid nails or equivalent wood constructive adhesive
(1) Box drywall screws 1 1/4" long
(5) Wood screws 1/4 x 1" (to attach the branches to tabletop)
Felt furniture pads (little circles of felt available at Home Depot)
Concrete stains: yellow, red, and brown
Metallic paints: brass & copper
1/2" drill with mixer attachment
5 gal. bucket to mix concrete
Arc or MIG welder
Forge, hammer and anvil
Vise, hammer, & 3-4' length of 2" pipe
Step 2: Forming the Tree
The photo is simply an example of what you can do with a length of pipe and some scrap metal. It's ugly, but strong. This will all disappear under the concrete mix.
If you have access to a metal shop or smithy, bending the tubing is easy. Go for random, interesting bends; tree branches and roots can do just about anything. For instance, my avocado tree has a branch that corkscrews. Just make sure when you weld your branches to the trunk (the big pipe), one end is on the same plane as the underside of the table. It doesn't have to be perfect, but close. You can adjust it later with the pipe.
If you don't have access to a forge, hammer and anvil, bending the tubing is harder, but not impossible. Bend the tubing to your liking, using a vise and a length of pipe, or a hammer and a stump. If you don't have that, a concrete curb and careful use of your foot can make nice bends. The tubing is mild steel; it will bend cold just fine, just don't bend any one spot more than once, or it may break.
As you can see in the photos, the tips of the branches have been flattened with a hammer and drilled (1/4" hole) to allow mounting the table top.
Use sheet metal and angle iron scraps as gussets to reinforce the joints. Arc or MIG weld the joints.
**Important** Make sure to position the roots and branches so that the table resists tipping in all directions.
Step 3: Prepping for Concrete
Prepare for bloody fingertips! Metal lath is not fun to work with, but is necessary to support the concrete shapes we wanted to make. The lath isn't tight against the iron; we left it loose to break up the hard lines of the iron and form a more natural look.
Step 4: Forming With Concrete
Here's where we play with mud, I mean concrete. Mix it thick enough that it doesn't run. Form and smooth the concrete by hand. Leave the flats at the end of the branches clean so they attach smoothly to the bottom of the table.
Step 5: Forming the Tabletop
Unfortunately, I don't have pictures to show the steps involved in forming the tabletop, so I will try to explain it.
First, cut a 4' x 8' x 3/4" sheet of OSB in half. Glue and screw them together, using Liquid Nails or other construction adhesive and 1-1/4" drywall screws. If you want an unusual shape, like we have here, cut to shape before you glue and screw.
Next, staple 15 lb. tar paper to the top and sides. This prevents the water in the concrete from absorbing into the wood, ruining both the wood and the concrete. Staple metal lath to the top and sides to help the concrete stick to the tabletop.
Use styrofoam or 1" x 4" boards to make a form around the tabletop. Pour concrete about 1/2" thick on the top and about 1" thick on the sides. Smooth with a trowel.
As the concrete cures, you can add decorative touches, such as the cracks you see tooled into the surface. As you can see, the edges were chipped with a hammer. Play with it to your heart's content. Be prepared to patch the concrete if you chip off too much.
Step 6: Color, Seal, and Finishing Touches
Once the concrete is completely cured, about a day or so, depending on temperature and humidity, it's time to play with colors. Again, unfortunately, I don't have pics of the steps.
I'm also not an artist, just a knuckledraggin' mechanic, so bear with me. Better yet, befriend an artist to help you with this step.
Use multiple layers and mixtures of yellow, brown, and red stains. Mix the stains with water and use spray bottles to apply. Let dry.
Finish with layers of brass and copper metallic paints. Let dry.
Seal with concrete sealer. Allow to cure for at least a day.
Apply felt coaster pads to the bottom of each leg to prevent them from scratching the floor.
Assemble the top to the base using wood screws.
Stand back and admire your work!