Rustic Woodware at No Cost, and Easier Than You Thought !!




Raw wood (i.e. as it comes from the tree) gives a nice, rustic aspect to objects made with it. It's cheap, easy to find, and easy to use.

In this instructable I'll show you how to make wood stuff by using wood directly collected from the ground (that is, died branches) and cortex (dead tree skin). The idea is to show you basic tips, convince you that you can do great things with no prior knowledge about woodworking, and provide some motivating examples.

If you want to do real woodwork and you're a beginner, check Some Basic Woodwork Skills, an instructable by Nachimir.

During the slides you'll see a few projects I've done so far:

  • a test tube rack (in which I store species to cook with) using some cortex I found in an eucalipto forest (pic below) Can you tell me what's the name of that in english??? Is it "tube holder"???
  • a table for "picadas" (in Argentina, a set of chopped salami, ham, and cheese, plus some bread and pickles, which are ingested right before lunch, usually before barbecue)
  • a digital photo frame
  • a rustic lamp (sorry, coming soon!)
  • a spoon (sorry, coming soon!)
  • a seat for my garden
  • a plants holder
  • my "real fake tree"

This instructable is in memory of my mom's father, a woodworker whose tools I inherited and I use sometimes.

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Step 1: Basic Materials

The followings are basic materials. Next slides may show a few other useful tools.

  • Some wood (can be logs, branches, recycled wood from ruined furniture, and cortex). The choice will depend on the availability of the materials and, most importantly, on what you want to do. In the examples here, I used eucalipto cortex (ca. 5mm thick) for the tubes container and for the food tablets, a v-shaped branch for the lamp, and a small log for the spoon.
  • Some glue and nails when the project requires separate pieces of wood to be joined.
  • Basic tools: One or more saws (look at captions in pic), sandpaper (may be a rough one and a soft one), a hammer, a plane, and extra things you may found useful at some point (like scissors for example, not shown in the picture).
  • Extra things your project may need (like lamps and wire for the lamp, or a screen for the digital photo frame)

Step 2: Cutting That Wood

I use the saw with small teeth to cut thin branches and cortex pieces ("thin" means less than 2 cm in my case). For bigger pieces of wood I use the saw with big teeth, and then pass the sandpaper to smooth the surface of the cut end.

Of course there are machines that can help you cut thick logs in seconds, but (1) we are intended to work with rather thin pieces and (2) we are on the cheap!

When you want to smooth the borders or surfaces of your piece of wood, you will first use the rough sandpaper and the softer sandpaper later on, if needed. There's also an iron tool that you can use for smoothing, namely a file. I have a set of 3 files with triangular section, each with different roughness. Files are useful to give shape to the wood as it can remove a big amount of wood chips in a controllable fashion.

When you need to quickly cut a surface to render it as flat as possible, there's a tool for that, called "plane" (thanks to those who provided that name!)

Step 3: Curing

After you've finished your project you'll want to do something on it so that it turns resistant to use and time. This is referred to as "curing".

There's a first distinction among things you may want to cure: whether you're going to put food on your wooden thing, or not.

  • If you are not going to put food on it, you can use varnish. Varnish will not only protect your wood, but may also give it a nicer aspect, highlighting colors and contrasts in the wood, giving it a brilliant look, and some times even adding some color of its own. Varnish is usually disolved in some kind of oil, thinner, or other volatile solvent; all of these being toxic. I've heard about some water-soluble varnishes too.
  • If you're going to put FOOD on your wooden thing, DO NOT PUT ANY VARNISH as most varnishes and corresponding solvents are toxic, and an innapropriate choice and/or application may be lethal. Instead, cure by washing carefully with lots of water, then add a lot of salt while it's still wet from the previuos wash with water, and let stand overnight. Then wash again with a lot of water and apply a final washing step with household detergent and water.

A note on flat surfaces being cured: You'll note that when a flat wood piece is cured (or wet in general) it bends. Some times this bending is small but some times it's so big that it can crack / break the piece. So, when you want a shape not to change or a piece not to break while it's being cured, put some weight on it trying to counteract the effect.

Step 4: Some Inspiration (I)

Check out some projects I've worked on:

  • The tubes rack (for tubes containing cooking species). This is made out of eucalipto cortex, in 4 pieces. Pieces are joined by small nails and some glue.
  • A seat for my garden. It's made out of four 10cm-wide logs set perpendicular to the floor, and a number of roughly-130cm-long straight branches set on top of the vertical logs, parallel to the floor, forming the surface where you put your back when you sit. The logs I used had naturally-occurring branches which were not completely removed when I prepared the log. In fact, they were left short so that the horizontal branches would fit there. I have been using this seat for one or two persons since january 2008 and it still holds. Today, there were 3 fat people siting on it and it's still there!!
  • A holder for plants. The branches are joined with medium-size nails. I also used some wooden thread to secure the joints.

Step 5: Some Inspiration (II)

Some more projects:

  • A digital photo frame made with eucalipto cortex and some short branches. I was thinking to show it in a separate instructable but I think it's not worth. I have the photos of the process, so if you ask I'll post them in an instructable on its own.
  • You can make tables for displaying "picadas" or whatever in less than an hour (plus overnite curing as explained in step 3). Check the photos without and with food. MMmm...
  • I'm working on a kind of "real fake tree". It's a fake tree in that its core is a dead tree log with branches; while it's real as it has living plants rolling around it. By now it doesn't look as I expected, but I think it's mostly because the plants I put have not grown much yet. A matter of time and proper selection of plants...
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    37 Discussions


    11 years ago on Step 3

    There are food-safe varnishes available. You see them on some woodenware. The main concern is chipping (like on a cutting board) or not being dishwasher safe. Otherwise, the volatile chemicals, being volatile, evaporate. Of ocurse, a bad choice would range from unpleasant to near-lethal, so perhaps stick to ye olde salt...

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    mineral oil from the pharmacy, should be safe finish for wooden ware. Intended for consumption, to lubricate the digestive track, to make things "move" better.


    9 years ago on Step 3

    flax oil (sometimes sold as linseed oil, but NOT boiled linseed oil, which has chemicals added), and grapeseed oil are some of the food safe wood finishes i can think of that would be suitable for this.

    When using flax/linseed oil make sure you don't leave a oily rag out. Put it into a sealed container with water, as they can catch fire.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    i am way, WAY, =WAY= ahead of you here.

    Over march break last year i built an entire TREEHOUSE out of driftwood. I made a table for my keyboard out of wood i found lying around on the beach, I made my chickens a fake tree that they could sit in and play in (although they didnt use it) out of branches, my neighbor built himself a BED out of driftwood.
    me and my friends built a puppet theater that was about 13 ft long out of huge peices of driftwood!

    well see theres a lot of driftwood where i come from!

    3 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Cool !! Maybe you could post some pictures of your treehouse, the bed, and the puppet theatre. Not necessarilly as an instructables itself, but rather as raw photos in a comment here.


    sry i happen to be miles away from those things atm, and last year i thought they were a lot better. Plus the puppet theater got scrapped recently because it was too big, and my neighbour has now moved away and i dont know what happened to the bed.


    Love the combination of nature and science in your project. Very well done! Thanks. BTW,does anyone have a link where I could buy test tubes? Oh, and you could use a baby bottle brush to clean the tubes-wait-too big hmmm what would be a smaller version of a baby bottle brush? Will think about a solution.

    1 reply

    11 years ago on Step 1

    Just to let you know in case you ever need a new blade or whatever and don't know where to look, that saw on the left is a hacksaw. It is meant to cut metal, including most steels, if you ever feel the need. It's my precision all-purpose saw of choice, too!

    5 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Step 1

    And that works? You have just singlehandedly solved my glass-cutting problem. I've got two cases of bottles to cut up, but I didn't want to ruin my blade.


    Reply 11 years ago on Step 1

    No, I only meant for cutting thin rods of glass: you mar the rod and then crack it up with your two hands. I don't think this will work for bottles. May be I could make a short instructable on working with glass tubes... :)


    Reply 11 years ago on Step 1

    Oh, I see. I was thinking more along the lines of cutting a tube for a bottleneck slide. I can't seem to score them and break them evenly.