Uses for Tree Stumps

Hi Everyone,

I am having an oak tree in my backyard taken down, sometime soonish.
When it’s taken down I will then be able to have a stump cut from it
for my studio. Yay, a stump of my very own!

Tell me about your stumps. What do you use them for? How tall are
they? I think I want a stump to put an anvil on, but I don’t have an
anvil yet. How tall would I want my stump-as-anvil-stand to be?

Also, what should I do to get my stump ready for indoor use? Dry it
out, I assume, but for how long? Do I need to debug it? If so, how?

Anything else I need to know?

Christine in Littleton, Massachusetts
No one deserves lung cancer

Hi Christine,

Stumps can be useful for several things, but the answer to “What do
you use them for?” Is most likely, what do you want to use them

An anvil on a stump is a good idea, as a blacksmith I have an anvil
on a welded and one on a stump. The problem is that the height of
different anvils means that the stump must be of an appropriate
height for the specific anvil.

My advice would be not to cut it to size until you have the anvil.

THEN, if you want the anvil for light work (ie small jewellery style
work) then the anvil should be up to the height of an inch or two
below your hammer face when your arm is held at a loose kind of 90
degree angle.

If you want it for heavy work, you should stand beside it and the
knuckles of your fist should just brush the top of the anvil.

Who knew there was so much to just choosing a support! :wink:

As for other uses. If you have a handy chainsaw around, cut a ring
that you can stand on which will compensate for the above problems
listed with anvil height. This of course is only any good if the
stump is wide enough to be stable.

Also, I would tend to use discs instead of stumps for other uses as
they are lighter and easier to manipulate (and can be put on
tables/anvils as needed).

Other uses:

Carve shapes out of them and you can get reasonably good dishing
bowls, sure they won’t be perfect, but if you work only in one
section you should be able to make a pretty good bowl shape. Also,
to harden such a wooden dishing bowl, heat a large rounded object
(such as an old tow-ball) and scorch the wood.

As for drying, large block of wood generally take about a year for
every 2 inches of depth. Thus, I suggest that you don’t worry about
that, but maybe cut yourself another stump that can be left to dry
and be used later if desired.

As for de-bugging it, I wouldn’t have a clue!

Depends on the bugs I guess. Generally if you strip the bark off,
the bugs are usually only in the bark and they will leave, unless it
has termites, and then you don’t want it for a stump anyway…



When completed your anvil should be just about waist high, or what
ever you find more comfortable for easy working. As far as debugging,
I would recommend letting it dry completely preferably someplace out
of the weather, like a garage or a bedroom, bathrooms are no good
because the steam from the shower will hydrate the material. After it
has completely dried a small cup of gasoline and one match should
remove any more pests still lingering. I hope this helps.

Wise Blood

    Also, what should I do to get my stump ready for indoor use?
Dry it out, I assume, but for how long? Do I need to debug it? If
so, how? 

Hello Christine,

If you look in the Orchid archives you’ll find a number of threads on
the stump subject which you might find useful. Some of those aRe:

I’m also going to include a longish reply I sent privately about a
year ago to one of the above threads. It’s about the curing and
preparation of a maple stump but a lot of it will apply to your
situation as well. I’ve cured large oak pieces using the method
described though I’ve never been lucky enough to get a stump sized
piece to work with. I’ve since heard of a real lazy man’s way of
treating a large piece like this which is to keep pouring automobile
anti-freeze over the wood until it won’t soak up any more. This is
supposed to take days … and once it dried you’d have a non-splitting
but poisonous block of wood. Not what I’d want personally.

Anyway, here’s that previous reply:

I’ve harvested and cured many kinds of wood in the pursuit of one of
my hobbies, hand-carved wooden spoons, and learned that maple is one
of the trickier ones due to it’s tight, dense grain.

Let me begin by saying that you are very lucky. I’ve had a number of
stumps over the years but nothing like maple. Any stump --wood like
that in particular-- is a great addition to the jewelry making studio
and with care it will last forever. It’s utility is virtually

If your stump is just cut the first thing to do is to slow down it’s
drying process ASAP. With hardwoods like maple they tend to want to
dry as fast as they can and that means splits, shakes and sometimes
total disaster. I once had a Hawthorn stump --beautiful wood by the
way, light sand color, beautiful grain structure with blood-red flecks
through it-- that I left on the balcony for a weekend: it split
itself into small pieces, like a shattered car window. Heartbreaking!

The process I’m going to describe is slow and labour intensive but
the results are usually close to perfect. And since you’re likely
going to have this stump in your studio for the rest of your active
life it’s not a bad trade-off. To the best of my knowledge there is
no substitute for large pieces like this. For smaller pieces you can
use a chemical solution called PEG which displaces the moisture from
the wood but on log or stump sized pieces there isn’t enough
penetration for the PEG to be effective. Another issue is that PEG is
very attractive to pets when it is wet --something about the chemicals
involved-- and it is very poisonous if ingested.

So, the best thing to begin with is a wax solution called “end-sealer
wax” which you can usually find at a woodworkers hobby supply place.
The stuff I use is Lee Valley Tools ( product called
“End Sealer for Logs” but there are many variations on this so use
whatever you can find locally.

The basic approach is simple: cover the entire surface of the stump
with the end-sealer wax, double or triple coats on the endgrain, let
it dry until it is mostly clear (a few hours) and place the entire
thing in a big garbage bag. Seal off the bag --ties are best-- and
stick that in another bag. Seal that off and leave it for at least a
week. Check it to see that all is well. You should have beads of
water forming in the bad and on the stump but no splitting of
checking. Doesn’t hurt to re-do the endgrain sections again just for
good measure.

Now you can decide whether you want to take the “lazy” approach which
means you uncover the stump, put it in a cool, dry place out of
direct sunlight for 6 to 8 months and take your chances. You’ll almost
certainly get some splitting but if you paint them over with the wax
solution as soon as they appear it might not be too bad. It depends
very much on the type of wood and the grain of that particular piece.
If you’ve got the root stems at the base of your stump then the
splitting can be quite marked. Less if it’s just a section from near
the base of the tree.

If you want to take the slow and careful approach you’ll certainly
get better results but it will involve some amount of care and
attention. It begins by re-sealing the stump in the bags and waiting
another couple weeks.

Now begins the long, slow process: open it once every couple of weeks
to let a little of the moisture vent off. A couple hours is good,
enough that the actual beads of moisture on the wood disappear.
Re-seal it and let it sit for another couple weeks.

Repeat this for at least 2 months, longer if you’ve got the patience.
The slower it goes the less splitting you’ll get. Unfortunately you
can’t just ignore it because if you do the moisture will build up and
mold will set in and then you’ve got other problems which are best
simply avoided.

After 2 months of this you’ll have a pretty good idea of what your
end result is going to be. If you’ve avoided splits and checks so far
then everything is going great and you’ll likely be able to finish the
process with great success. If you do get splitting then paint those
over with the sealer wax immediately and slow your process down by
increasing the times between bag openings. It’s hard to be exact
because the process varies depending on the wood you have, the time
of year it was cut, etc. You just have to play it by ear.

Anyway, depending on the size of your stump, after 2 months or so
you’ll notice that the moisture beads stop forming. Drop your cycle
time down to a week and leave it open for 4-6 hours each time. Repeat
for at least another month, 2 is better.

Then start leaving the stump out overnight once a week. Another month
or two of this. If all is still going well you can start doing one
day cycles: one day in the bags, one day out. Another month of this.

By this time --its been as much as 8 months at this point-- you just
take it out, put it in that cool, no-sunlight place and check on it
periodically. After a few months of this you can check your stump to
see if it’s ready to use. Drill a small hole --1/4 inch drill-- in
the base of the stump. Go at least an inch in, gathering the shavings
as they come out. What you want to do is feel the shavings to see
what the internal moisture is like. If the shavings are damp to the
touch then the stump needs more shelf time. Seal up the hole you’ve
drilled with the wax and return it to it’s cool, no-sunlight place.

Once your test shavings are feeling dry-ish the stump is ready to
use. Scrape of the wax, then wirebrush the entire surface of the
stump to get the rest of the excess wax off. Now it’s time to find a
home for your spiffy new stump in your studio!

I should mention that there is one other alternative to this
do-it-yourself approach. You could take the stump to a commercial
lumber mill and have them treat it for you. (not applicable to all
types of wood) They’ll basically steam the stump to drive off most of
the moisture. In a wood like maple you will almost certainly get some
splitting but you’ll also have your stump back and useable in a
couple of weeks.

The downside to this is that the splitting may continue for weeks and
it may require you to do the wax treatment anyway. Of course your
overall treatment time will be dramatically reduced. A side effect of
this process is that the wood is basically cooked during the steaming
and will end up much more brittle than if it had dried naturally.

If you don’t intend to use the surface of the stump --the end grain–
as a hammering surface then this brittleness may be of no concern.
Personally I wouldn’t make that tradeoff because having that work
surface available to me is part of my reason for having the stump in
the first place. Another option would be to cover the upper surface of
the stump with sheet copper, thereby avoiding any splitting concerns
during hammering.

Bonne chance!"

I hope some of this was useful. Feel free to contact me off-list if I
can be of further assistance.

Trevor F.

Christine, I would use a fairly light mix of water & Lavender
essential oil OR patchouli Eo, or any EO the bugs dislike. (I could
give you a list if you like?) A light spray every now and then or a
few drops of the EO place on the stump in differnt areas. the bugs
will run and not return.

Jurnee Moon

Once you have your stump, have it cut so that it stands LEVEL This
can be harder to accomplish than what you might think. people with
chainsaws somehow don’t understand that the cuts may be perpendicular
to the trunk but that doesn’t mean that when it is stood up on end,
that the stump is perpendicular to floor. It’s also nice to have the
bark chainsawed off and then roughly sand it with a home type sander.
If you are not sure that it is dry, support it a bit off the floor
with some lumber scraps so that air can circulate under it. It should
be short enough that when you hammer on your anvil or stake, you do
not have to lift you shoulder.

Marilyn Smith

After it  has completely dried a small cup of gasoline and one
match should remove any more pests still lingering. I hope this
helps. ................. 

I hope you were jesting - one small cup of gasoline and one match
may remove more than just the pests - it might remove the entire
stump and part of your house as well.


Continue from:

I just wanted to thank everyone for the they sent me
regarding the care and use of stumps! I haven’t had the trees in my
yard taken down and, since I’m not sure when that will happen, I
bought a couple. My town has a small sawmill and I went over there
with my request. I was able to get two nice stumps, about 15" in
diameter for $20/each. They’re kind of small, but suitable for my
needs right now; I have my small anvil sitting on one. I didn’t
bother to seal the ends. This is possibly foolish, but for now, I’m
thinking, if splits become a problem, I’ll just get another. Or maybe
in the meantime, I’ll have the trees in my yard cut down and will
treat those.

THANKS, :slight_smile:
Christine in Littleton, Massachusetts