Give a stump a good home

We moved to Oregon from Wisconsin when I was 10, and I was happy right away. There was a large age range of kids in my neighborhood, and we got to each others’ houses by trails through the canyon that ran down the middle of the neighborhood. One of these kids from our gang, who was about 7 at the time, delivered the most scathing put-down I have ever heard. No one has topped it to this day. We were talking about the father of another of the neighbor kids. He was a bit odd. We were trying, in our own kid way, to describe why he was so odd, when one girl said, in a voice full of derision, “He BUYS his firewood.”

It’s true. On the Coast, buying firewood was considered unmanly, wasteful, lazy, and just wrong. When my dad and brother were bored, they went to the woods, got firewood, and started chopping. We usually had about five cords sitting behind the garage (attracting wood rats). That’s what guys did. That’s what guys in Oregon still do.

When I see stumps for sale at furniture chain stores, I usually have the same reaction as my 7-year-old friend. I feel more than a little disdain. Now, I love a stump table. I love stumps, period. But a stump from a chain store? That’s just wrong. Were those trees cut down just for stump wood? Where were they manufactured and from where were they shipped? My mind hits a wall. Just like that 7-year-old and the purchased firewood. I use stumps all over the place — as steps, as side tables, as support for a sink.


I have posted this picture before, but I just want to point out that the stump was scrap. I bought the sink and paid the craftsmen to make it cool, but the stump was a leftover from some other use. I left the bark on because it’s pretty (to me). I am making a portion of my deck out of stumps banded together (the stump deck), and the stumps are free. I asked my friends with tree stumps if I could have a bunch, and they said, “Is it OK if they’re covered with tar?” Yep, free is free. Tar is fine, and adds some character and texture. Pay for the craftsmen and get as much material as possible for free. Can you imagine paying for a stump from a furniture store? I find it hard to believe that any self-respecting Oregonian would do that. So lower your impact, and give a stump a good home. But not one from the store.

You may notice that my stump has a sink on it, in the picture above. The piping runs through the middle of the stump. That wasn’t cheap, but I like to pay for labor when the return is this cool. While I may joke that everyone in Oregon has stumps, the sad fact is that I couldn’t level a stump, or strip the bark, or stain it, much less put a pipe through one or carve my initials in one. I need help from the people who are talented at such things. For those of you with similar challenges, I went browsing around Etsy, Take a look at this:


Not only does this seller have gorgeous stumps (I love those two words together!), but they will carve them for you. How many things can I think of for carving? My house numbers? My initials? Code words and secret messages? Dates of significant events — like my birthday? Damn, I love people with talent. And the hearts? How about a stump for a wedding present. Check out more with this link:

And guess what? There is more than one stump seller on Etsy; each one I checked out used the word “salvage” in their descriptions. I really love the cool things we can all come up with when we think outside the chain store.

Portlander Nancy Ranchel is a self-described accountant, design fan, serial re-modeler, compulsive re-user, and blog writer.