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Roundwood (Log) Furniture  RSS feed

 
Lenn Sisson
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Paul has been very busy with his new farm and passed this idea for a thread along to Adrien to post, who passed it along to me.

Roundwood furniture and roundwood carpentry (often called log furniture) is a type of wooden furniture and architectural design that takes advantage of the natural shapes of tree branches and limbs. As the name implies, it features a lot of wood that is left rounded, as opposed to being planed into flat boards.



All photos in this post are from the blog Creative Log Furniture.

Often, a combination of round wood and board wood is used.



Depending on the methods of manufacture, roundwood furniture can be very sturdy and durable. It can range from smooth, highly-finished pieces to very rustic ones that retain the bark of the original tree. The bench in the photo below shows bark along the front edge of the seat.



Construction techniques vary widely, but mortise and tenon joints are often favored for joining pieces. These are very sturdy joints, that become stronger as the wood dries and shrinks, tightening the pieces together. Wikipedia has a good article about mortise and tenon joints here.

Sometimes, entire sections of a tree are used, as in the support column in the photo, below. The one shown even has a branch incorporated into the design.



Roundwood furniture is often used to match architectural elements in a home, such as the table in the photo below, which goes well with the wood paneling that can be seen in the background.



Roundwood architectural features are also used on much larger scales, as all or part of the design of a house or other building, as shown for the railing in the photo below.



Are there any Permies out there who are involved in roundwood woodworking? How can it be used as part of sustainable living? How can people learn more about this type of woodworking? What are some of the resources available?
 
John Redman
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I've played a little with round wood. I built the coffe table while hanging out with my mom in WV. It's really more of an artist deal if you ask me. Mom built the chair and round table playing around. Nothing fancy.
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John Redman
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The chair.
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John Redman
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Tools for the job, Hole hawg, tenon cutter and some type of clamp or vice to hold the branches.
 
John Redman
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Couple more pics. rocking chair and three leg table.
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Adrien Lapointe
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Awesome creations Paul! Do you sell any of your work?
 
John Redman
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No, I had only built the coffe table. Mom created the other stuff, she sold on eBay and at a few different craft festivals.
 
Max Kennedy
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For roundwood construction a complete set of span tables would be great!
 
Maddy Harland
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We have the most beautiful roundwood timber frame building at The Sustainability Centre in south England built by Ben Law. You can see it here http://www.sustainability-centre.org/project.php?id=9

It was built from softwoods grown within 200 yards of the site - usually timber that is pulped for paper. Ben has developed a way of using this timber - i.e. padstones to prevent rot and large overhanging roofs - that means we don't have to use slow growing species anymore. These buildings are also much cheaper to build than conventional ones.

If you want to know more about his method of roundwood timber framing and about the build I mentioned there is some stuff on YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAYKSBzzmEw&list=PL58532E0F3691C788

Ben also wrote a book explaining his method, including jointing methods that differ from traditional green oak framing techniques.
- http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/roundwood_timber_framing:hardcover
 
David Bennett
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Location: Stockholm, Sweden
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Great stuff Paul!

What size tenons are you cutting at most? E.g. for the table legs.

Cheers
 
John Redman
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Thank you for the complements Adrien and David, I'll pass them on. I purchased the tenon as a gift, I went with the 3/4" tenon because It matched the 1 1/2" limbs she seemed to have an abundance of. It seemed to be a good size for the furniture type projects she did.
 
Adrien Lapointe
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Maddy Harland wrote:
Ben also wrote a book explaining his method, including jointing methods that differ from traditional green oak framing techniques.


Paul's podcast 058 is about Ben's DVD and we now have a thread about the book.
 
Micky Ewing
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If anybody has pics or plans for a picnic table made with mostly roundwood -- not the top & seats, but everything else -- I'd really like to see them. I've tried Googling "roundwood picnic table" but I tend to find "round picnic table made of wood" instead. Maybe plans just aren't something you find in the roundwood construction world but I should at least be able to turn up a few photos.

I guess I could probably slap a picnic table together on my own with a bit of trial and error, but it would be nice if I could learn from someone who's already been through that.
 
John Redman
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Micky, just need to add "rustic" to you search.
https://www.google.com/search?q=rustic+log+picnic+tables&client=safari&hl=en&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=4TK9UcKCDYKQ9QSB64D4Dg&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAA&biw=1024&bih=672


I'm thinking this would be a great investment, if planning to ramp up log furniture production.
http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=ZjzM2tiz-9Q&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DZjzM2tiz-9Q
 
Micky Ewing
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Paul Redmond wrote:Micky, just need to add "rustic" to you search.

Hey, thanks for the tip Paul. You're right; that search turns up a lot of good pics. I haven't found any plans yet -- mostly furniture for sale -- but pictures are probably enough to get me going.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Micky Ewing wrote:If anybody has pics or plans for a picnic table made with mostly roundwood -- not the top & seats, but everything else -- I'd really like to see them. I've tried Googling "roundwood picnic table" but I tend to find "round picnic table made of wood" instead. Maybe plans just aren't something you find in the roundwood construction world but I should at least be able to turn up a few photos.

I guess I could probably slap a picnic table together on my own with a bit of trial and error, but it would be nice if I could learn from someone who's already been through that.


Besides Paul Redmond's suggestions, I took a quick peek at the blog Lenn mentioned in the first post and found this photo with what looks like a great picnic table in the background:



Maybe the guy at that blog might be able to create some plans/designs and sell them in addition to his furniture.
 
Richard Cobbs
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Location: Yalaguina, Nicaragua
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Hi, I'm in Nicaragua, where it is very hard and very expensive to get a lot of things. This being the case, I decided to try making some rustic furniture. I researched the web and found that tenon cutters were $250.00 for one! In order to get started I would need over $1000.00 plus shipping IF customs would let it through. I decided to try to build my own. Using a Harbor Freight 4" grinder and a 4" wood blade (shipped from England) and some galvanized pipe. It came out better than expected! It cuts a very nice flat end tenon from 3/4" to 6" in diameter, and up to 6" long without moving the cutting head. By moving the head, I could make a 6" dowel nine feet long! I haven't used it much yet; just bought a small lot and am starting to build. I did make a lounge swing that adjusts alll the way down to a bed. I tried to upload pictures, but my 26kbs internet connection shut me off.
 
John Redman
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Richard Cobbs wrote: . I decided to try to build my own. Using a Harbor Freight 4" grinder and a 4" wood blade (shipped from England) and some galvanized pipe. It came out better than expected! It cuts a very nice flat end tenon from 3/4" to 6" in diameter, and up to 6" long without moving the cutting head. By moving the head, I could make a 6" dowel nine feet long! I haven't used it much yet; just bought a small lot and am starting to build. I did make a lounge swing that adjusts alll the way down to a bed. I tried to upload pictures, but my 26kbs internet connection shut me off.

I need a picture of what you are describing. It sounds simple and inexpensive, I like that.
 
John Redman
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Jocelyn Campbell wrote:

Besides Paul Redmond's suggestions, I took a quick peek at the blog Lenn mentioned in the first post and found this photo with what looks like a great picnic table in the background:



Maybe the guy at that blog might be able to create some plans/designs and sell them in addition to his furniture.

Great catch Jocelyn, I have to admit I failed to check that link. My thought was to bring a tape measure to a lowes or homedepot to get the critical measurements for a picnic table. Most of the joints would be lap type, should be an easy build.
 
Rosalind Riley
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I have a lovely book by Daniel Mack - just found his website. http://www.danielmack.com/portfolio/index.html

Lovely work and lots of good starter projects in the book with various techniques. Some chairs a bit too artsy to be sat in, too! But lots of inspiration there. The book is called Making Rustic Furniture.

 
Ben Plummer
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Another style in the latest Permaculture Magazine.

 
Rosalind Riley
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Can you imagine what that birch chair would do to your pantyhose?
 
Ben Plummer
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A dealer who specializes in Chinese antiques hired me to clean up some pieces he just got in and one was similar to this but not finished, or it once had a clear finish. So cool and the perfect height for me, still tempted to go buy it.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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I thought this was an interesting twist on a log bench. Not so much typical round wood furniture construction though.

Found posted on FB, though a commenter said it's outside a Netherlands museum.
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log and plank bench
 
Dan Reynolds
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It doesn't have to be high tech or spendy to build this way. My first few log benches and tables were done before I had tools. I got a couple of cheap hole saws like this
Buy the longest ones you can. I cut / drilled into the ends of the log sections with a $10 thrift store drill. Then I marked a line around the log at the depth of the hole saw cut and then cut around that line with my $5 home made buck saw till I had a perfect little wood doughnut to pull off the top. I wouldn't recommend the next tool but I used a dollar store razor knife to carve a bevel from 3 or 4 inches back from the tenon ( the dowel part ). I got a used set of paddle bits for the mortises ( the hole the dowl part goes into). I used an old butcher knife as a draw knife to peel the logs ( again not recommended, my wife was not impressed with my abuse of our household cutlery). Crappy tools made it take longer to get a good result but I sold those items and used the money to upgrade.

Power tools are great but I have to admit I hate the noise, vibration and lack of portability and need for power. The most fun I'v had building log stuff was hiking to the spot I cut the logs then building right there in the woods. I had a cordless drill in my pack but the rest of the tools were simple hand tools. Having just discovered Dick Proenneke a few days ago thanks to Permies I really want to get back to building things. I want to focus on simple quality hand tools. Thinking about this reminds me of watching PBS as a kid. I always liked The Woodwright's Shop way better than The New Yankee Workshop. I need to learn blacksmithing so I can make or at least fix my own tools.

 
paul wheaton
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Yesterday a bunch of us watched four DVDs about building roundwood furniture or twig furniture.



Log Furniture Building: Build a Bed and End Table



This features Scott and Wayne showing us how to use the tenon cutter that is sold by lumberjacktools.com. Wayne. Scott is the guy that is the pro and it sounds like Wayne has never built anything. Wayne. While there were a few good tips above and beyond using the tenon cutter, I kinda feel like you could get comfortable using the teneon cutter in a 60 second youtube video. Wayne. This is 60 minutes long. Wayne. Scott made an effort to use Wayne's name once or twice per minute. Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne ...



Making Rustic Furniture



This was the best of the four. This guy says that he is the inventor of the tenon cutter.

I kinda wish there was a bit more exploration of working with greenwood and with conifer wood. But without that this is still a beautiful thing. It reminds me of stuff like "the man who planted trees" or "the simple life of noah dearborn." A quiet, humble guy just doing his thing - rather beautifully. I watch it and think that my whole life is silly and should do what this guy does: go for a walk in the woods ... pick up a couple of sticks and bring them home ... make a lovely chair that is embracing the shape that nature put into these sticks.

He talks about harvesting the wood in late spring so you can easily peel off the bark - thus leaving behind a rather perfect stick. All of the other videos put a LOT of time into scraping, grinding and sanding the wood. I get the impression that this guy might go out into the woods in late spring and bring back a few sticks each day over a few weeks - peeling them while he strolls home. And then sets the peeled sticks in a cozy place. And a few weeks later they are dry and ready to be made into furniture.

The resulting chair is incredibly lightweight, strong and ... perfect. He made it look so easy to build and I felt like a lessor man because I have not built a chair like this.

All of the videos used glue. Some used oodles of glue. This guy used a tiny bit of epoxy. I think I would have liked the video better if the glue was something ... homemade or if he said "I used to use epoxy, but I'm moving away from toxic materials, so I now use _____ instead which I think I could safely eat." But this is really my issue and not his.



Build Your Own Log Furniture



This is much closer to what I needed. They are using conifer wood - so the sticks need to be bigger. You get the impression that this is what these guys have been doing for ten years, cranking out log furniture. They have a mountain of sticks piled up out back and for each piece they go grab some sticks. So, they must go out into the woods once in a while to add to stick mountain. They do spend some time talking about what sticks to look for.

The whole video is about a half hour long. Less than half of that is about building this chair. They do a good job of cutting the tenons, drilling the holes, knocking it all together ... makes it all seem pretty easy. They even have a quick technique for making the seat.

My favorite part is where they hide some dowels and they say that this is to make this into a generational piece. Interesting.

There was one point where they had about an inch and a half of dowel sticking out. You would think that they would clip off the dowel and sand down the rest. But apparently sandpaper is free - so they just sand the whole thing down in about three seconds.

I wish they would ease up on the glue. It seems like half the glue ended up being wiped up.

Overall, they make building a chair from conifer wood look easy and at the end of the video they showcase a bunch of other stuff they have built. You end up thinking this is pretty easy stuff.




Rustic Furniture Basics



This one had large positives and an equal number of large negatives.

He used a little nail gun a LOT. The upside is that he knew how to toenail with nails - so stuff would stay together. He used a lot less glue than the others - and heaps of nails. The heavy use of these teeny tiny nails did make me think that this path does have some strong merits. I would be very curious about expanding on a technique that used zero glue, but lots of these nearly invisible nails.

At one point, he used plywood and spraypaint - which was a double ick for me.

There was a lot of stuff in this video that I thought would be classified as "make furniture from twigs." I suspect that a few of his pieces would have disintegrated in a month. In fact, on one of his pieces, you kinda get the impression that it was the first time he ever made anything like that. Then he tries twice more and you can see that he is definitely getting better at it.

I very much like what he did to make the corded seat. That was fascinating.

A lot of large positives and a lot of large negatives. I'm glad I watched it.



 
tony Irving
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Great articles!
 
paul wheaton
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Adrien Lapointe
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I have seen some British green woodworkers make chairs without nails or glue and then pull on the piece with all their weight and the piece holding without any problems.

If I remember correctly, this video series show them do that.







 
Chris Meador
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I highly recommend people who are into this topic watch the movie alone in the wilderness. It's about a guy named Dick who builds this bitchin cabin using minimal tools in the middle of nowhere in Alaska. His woodworking skills are mesmorizing and he creates everything he needs for his homestead from the land. And obviously he did it all alone, even the filming.

Here is a teaser I found on youtube:
 
Peter Ellis
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For information on English green woodworkung, Mike Abbott and Robin Wood are great sources. Not log or stick furniture, but Abbott teaches chair making, with hand tools, from logs and without glue.
Also a youtube search for "bodger" will turn up loads of good stuff.
 
Victor Johanson
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Well, they're not roundwood, but these reciprocal frame tables are pretty awesome and use no fasteners:

https://www.praktrik.com/



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David Wood
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I've cut up a lot of firewood from smaller diameter branches and stems from a large number of species. Once these smaller branches/stems dry out they can often be very brittle.

From some slower-growing species, a branch may have a reasonable amount of heartwood as against more juvenile wood or sapwood. This might have some strength benefits.

Perhaps someone with experience of making roundwood furniture could pass on their experience in picking branches/small stems that will provide sufficient structural strength for tables and chairs.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Upper branches that turn brittle are said to be brash, it has been a problem for centuries in using this wood.
 
Josephine Howland
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I've been told by several locals that Grey birch is a wood of choice to make round wood furniture.  If that is true, I have hundreds, more like thousands of grey birch on my property. If you're interested in trying this wood, let me know, you can cut down some trees, or even transplant some of the saplings.  The saplings seem to be a pioneer tree that naturally fills in after any clearing.
 
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