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Make Your Own Rustic Laptop Table

Rustic furniture can be easily made using twigs, sticks and tree prunings that might otherwise be considered useless for anything but kindling. I built the pictured laptop table using the remains of a cherry plum tree that had become too big for our small urban garden.

The skill level required is very basic, believe me, if I can make rustic furniture, anyone can! In the case of this table all joints are nailed, but the more ambitious green woodworker might like to experiment with more complex mortice and tenon joints and so on. The wonderful thing about creating rustic furniture is that even a beginner's work can be sturdy and impressive looking. What's more, it doesn't take too much practice to be able to produce items that will make highly personalised and practical gifts for friends, and who knows, even build up a marketable skill.

nb. I added an extra brace bar to increase stability after this photo was taken

Materials for rustic furniture making are free and abundant, even in urban areas. Sycamore and ash are often 'weed' trees in small gardens or on wasteland, and neighbours and tree contractors will often be only too pleased to let you take other prunings and branches off their hands (you might even be able to offer a service on LETS). If the rustic bug really starts to bite you might consider planting some trees for coppicing on your own plot- I'm putting in some hazel whips in a corner of my forest garden allotment this winter, and the organisation Allotment Forestry give many more ideas for creative wood growing at their website , and in their excellent little booklet 'Grow Your Own Beanpoles'.

Rustic furniture often lends itself aesthetically to an outdoor setting, but be aware that wood such as ash will rot quickly if left exposed to the elements. Sweet Chestnut, larch and oak are more durable, but all will benefit from protective treatment with linseed oil, and some indoor shelter during the wettest months.


4 x legs, thickness 4cm (1."), length 42cm (16.")

8 x cross-pieces, 2cm (0.8"), length 52cm (20")

4 x braces, 1.5cm ("), length 44cm (17.3")


4 x reclaimed floorboards, width15.2 cm (6"), length 57cm (22.")

2 x battens, 42cm (16.")

(all measurements are approximate, rustic furniture making is all about feeling and intuition rather than precise dimensions....)

Choose relatively straight poles and cut roughly to the sizes above (ensure that the legs are all exactly the same length however). Ends can be chamfered with either a sharp knife or spokeshave.

1) Start by positioning two cross-pieces across two of the legs, with the bottom cross-piece about 75mm (3") from the bottom of the legs, and the top cross piece flush with leg tops. Note that the cross-pieces should overhang the legs by about 35mm (1"). Drill pilot holes for a nail at each joint to prevent the wood from splitting (the hole should be slightly smaller than the nail diameter so that it will grip tightly as the wood contracts as it dries) and secure into place.

2) Repeat for the other two legs and cross-pieces.

3) Use the four remaining cross-pieces to join the two sets of legs, again pre-drilling guide holes for the nails. It can be useful at this stage to have a helper to support and adjust the leg sections, ensuring that they are as 'square' as possible.

4) Line up floorboard sections, square and secure together by screwing to battons from beneath. Sand off any sharp corners and splinters.

5) Attach table top to leg framework by drilling counter sunk holes through top cross-pieces into battens, securing with 1 inch wood screws.

detail showing countersunk screw

6) Add brace pieces at diagonal angles between the cross-piece rungs to prevent wobbling and steady up the table.

profile view of brace

This basic design can be adapted in many ways- longer back posts and thin rods for a seat can be the basis for a rustic chair, whilst reducing the overall dimensions makes a foot stool.

Copyright Graham Burnett