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I need help picking out wood for some rustic log / branch furniture projects.

As I sat staring outside at all the deadfall in my woods, I thought to myself, "I bet I could make furniture out of that!", despite the fact that the extent of my woodworking experience up until this point has been primarily the hanging of picture frames on drywall. :)

So after doing some research on what I wanted to build and the available resources, I picked up a copy of Dan Mack's Rustic Furniture Workshop, got myself some new drill bits for mortise and tenon work, and set off into the woods.

And already I have a million questions - I hope this is the right place! Mostly, how do I know what wood is okay to use? I'm speaking exclusively about deadfall - no cutting down live trees for me; Mother Nature has done that plenty.

1) Is pine okay, or should I stick to hardwoods?

2) If the wood is cracked, should I avoid it?

3) If the bark is falling off, does that just make my job easier, or should I worry about rot, disease, and insects?

4) If part of the wood is rotted, can I use parts that seem "good" or might there be unseen rot that will eventually spread to my finished piece?

5) If the wood seems light for its size, does that mean something is wrong, or just that it's really dry?

6) If there are visible signs of insects (e.g. lines and holes running through the wood), is that an automatic no-no?

7) If there are visible signs of decomposition (e.g. different kinds of fungus), is that also an automatic no-no, or can I just scrape off the affected portions?

Thanks so much! I'm sure I'll have dozens more questions once I actually get to building.

One final one - since this forum seems to be about all manner of woodwork, can anyone recommend any sites or resources, or even a subforum of this one, that would be dedicated to this style of woodcraft?

Thanks again!
 

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Log dog
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DanCole42 said:
I need help picking out wood for some rustic log / branch furniture projects.

As I sat staring outside at all the deadfall in my woods, I thought to myself, "I bet I could make furniture out of that!", despite the fact that the extent of my woodworking experience up until this point has been primarily the hanging of picture frames on drywall. :)

So after doing some research on what I wanted to build and the available resources, I picked up a copy of Dan Mack's Rustic Furniture Workshop, got myself some new drill bits for mortise and tenon work, and set off into the woods.

And already I have a million questions - I hope this is the right place! Mostly, how do I know what wood is okay to use? I'm speaking exclusively about deadfall - no cutting down live trees for me; Mother Nature has done that plenty.

1) Is pine okay, or should I stick to hardwoods?

2) If the wood is cracked, should I avoid it?

3) If the bark is falling off, does that just make my job easier, or should I worry about rot, disease, and insects?

4) If part of the wood is rotted, can I use parts that seem "good" or might there be unseen rot that will eventually spread to my finished piece?

5) If the wood seems light for its size, does that mean something is wrong, or just that it's really dry?

6) If there are visible signs of insects (e.g. lines and holes running through the wood), is that an automatic no-no?

7) If there are visible signs of decomposition (e.g. different kinds of fungus), is that also an automatic no-no, or can I just scrape off the affected portions?

Thanks so much! I'm sure I'll have dozens more questions once I actually get to building.

One final one - since this forum seems to be about all manner of woodwork, can anyone recommend any sites or resources, or even a subforum of this one, that would be dedicated to this style of woodcraft?

Thanks again!
Yea you have lots of questions.
1) yes pine is ok. I've done quite a bit of log furniture out of pine. Good thing about it is most of the logs are fairly straight.
2) if the wood is cracked? That all depends on how cracked it is? You can usually cut the cracked section out.
3) having the bark fall off is personal preference.
Depends on the look your after. If this is dead fall? More than Likely the bark will fall off. Most dead fall is rotten and full of insects. So carefully inspecting for rot and bugs is nothing more than looking at it.
4) you can remove the rot that is visual, but further inspecting the log to see if its soft will tell you it's rot or not.
5) if its light for its size could mean its dry, but all depends on how big it is.
6) visual insect holes can be a good thing. It adds to the rustic look. Like I said inspect for activity.
7) all the above. When searching for logs you have to inspect them to make sure there's no rot, or active bugs. If you suspect them in the wood you could build a smokey fire and suspend the logs over the smoke to make the bugs jump ship.
This is going to be your best place for this type of work. Lots of guys here do this.
Hope this helps. Go look at my profile pics of things I've done.
Good luck.
Welcome to wood talk.
 

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Old School
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And already I have a million questions - I hope this is the right place! Mostly, how do I know what wood is okay to use? I'm speaking exclusively about deadfall - no cutting down live trees for me; Mother Nature has done that plenty.

1) Is pine okay, or should I stick to hardwoods?
Pine is fine.
2) If the wood is cracked, should I avoid it?
I would.
3) If the bark is falling off, does that just make my job easier, or should I worry about rot, disease, and insects?
It would make your job easier.
4) If part of the wood is rotted, can I use parts that seem "good" or might there be unseen rot that will eventually spread to my finished piece?
I wouldn't use rotted parts.
5) If the wood seems light for its size, does that mean something is wrong, or just that it's really dry?
It could just be a light piece, or dry..
6) If there are visible signs of insects (e.g. lines and holes running through the wood), is that an automatic no-no?
I would say so.
7) If there are visible signs of decomposition (e.g. different kinds of fungus), is that also an automatic no-no, or can I just scrape off the affected portions?
Some of the deterioration can go beyond what's visible. The sooner you get it off the ground the better.
Thanks so much! I'm sure I'll have dozens more questions once I actually get to building.
One final one - since this forum seems to be about all manner of woodwork, can anyone recommend any sites or resources, or even a subforum of this one, that would be dedicated to this style of woodcraft?
Thanks again!
No sub forums, just use this same one.






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I just found this place this morning and signed up so I could see and read about what other woodworkers are doing with the rustic approach. First off, the mortice and tenon approach (imho) tends to get a little overused and takes away a lot of the charm natural wood offers. Your question about cracks, flaws, etc leads me to think you want to use natural materials but transform them to a finish look. This seems in conflict with using those elements to show the true artistry of nature herself. I've been experimenting with a more organic joinery which contours separate pieces to marry into one another with minimal joinery function visible. It's either on the backside or inside as in doweling. Here's a picture of a mantel and mirror frame I made with this approach. By the way, it was all picked up off the ground before it had a chance to rot. The finish is simply Watco oil, about 10 coats on each piece. I'm not trying to hijack the thread but am curious if anyone else shies away from mortice and tenon in the interest of more aeshetically pleasing results?



 

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It was put together with numerous types of joinery. 'Floating dowels', dowels drilled out oversized then Gorilla glued to hold several of the branch to trunk attachments. Others were hidden screws. Others were oak gussets epoxied and screwed into recesses routed and chiseled out on the back. Everything is glued using either epoxy, Gorilla glue, or Titebond 2. The shelf has a french cleat attachment also out of dimension oak. The slab was a throwaway piece of lumber from when the house it came from was built back at the turn of the century. Everything else was deadfall aspen. This was my first attempt to work with deadfall and I kind of fell in love with the final results. The process challenged me but also made me think way out of the proverbial box to do the mill work. I have more stock so will be building more 'rustic elegance' type projects as time allows.
 

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Log dog
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Homewrite you did a nice job, but I'm more for less fasteners like screws in my furniture. But to each is own. Don't get me wrong I do use some metal fasteners like lag bolts when structure is important, like in a bench or bed frame.
Can't wait to see some more of your work.
Stick around. We need more guys like you here.
 

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I'm in total agreement about the use of screws. I try to never allow an attachment to be visible which includes my finish work on renovation work I do as a living. It's that attention to detail which elevates the work to a better plane. That's one of the reasons behind my statement about not being fond of the mortice and tenon look because just about anyone can drill a hole and shove a peg into the hole. It's an unnecessary shortcut to what could be so much more appealing without the look. Granted it's a lot more work to approach joinery for a 'no visible sign of attachment' technique, but in the final appearance, I think it's warranted. Thanks for the kind words about my project.
 

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What were the odds that Dom would be the first to respond to the OP?

:)
 

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I'd say about 100% Dom. The proof is in the pudding!

:)
 

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BTW I'm really amazed at the beautiful pieces that you rustic guys turn out.

It's hard enough for me to get good results using straight, flat and square stock!
 
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