Woodworking: Making a maple table from a tree

By CRAIG KUNCE

This tutorial shows how I made a small side table from a silver maple tree. It follows my progress, step-by-step, through the following tasks:

  • Finding the tree
  • Debarking an splitting the sawn logs
  • Drying the split lumber
  • Shaping the split lumber into usable pieces
  • Sawing and planing into finished boards
  • Planning and building my table
  • Finishing my table

 

So here's a step by step record of my progress and process. Enjoy!

Finding a tree worthy of a woodworking project

The most worthy tree to me is a free tree. My neighbor lost part of her tree in a strong summer storm. I was out walking our dog one evening in June when I saw a cut pile of logs on her boulevard. I asked if she minded if I took a few to make small woodworking projects. She was happy to part way with them. She told me her tree was a silver maple.

I finished my walk and returned with my car to haul the logs home. I took five in total. Each was about eighteen inches long. They varied in diameter from eight to twelve inches. I tried to choose the straightest of the bunch.

 

Debarking and splitting the logs into rough lumber

In my garage I set up the logs and started removing the bark with a draw knife. I bought this fancy tool at my local home improvement store for about ten dollars.

The bark came of easily. The green wood was quite wet under the bark. It didn't smell like maple syrup though, too bad. The raw green wood under the bark looked like a white blanched almond.

 

Next, I set out to split the logs into smaller and flatter usable pieces of rough split lumber. I used a large maul/hammer and the same draw knife I used to remove the bark. I know I'm supposed to use a Froe, but I don't have one and didn't want to spend the money. Plus, the inexpensive draw knife worked well. I did ding it up a bit, but it seemed not much worse for wear.

I continued tapping on both sides of the draw knife until the log split all the way through.

 

 

After I split the log in half, I split it again, into quarters.

 

I continued to split each log into quarter-split rough boards. I tried to optimize each log to get the most flat quarter-split pieces about 1.25–1.5" thick. I figured I wanted most boards to be about 1" thick once they were dried and planed to thickness. I hoped the extra quarter to half inch would suffice.

Here's the fruits of my splitting labor:

I left one piece extra thick (standing in the back left). I plan to make a couple of jointer's mallets out if it. I also left a few logs split into just quarters. I think these might be large enough to make the four table legs. We'll see.

 

Drying the rough-split lumber

Well, I'm going to move my stack of split lumber into my dry basement and let it sit for a few months. I've read that most green lumber will dry down to a preferred 8–10% moisture content in about 4–6 months—in my climate-controlled basement that is. I've also read aht it takes one year per inch. I'll see if I want to buy a moisture meter or not. I might just split a piece off and try to saw and plane it and see how it feels.

So, I found an inexpensive moisture meter at my local home improvement store for $13. I though it would come in handy for this project so I bought it. Here are the moisture reading results a few days after I split the wood.

I took readings from a thin piece (about 2 inches) and a thicker piece (about 4 inches). I pushed the two pins into the center of the wood. They went in about 1/8th of an inch.

I stacked the split lumber in my basement in June, 2017.

 

We'll see how long it takes to dry to 8–10% moisture content. I'll check them every couple of weeks.

 

I'll continue to add more as I make progress . . .