Rustic Decking and Table Top From Tree Trunks




About: Ugly pirate roaming the seas in search of Treasure.

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
Hazards:..........You need chainsaw training

Step 1: 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

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

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

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

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

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!

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

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    44 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    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!

    5 replies

    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...

    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.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    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:

    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.

    3 replies
    Tecwyn Twmffatdorybob

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    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?

    LynxSysTecwyn Twmffat

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    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:

    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)