Woodworking Tip: Finishing a Root Ball or Tree Stump
Guest contributor Gene Nellis of Greater Yellowstone Furniture and Designs writes that after people find a root ball or tree stump they know will make a beautiful table or lamp he is often asked how to finish it. Here is the procedure he follows.
- Cut the bottom in a plane perpendicular to the length of the piece.
- Set the piece on a level surface and, using a level, draw a line around the piece at the height you want. Cut on this line. I use a chainsaw for this, but a sharp handsaw will also work.
- Sand both the top and bottom surfaces to desired smoothness.
- Stumps and root balls take time, often years, to dry. If the bark is tight, the piece probably is not dry. Remove the bark with a drawknife or chisel.
- Physically remove any rot and bugs. Smoke and heat will make the bugs jump ship. A bonfire works great. Place the piece close to the fire and heat it up. Since wood is a good insulator, the middle of the wood will take time to heat up. Wood doesn’t burn until it reaches 500 degrees F. Getting the stump over 200 degrees F will kill any eggs, larvae, etc.
- Use good quality polyurethane to finish the piece. Be sure to coat ALL surfaces: top, bottom, etc. At least three coats are required to seal the piece. The polyurethane will harden the surface and stabilize minor rot. Rotted areas really drink the polyurethane, so use it liberally in soft areas.
- Between coats, let the piece dry completely and sand lightly with very fine sand paper.
Enjoy your work of art!!!