Make Tree Stump Stools

Everywhere you look, tree stumps are being turned into furniture. Here's how to use a woodturning lathe to turn tree stumps into stools or side tables, occasional tables, or even bedside tables.


I stumbled upon this interesting article over at, an Australian woodworking site. Knowing that you can pick up a woodturning lathe at reasonable cost, and that many woodworkers already own one, I thought it might make for an interesting article.

Before you begin, inspect the stump for any damage or loose bark or wood. Loose sections must be chiselled off, as these are potentially dangerous if they fly out during the turning process.

In order to mount the tree stump for tuning, you need to find the centre. Once you have that, the stump is mounted onto the lathe by securing a faceplate on one end - the other end will be supported by the spur. It's important to knock the stump onto the spur with a mallet to ensure it is securely mounted.

Screw the faceplate onto the stump with 35mm screws.

GOOD TO KNOW: Since the ends were not perfectly flat, thin wedges were used to level the faceplate, with the ends of the wedges trimmed off.

Manually rotate the stump to position the tool rest correctly and so that it clears the stump.

You will want to run on the lowest speed range to begin -  on this lathe, 30–1000rpm. Once you start, you can increase speed to the fastest obtainable without vibration. Throughout the whole process the lathe speed has been from 200 to 400rpm.

With a 19mm forged spindle gouge you can start turning the stump, initially turning off any noticeably out of round sections of timber. Bring the chisel to the wood until it starts to cut and then continue until the whole blank has been trued, keeping the rest as close as possible. On increased speed, true up the endgrain at the headstock end. With a bowl gouge you can turn right down to the faceplate.

GOOD TO KNOW: Tighten the tailstock up as you work. If the timber is wet, the tailstock may loosen.

On a quality lathe you will be able to wind the tailstock spindle out to give you more clearance for the chisel.

As you work, stop occasionally to check your measurements against the design, and highlight any critical points with a marking pen.

Using a long handled parting chisel, plunge in as far as you can to define the meeting point of the two intersecting curves on the design (or whatever design you will be using). You want to go in about half the desired depth and certainly don’t want to go in too far. Widen this groove.

Use a bowl gouge to clear out more of the groove and start to develop the two curves. At this stage you can increase the lathe speed a little, as some of the weight has been removed and the piece is truer.

With the top of the stool roughly shaped, the bottom can be worked on with the same gouge . Be particularly careful of any wild grain sections or knots because the wood may tear out here. As the shape is more and more refined lighter cuts are taken to produce a finer finish.

GOOD TO KNOW: Have a sharpening kit on hand to ensure your gouge and cutting tips remain sharp.

As the seat is a concave cut, you will need to follow the grain - always in a downhill direction, turning from the middle to the outside and using a bowl gouge. Slightly round the edge and skim the rest of the surface with the forged gouge at an angle to get a slicing cut. Turn off the area where the faceplate sat using the bowl gouge. The base is also slightly concave, so you will need to remove a reasonable amount of wood to eliminate the mounting screw holes. Turn the base end down and make a spigot.

The stump is reversed to clean up the top. A spindle gouge was used to bevel the top and lower edges. Turn the spigot away as much as you can. You can’t remove all of the spigot of course, but don’t risk going too small and having the stump fly off .

Finally, remove the stump from the lathe. You will have two spigots at each end which can be removed with a saw and chisel.