Coaster Art from Tree Branches

(This appeared as a guest post last week on Mod Podge Rocks.)

Here is a fun and easy project if you ever come across a downed or pruned branch – coasters made from tree branches. When stacked on their base on your coffee table, it becomes a mini-sculpture.

The Project: Stacked coasters made from branch slices with concentric circles of ephemera applied to the surfaces. Coasters are drilled through the center, and are stacked on to a metal rod which is attached to a thick branch base.

BranchCoasters

CoasteGroup3

BranchCoasterDetail

You will need:

  • Branch – about 4″ diameter
  • Chop saw (or a good hand saw and some muscles)
  • Sander (we used a random orbital sander, but a hand sander would also work)
  • Drill plus 1/8″ and 3/32″ drill bits
  • Your favorite ephemera
  • Large hole punches (we used 2″ and 1″)
  • Small hole punch (we used 1/8″)
  • Mod Podge
  • Satin Varathane (or any clear polyurethane)
  • Brush, about 1″ wide
  • 1/8″ steel rod (we used old croquet wickets, but steel rod is available at hardware stores)
  • Hacksaw
  • Hammer

Step 1: Find a branch.

BranchBefore

Step 2: Cut your branch into approximately 1/2″ slices. We used a chop saw, but you could also use a hand saw. To make your slices somewhat consistent, mark your width of your cut by putting a piece of tape on your saw. To make your base, cut one slice thicker than the coasters  –  around 2″-3″.

Note: if you use a chop saw, remember to wear safety glasses and DO NOT cut through knots in the branch. The saw may grab the branch (and your hand) in an unpredictable and scary manner.

CuttingBranch

Step 3: Let your branch slices dry. We put them on a rack for about 2 weeks.

Step 4: Drill holes in the approximate center of each slice of wood. Try to vary the placement of the holes slightly, the coasters look better when the edges of the stack aren’t perfectly aligned.
(Note: you can drill the holes before or after you sand, it doesn’t matter that much.)

DrillingCoaster

Step 5: Sand wood slices. We used a random orbital sander. To prevent the slices from flying around during sanding, we built a little jig. We nailed 2 small pieces of scrap wood to the work bench in a “v”, and wedged the wood slice in the “v” with another piece of wood to hold it place while sanding. This was Monica’s genius idea, by the way. I was content to sand a little bit of my finger tips off until she came along.

SandingJig

Step 6: To make the base, drill a hole with the 3/16″ drill bit (slightly smaller diameter than your steel rod) in your base piece of wood. Do not go all the way through. You can mark your drill bit with a piece of blue tape for a guide. Cut your steel rod to correct length with a hacksaw. Use a hammer to pound the steel rod into the base. The fit should be tight.

Hammering_Rod

Step 7: Gather your favorite ephemera. You can use old typographic options like we did, or you can go with more colorful options like old wrapping paper, illustrated calendars, greeting cards, maps, etc…

Ephemera2

Step 8: Punch out a variety of paper options with your 2″ and 1″ punches and arrange in pleasing combinations. It works best when there is some contrast between the 2 layers – different scale, color, or pattern. After you have your groupings, use the small 1/8″ punch to make a hole in the approximate center of the paired circles.

Punches_ephemera

PunchedEphemera2 PunchedEphemera3

Step 9:  Brush Mod Podge onto coaster, avoiding the center hole. Place 2″ circle (aligning the hole in the paper with the hole in the wood), apply Modge Podge on top, then apply the 1″ circle, and apply more Mod Podge on top of that, coating the entire surface of the coaster. Let dry and repeat on back of coaster. Do the same to the base, sliding the circles down around the metal rod.ModPodgetoCoasterModPodgetoCoaster2

ModPodgeFinal

Step 10: Let dry thoroughly and then apply a clear polyurethane coating coating over the top of the Mod Podge. This will provide a hard finish. (Again, avoid getting the polyurethane into the center hole.) Let the coasters dry thoroughly (a couple days) before stacking onto the base.

That’s it. Enjoy your new “coaster art”!

BranchCoastersCoasteGroup3

BranchCoasterDetail

CoastersDetail

BranchCoasters_unstacked

See more of Heidi’s artwork at Old Stuff. New Stories.

7 thoughts on “Coaster Art from Tree Branches

  1. You make everything look so doable with your great photo’s and tutorial. I have friends who have a cottage in Valemont British Columbia. It’s in the Canadian Rockies about 45 minutes south of Jasper. It’s so beautiful there. The minute I saw these, I thought of them. I have a ton of paper stuff (as you might well imagine) I really love the idea of the bingo cars and bits of old papers or ad’s maybe mixed with a vintage scrapbook paper. I really want to get a mitre saw when we have a garage to work in. I always find I could use one. Thanks for another fab idea. I’m Pinning because I think I can do this one :D Have a great weekend ladies!

    • I love our compound miter saw, use it all the time. It did really almost take off my arm though when I tried to cut through a knot in the branch. I thought, “ooh, this will have a nice pattern in the wood, I’ll cut through it!” And then it just grabbed the piece of branch super quickly. I took a break at that point, I was shaking in my boots. Taught me to have a little more respect for that thing! Your friends’ cottage sounds like it’s in a beautiful spot! How lucky! Good luck when you make your coasters, you have some beautiful papers I’m sure – I bet a few of them are aqua!

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