Building A Birch Log Table

birch-table-topI often overestimate my handiness. And one of my most overzealous projects to date began when Mike and I spotted a fabulous Brent Comber side table in the Conran Shop. Looking at this $2,000 bundle of logs, nailed together in a circle, I turned to Mike and said, We could do that, right? This was about a year ago, so I don’t think he ever said yes to that question, but he explored the possibility with me anyway.

In the NYC flower market, birch logs and sticks are generally sold in small two foot-long bundles but to get the thickness we wanted and an even height, wed have to go the next size up: ten foot-plus. We bought eight branch-less trees, strapped them to the roof of the Volvo and headed to Home Depot. There we purchased the longest nails and screws available with hopes they’d turn kindling into a table.

birch logs on a volvo

birch  table tied togetherThe average side table is about 23″ tall so we cut each log up to get as many two foot pieces as possible (leaving an inch for error). With the straightest, least pockmarked stumps, we made a vertical circular bundle, tied it together with string, placed it over a paper grocery bag, drew a line around it to use as guide and took this picture as a reminder of the dream scenario.

birch-table-closeupWe decided the best way to start building was from the center out. We took two logs and drilled them together two inches from the top and again two inches from the bottom using our largest screws (there is nothing subtle about the hole these 8 beasts leave or their half-inch metal head but in the center of the table, only stability matters). Trying to make sure we had a nice balance of thick and thin pieces and as little space between the circles as possible, we kept adding logs to the initial set, until we had over twenty making a circle. Once we were ready for the outer ring, we switched to nails. Their tiny heads and darker color hid in the wood infinitely better than the screws–especially when we hammered into the knottiest parts of the birch and tapped them deeper with a nail finisher.

The final touch was to saw the top down until all logs were level and pray the whole thing didn’t fall apart.

birch-table-completeAbout twelve hours of labor, thirteen stripped screws, and $85 in materials, we had ourselves a birch log side table. Unlike Mr. Comber’s, ours is far from perfectly round—but its our favorite piece in the house.