Natural Branch Coasters

Natural Branch Coasters

Making a set of coasters from a fallen tree will allow the beauty of that wood to live on and tell the story in its rings.  This project goes perfectly with the Branch Coat Rack I made a few months ago.

Enamel Dig for Victory Mug and Natural Branch Coasters

It was a sad day when the largest, oldest tree on my street was hacked down and unceremoniously chucked into construction waste bins.  The 50’ Western Red Cedar still had a lot of good years left but got in the way of developers’ dollar signs and no amount of reasoning could sway them.  Neighbours came to say goodbye, walking through the wreckage, collecting a memento or two; tears were shed.  It’s amazing the impact a tree can have and the sense of loss for one treated with so little respect.

I collected a few thick branches to turn into sets of coasters that I will pass onto neighbours who remember their kids climbing those same limbs, many, many years ago.

Recycling Tree Branches into Coasters

The project is simple but it will take some time to cut and sand each piece.  The more time you spend getting them right, the nicer the final product will be.

Materials:

  • Straight branches that are no smaller than 3.5” in diameter
  • Hand saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Clear Varnish

How to Make Natural Branch Coasters

Staining Natural Branch Coasters DIY project

Directions:

1. Using the saw cut sections of branches that ½” thick.

2.  Sand each section with heavy grit sandpaper, and then use a finer grit to smooth out the surface.  Do not sand the bark on the edges.

3.  Coat front, back, and sides with clear varnish and let dry.  Untreated wood can also look beautiful as it absorbs the drips and condensation from the glasses that sit on it.

Turning tree branches into coasters DIY project

 Update: due to many requests, I have listed 2 sets of 4 of these coasters for sale on Etsy: Natural Branch Coasters.

About the Author : StephanieAn artistic gardener aiming to feed the body & soul through an urban potager garden & a community veggie plot in Vancouver.View all posts by Stephanie

  1. meemsnyc
    meemsnycJune 17,12

    What a simply beautiful idea! Love it.

  2. Jeanine Okio B Designs
    Jeanine Okio B DesignsJune 18,12

    These are fabulous! I think they would make for a wonderful hostess gift!

    Jeanine

  3. Debbie refreshrestyle
    Debbie refreshrestyleJune 18,12

    I love these! They are beautiful!

  4. Anja
    AnjaJune 19,12

    These are awesome, Stevie! I’ve already shown them to my husband, but he (being a grinch ;-) said that he didn’t have a saw for that. So I can only dream of them (or give him a new saw for his next birthday ;-)

  5. Kelly @ Eclectically Vintage
    Kelly @ Eclectically VintageJune 19,12

    Love a bit of rustic and these are perfect! I’ll be searching for the perfect branch so I can make my own.
    Kelly

  6. Melissa
    MelissaJune 20,12

    I love these! If I ever run across a tree branch large enough I will definitely be giving this a go. So simple but gorgeous!

    xoxo,
    Melissa

  7. Katherine of Kitten's Lost Her Mittens
    Katherine of Kitten's Lost Her MittensJune 20,12

    Ooh, I love the new look of your blog! So pretty. Also, this project is awesome! I would so love to try it sometime, but I guess I’ll have to wait for some big branches to come down…
    x Katherine

  8. Jewelry Rage
    Jewelry RageJune 22,12

    I love these such a simply idea but so cool. I can’t wait to try this.

  9. birdhouses
    birdhousesJune 22,12

    This is one of the best ideas for coasters that I have ever seen. Thank you for the inspiration.

  10. Vanessa @ {nifty thrifty things}
    Vanessa @ {nifty thrifty things}June 23,12

    What a fun idea! Love it!
    You will be featured at this week’s {nifty thrifty sunday}!
    Have a wonderful weekend!
    xo! Vanessa

  11. Kelcee
    KelceeJune 23,12

    What kind of varnish do you use to keep the wood from cracking?

  12. Stevie
    StevieJune 23,12

    Kelcee, I used clear satin finish Varathane.

  13. Brandi
    BrandiJune 26,12

    Stevie, your coasters are gorgeous! Such a clever idea! *Note to self, check yard for fallen branches to make pretty like Stevie did!

  14. Nancy Pack
    Nancy PackJune 29,12

    I did this last Winter. But I just varnished one side so the top could absorb the condensation from the glass.

  15. rebecca
    rebeccaJuly 2,12

    Did the wood try to split at all as it dried out?

  16. Stevie
    StevieJuly 2,12

    Not at all Rebecca. I dried the cut pieces for a few month before sanding and varnishing. No issues with splitting.

  17. Cori
    CoriJuly 5,12

    Stevie,

    How did you get the bark to stay on for the final product? Does the clear varnish keep it from peeling or flaking off? The varnish you used doesn’t look clear. It looks like it has some staining in it?

    I just cut some cedar posts so I can make some coasters like yours and wanna make sure I have everything I need before I start.

    Did you use the heavy sand paper an then varnish and then use the finer grit sandpaper on top of the varnish??

    Sorry for all the questions. Thanks

  18. Stevie
    StevieJuly 5,12

    Hi Cori, the bark stayed on due to the type of wood, Western Red Cedar. I was careful to not pull it off but it is pretty sturdy. I did varnish the sides around the bark as well. The varnish was labelled as clear, but it does have a honey colour in the can. It made the final coasters look a little darker than the dry wood which I expected and like. Yes, you can sand as you outlined, my husband also suggested that. I just sanded it smooth and added the varnish. I like them a bit more rustic and I’m happy with the result. I can imagine they would also be wonderful made very smooth as well. Have fun with your project and I’d love it if you would send me some photos!

  19. paula
    paulaJuly 11,12

    Truely beautiful @so memorial to those days passed

  20. Rebekah
    RebekahJuly 12,12

    Just one questions, where did you get the table cloth from? I’m in love with it!!!

  21. Stevie
    StevieJuly 13,12

    Rebeckah – It’s a table runner from CB2.

  22. Shirley
    ShirleyJuly 23,12

    Did you glue felt or anything to keep the coaster from marking the furniture?

  23. Stevie
    StevieJuly 23,12

    Hi Shirley, I thought about that originally, but when sanded they are smooth so won’t scratch anything, and they are varnished and dry so they don’t stain. You certainly could put felt or little feet on them if you choose. I can’t hurt. Thanks for visiting!

  24. Alex Wiliams
    Alex WiliamsJuly 23,12

    I love these! Such a nice way to re use some timber and make them more than just a unique coaster.

  25. Maria Lourdes Rios
    Maria Lourdes RiosJuly 25,12

    I love these coasters. What a great idea to preserve memories. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Shannon
    ShannonJuly 26,12

    Very cute! I want to make some of these for wood carver friends who are getting married. So, dumb question…..what kind of hand saw? LOL
    Thanks!

  27. Stevie
    StevieJuly 27,12

    Hi Shannon, it’s a bit of a process with a saw so ask for help from someone you know with some table saw / chop saw / dual bevel sliding compound saw (Ok, I’m not even sure if those are things and if will work, I don’t use the big tools!) If not, then what I mean by hand saw is just a plain old saw from the hardware store. It’ll build some muscle too!

  28. Teri
    TeriSeptember 4,12

    Funny to see this idea. I told my a husband last weekend that one of the big trees that has to come down to build our house is all mine! However, my plan is to make slices for “placemats” and a very large lazy susan for the center of our table.

  29. Kelly
    KellySeptember 17,12

    I have sections of larger branches from trees that were cut from the land where we are now building a house. My intention is to make slices to hang on the wall in a group. I wasn’t sure how I should “preserve” them…this process sounds perfect! Thanks!!

  30. Mary Peters
    Mary PetersOctober 3,12

    Love the coasters, but love the story most of all. What a thoughtful gift for your neighbors! <3 I saved wood from the tree I grew up with, but it split badly. :-(

  31. Dee
    DeeOctober 23,12

    These are beautiful, but some advice: glue some felt to the back of the coaster. The sap from the tree CAN seep through…..and unfelted backside can also scratch your furniture. :)

  32. Elizabeth
    ElizabethJanuary 13,13

    Do I need to let the wood dry out before I seal it? I am doing something just like this to make trivets, but I was planning to use Linseed Oil to seal it. Do you know if that will work just as well?
    Thanks! Yours are beautiful!!

  33. Stevie
    StevieJanuary 13,13

    Hi Elizabeth, yes, let the wood dry out first, and the linseed oil would look wonderful I would think.

  34. Chuck Sparkman
    Chuck SparkmanJanuary 21,13

    Great idea, cant wait to try it as soon as I find a cedar tree limb suitable. How difficult is it to make the cuts using a hand saw, I mean I have trouble making a straight cut! Any suggestions? Also do you coat all sides top, botttom and the side (bark) with the varathane? Thanks for your post and answers to ll the questions on here, its very helpful.

  35. Chuck Sparkman
    Chuck SparkmanJanuary 21,13

    Also you said to let the wood dry out first, dry out as a limb/branch first before cutting into coasters, or cut the coasters out and then allow to dry out.

  36. Stevie
    StevieJanuary 21,13

    Hi Chuck,

    Let the branch dry first, it will be easier to cut that way. A hand saw is fairly difficult. Cut them as straight as you can and be prepared for some sanding. I Varathaned the cut sides with two coats lightly sanding between each coat, and the bark around the edge only once.

    Thanks for visiting!

  37. Christina at I Gotta Create!
    Christina at I Gotta Create!February 2,13

    Love, love, love!!!!! Pinned these beauties, too <3

    Christina @ I Gotta Create!
    Wildly Original link party is open.

  38. Judy Hudson
    Judy HudsonFebruary 24,13

    I love your coasters, I am going to try them with white birch . My Husband cuts them with a table saw and they come out very nice and with just a little sanding .

  39. Faye
    FayeMarch 14,13

    I love this idea, but in my previous varnishing experiences, when i applied heat (a hot mug of tea?) the varnish then stuck to the mug, and of course ruined the effect on my coasters, does anyone have any tips? is there something i could put on thats not varnish that would have a similar effect? I read somewhere that simple vegetable oil can be applied, but i dont want to end up with slimey coasters! Thanks, :)

  40. Stevie
    StevieMarch 14,13

    Hi Faye, I varnished mine way back when I wrote this project and have been using the coasters all winter which means a LOT of hot tea and coffee has perched on them. No marks, no melting. They are in perfect condition. I’m not sure what happened in your past experience (climate? not cured enough? brand? age of varnish?), but this has worked perfectly for me.

  41. Leslie
    LeslieAugust 13,13

    Something else to consider is the time of year the branches are cut. It is best to wait until Autumn or Winter to cut the tree limbs. This is the time of year the sap is down. If the tree is cut during the time period that the sap is up, certain trees, like Cedar, tend to split when they are dried. Hope this helps.

  42. Barb
    BarbSeptember 28,13

    If you apply varnish or any type of glaze to protect the wood, how do you prevent the condensation from the drink glasses from running off the coasters and still damaging your table? The whole purpose of a coaster is to protect your furniture so if condensation is just going to run off this coaster’s glaze, then what’s the point?

  43. Stephanie
    StephanieSeptember 28,13

    Hi Barb, it works just like any other coaster made of wood, glass, ceramic, etc. Unless you have a large amount of liquid spilling over from the glass, there is really only a small ring of moisture.

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  45. ambika
    ambikaJanuary 7,14

    Lovely!! Oozing with rustic charm :)
    Found your blog thru TipJunkie, loving it!

  46. Lindze @ Interior Fun
    Lindze @ Interior FunJanuary 31,14

    I LOVE THIS! I featured it on my blog today as a favorite that was pinned to my “we LOVE” group boards on pinterest. http://www.interiorfun.com/2014/01/we-love-friday-favs-2.html

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    best compilation vinesFebruary 23,14

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  48. Greg
    GregMay 1,14

    A solution for even cutting would be a mitre box. There are inexpensive ones available at most hardware stores that would work perfectly with any smaller sized handsaw.

  49. Stephanie
    StephanieMay 1,14

    great idea Greg!

  50. Aaron
    AaronMay 5,14

    would cutting the branch on a mitre saw not be easier? that way you would have a smoother surface and alot more flat?

    not sure why everyone is still using a hand saw….

    ??

  51. Stephanie
    StephanieMay 5,14

    Aaron, of course! But not everyone has access.

  52. Lynn Coulter
    Lynn CoulterJune 3,14

    Love this! We’re pinning it to The Home Depot Garden Club Pinterest board. Thanks for sharing such a cool idea.

  53. Jessica
    JessicaJune 9,14

    Please put up more of these for sale!!!!

  54. Earthwormtec
    EarthwormtecJuly 18,14

    What a great way to upcycle a wooden log or repurpose extra branches cut down from tree trimming activities. We will share this post with our “Repurposed & DIY Garden Ideas” community on google+. Stop by and say Hi – think you might like it https://plus.google.com/b/101855437412081679237/communities/114901596909403539964

    Cheers from Earthworm Technologies!

  55. Chrisanne
    ChrisanneAugust 16,14

    Any chance of these splitting when they dry out?

  56. Stephanie
    StephanieAugust 16,14

    Hi Chrisanne, yes there is certainly a chance. They type of cedar I used really didn’t split, but I have used some pine in other projects and there was a lot more splitting. Drying it slowly is my only advice.

  57. Andrew Clark
    Andrew ClarkOctober 19,14

    Stephanie,
    I have made similar coasters to sell many times. A few of your commentors might benefit from these tips:
    Use a miter saw to make the cuts, very fast and will make perfectly straight and smooth cuts that will require little to no sanding

    If the wood is green and you are concerned about checking (splitting) which will occur if it is not perfectly dry, you can soak the slices in a chemical product called pentacryl which is a green wood sealant and should prevent the checking. This is very expensive though and would only be worth while if you were making a lot of coasters.

    I hope this helps,
    Grizzly Andrew
    http://www.grizzlyandrew.com

  58. Stephanie
    StephanieOctober 20,14

    Thank you so much for your tips, Andrew!

  59. Sharon
    SharonDecember 14,14

    I loved this idea!

  60. Stephanie
    StephanieDecember 16,14

    Thanks Sharon!

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