Who among us has not enjoyed the experience of finding just the right tree trunk seat, hollow log bench or gnarled root structure stool while we are taking in the great outdoors? While these unconventional "furniture finds" usually accompany a spur-of-the-moment invention, the appeal of a rustic seat or tabletop goes far beyond a Flintstones reminiscence. In fact, the beauty of a driftwood table base or rough-hewn trunk seat often rivals high art forms. Making these natural tributes to Mother Nature can result in practical outdoor furniture for home use or can be further marketed for retail sale.
Determine the piece that will start your collection. It is best to decide on the piece of furniture that you will make and look at others that you might have around as a blueprint for construction. By looking at the construction of other pieces, you will get an idea of how many pieces you will need. If you choose a table, you will need a base; a chair will require several pieces for the back, arms, legs, cross pieces and seat. You may wish to bring a comparable piece of furniture with you when you collect your wood. This will allow you to see what pieces will work best in your design.
Comb the forest and the shoreline. Look for unusual wood specimens. Interesting bark patterns or gnarly spots will make the best pieces. Driftwood makes a unique and artistic table base. Look for something that has an intricate root system. In the woods, tree trunks are a true find. However, many times a tree that has fallen too far in the past may house critters and insects that would be best left undisturbed. You may want to check with developers and builders to see if they have unearthed or chopped anything recently. Many times they will be happy for the offer to remove them from the site. If you are making a twig structure, choose saplings for the best application. Gather as many as you will need to re-create the piece of furniture that you have chosen.
Peel the bark off of the wood first when making rustic furniture. It is easier to attempt this when the wood is first cut, as sap will still be in the bark. The bark will come off with a knife or axe. Place your peeled wood in a dry, yet draughty, area. This will allow the air to circulate and will hasten the drying process, which will take approximately three months. Store the cured wood indoors at room temperature until using.
Choose your joining method. One way to secure your furniture is by nailing. If you pre-drill your holes, making them a bit more narrow and longer than the actual nail, this will be the easiest technique. Use grooved nails for assembly as over time the holes will shrink and as they do, the wood will grab onto the grooves, making a more stable and secure connection.
Coat your rustic furniture with a liberal dose of linseed oil cut with a bit of turpentine. Allow the mixture to dry before applying another coat. Try for several applications and finish with a coat of furniture polish or straight oil.
Explore other materials for tabletops. Glass is terrific when accompanying a trunk or driftwood base. You can have it professionally cut and have the edges bevelled for a finished look. The glass will allow you to see the complete wood base.
Always use protective eyewear when working with wood. Protect hands from splinters and sharp edges by wearing gloves.