Slab Coffee Table #1: Constructing the Carved Tree Trunk Base

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Blog entry by CharlieK posted 05-14-2016 06:56 PM 1058 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Slab Coffee Table series Part 2: How and WHY! I Inlaid Stars in Slab Top »

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I am having a lot of trouble getting the video to look right in this blog! It looks wrong here and if you click full screen it looks even worse! If you REALLY want to watch it then it is best to click on the button to see it on YouTube. It looks fine there. Otherwise, well, you get the idea!

If anyone knows the RIGHT way to embed videos then I would love it if you would pass the secret on to me!

This video shows how I constructed the “Tree Trunk” base for my slab table.

This is how the base looked AFTER I cleaned it up with a grinder.

I wanted the slab coffee table to have a sculpted and carved base that looked kind of like a tree trunk. I also decided it would look more interesting if the base looked like a tree trunk that had split in half, so I made the base in two pieces. Since the slab had an open crack on one side I positioned the split in the base under the crack in the top to add continuity.

I used stave (coopered) construction for the two pieces of the base.

I like working with templates, but usually I can get by without them. This was one of those projects where a template was was not just “nice to have”, but absolutely necessary! There is no way I could have kept track of everything without some kind of a road map.

There are six critical pieces of information on the template:
1. The first thing I did was to trace the outline of the top on to the plywood. That is the outside line on my template.
2. I also located the crack in the slab on to my template.
3. I then drew two straight lines to show where there would be an opening between the two halves of the base.
4. Next, I drew a line showing the outline of the bottom of the base pieces.
5. It was also important to know the outline of the top of the base pieces where the slab would rest on the base. I used this information to draw the templates for the stave pieces.
6. It was easy to determine how many pieces (staves) were needed once the circumference of the base was drawn out.

The plywood template represented the plan view of the base, but I also needed templates for the staves that would make up the sides of the base. I used regular copy paper for these.

We all know what trees look like, but when it came time to sculpt one out of wood I suddenly had a lot of questions! I actually walked around my neighborhood and took pictures of trees and then used those pictures as a reference.

Trees flair out at the bottom so my table base had to flare out at the bottom, too. To make it to look more interesting and realistic I chose to have it flair differently at different points around the bottom. At some points the flair was short and steep, and at other points the flair extended out more. I decided to make two different size staves so that the rough shape of the base would be closer to the final shape that I envisioned. Once I determined where these would be and marked them on the plywood I could get a count as to how many of each size I would need. Assuming 3/4” material it would take 114 pieces to construct the base!

It so happened that I had a lot of rough sawn ash that had been milled into approximately 1×4’s and 1×6’s so it worked very well for this project. Since it was rough sawn it did require a lot of stock preparation before I could use it.

It was easier to glue some of the boards together BEFORE I started bandsawing out the individual staves. I glued up some pieces that were 1-1/2” thick and others that were 2-1/4” thick

After I removed the clamps I used my paper templates to mark out the individual pieces.

The last thing I had to do before bandsawing the individual pieces was to cut out the blanks on the miter saw
Most of the individual pieces would require two operations at the bandsaw. First was to cut out the shape and next was to cut them at an angle so that when I glued them together that they would match the outline on my the plywood template.

Bandsaws are great machines, but they can be very dangerous. Whenever possible, I like to pull the last few inches of a cut from the back rather than push it from the front. This keeps my hands out of harms way at that critical moment when the piece clears the blade.

The plywood template was invaluable when it came to assembling the pieces. I used it both to determine what angle to cut the individual pieces and exactly where to place them.

I glued the staves into small sections and then I glued those sections together to form the shape of the base. I used a variety of methods to clamp the pieces together.

Clamping straight sections together was fairly easy. Gluing curved sections together got a lot trickier! I used a band clamp where possible, but that didn’t always work. Sometimes I used lag bolts to screw blocks to the outside of the piece so that I would have something to hook the clamps on to. The screw holes were not problem since the finished piece would be painted.

I purposely made the staves longer than they needed to be. This way the length of the staves didn’t have to be precise. Once each of the two halves of the base was constructed I trimmed them down with a jigsaw.

The bottom side on each of the two halves was not flat right after glue up. Again, I made them longer than needed to allow for flattening the bottom.

Once the tops were trimmed down I flipped the pieces over and secured them for flattening. Then I flattened the bottoms of the two halves with the same router jig I used to flatten the slab.

I got a very good result using the coopered (or stave) construction method, but it was quite time consuming. If I make a similar project in the future then I might experiment with a different method, possibly stacked lamination.

This is how it looked after I constructed the base and set the top on it

The next video and blog article will show how I sculpted and textured the base pieces. The last thing I will do to the base is to add a metallic finish, and I have a pretty good story about that!

-- Adjustable Height Workbench Plans

8 comments so far

View DocSavage45's profile


7656 posts in 2265 days

#1 posted 05-14-2016 07:08 PM

Over the top video and blog!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View DocSavage45's profile


7656 posts in 2265 days

#2 posted 05-14-2016 07:09 PM

Great explanations, clear and organized presentation.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View CharlieK's profile


463 posts in 3216 days

#3 posted 05-14-2016 07:14 PM

Thanks Tom!!

-- Adjustable Height Workbench Plans

View DocSavage45's profile


7656 posts in 2265 days

#4 posted 05-14-2016 08:00 PM

3k views on the first one!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View CharlieK's profile


463 posts in 3216 days

#5 posted 05-14-2016 08:08 PM

3k views on the first one!

—Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

Yep, it is starting to build a bit.

-- Adjustable Height Workbench Plans

View Dave Rutan's profile

Dave Rutan

1371 posts in 1611 days

#6 posted 05-14-2016 08:10 PM

How To Embed a YouTube Video into Your Blog on Lumberjocks

Beware of the self playing video down in the comments.

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

1698 posts in 486 days

#7 posted 05-14-2016 08:58 PM

That’s remarkable, Charlie. And my remark is that I’m speechless.

-- Mark

View Bobsboxes's profile


1093 posts in 2087 days

#8 posted 05-15-2016 02:23 PM

Really cool design and follow through. Great video and blog.

-- Bob in Montana. Kindness is the Language the blind can see and deaf can hear. - Mark Twain

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