How to Build Rustic Yard Furniture

Written by mindy mcintosh-shetter
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How to Build Rustic Yard Furniture
Freshly cut green trees can be turned into rustic yard furniture. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Rustic furniture is simple to make and adds a custom touch to any yard. This furniture is made of freshly cut green wood that is dried for at least one year. Once dried it can be turned into chairs, swings, tables, and even stools. But do not use already dried, dead or downed trees. These trees can be full of insects or fungi that can cause problems and weaken the structure of the furniture. To go along with the rustic nature of this type of furniture, assemble it with an old world technology called mortise/tenon. This technology uses wooden pegs that are forced into holes in the wood. As the wood dries and shrinks the mortise/tenon becomes tighter creating a tight joint.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Green wood aged one year
  • Wood rack
  • Knife
  • Drill with 3/8-inch bit
  • 240 grit sandpaper
  • Old rag
  • Tung oil, walnut oil, or boiled linseed oil
  • Maul, optional
  • Splitting wedges, optional
  • Burlap bags and/or rustic looking fabric
  • Polyester or cotton stuffing
  • Needle and thread or ribbon

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  1. 1

    Sort the pieces of green wood on the wood rack into straight pieces that can be used for legs of tables and chairs. Pieces with more of a unique shape can be used for chair arms and decorative chair backs.

    How to Build Rustic Yard Furniture
    Seperate the wood pieces by shape, length, and use. (safety at work image by Paula Gent from
  2. 2

    Lay out the pieces into the shape desired -- for example, a bench. Once the skeleton of the piece is formed, drill a 3/8-inch hole into each piece of wood that forms a joint or corner wherever you want to create the joint. Use a pocket knife to whittle pegs of wood down to around 3/8-inch in diameter. Push these pegs into the holes. This technique is called mortise/tenon.

    How to Build Rustic Yard Furniture
    The mortise is created by a drill and 3/8-inch drill bit. (wood stack image by bluefern from
  3. 3

    Join pieces together at the joints with the mortise/tenon technique until the frame and supports are complete.

    How to Build Rustic Yard Furniture
    Finish the frame before adding the seat of the bench. (Electric drill with a drill on a white background image by terex from
  4. 4

    Lay out the logs that will form the top of the bench, for example, and attach using the mortise/tenon.

    How to Build Rustic Yard Furniture
    The logs used for the seat can be left whole or split. (small bench image by David Sexton from
  5. 5

    Sand the furniture with 240 grit sandpaper using a light hand. Apply one coat of a protective oil such as tung oil, walnut oil, or boiled linseed oil with a rag. Wipe off any excess and let the piece dry completely.

    How to Build Rustic Yard Furniture
    Only sand and areas where there is no bark on the furniture. (jug and logs image by hazel proudlove from
  6. 6

    Stuff burlap bags or material sewn together to form bags with polyester or cotton stuffing to make cushions for benches, chairs or swings. Sew these cushions shut with needle and thread or tie them with ribbon. This will help make the seat of the piece of furniture more comfortable.

    How to Build Rustic Yard Furniture
    Rustic looking fabric can be made into cushions for the rustic furniture. (sandpapier image by Thomas Aumann from

Tips and warnings

  • Tree trimming companies are a source of green wood. When cutting, sorting, or making the furniture, wear goggles. This furniture will not last forever even with the coat of protective oil so during the off season consider storing in a shed or garage. A simple way of creating a back for the bench or chair is to just bend and secure twigs from trees such a willow, but if this is done make sure the twigs are green to make bending easier. If more comfort is needed in this type of furniture, use planks of wood instead of whole logs or split logs. Wood that is harvested in the fall is more likely to keep its bark attached, so consider this fact when designing the furniture.
  • On areas that have bark, don't apply the protective oil because it can't seep into the wood through the bark. When drying the wood, don't stack it directly on top of the ground but instead place on a rack that keeps it off the ground. The cushion material is not weatherproof so don't leave it outside when not in use. Watch out for insect damage before placing the bench near house. This is one way of introducing damaging insects into the home.

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