We are a family of many (many!) books, so I’m always looking for creative, crafty ways to display them throughout our home. Budget-friendly bookends, though, tend to be surprisingly hard to come by. So I decided to take matters into my own hands by building a pair of cut-log tabletop bookends using the very best of Mother Nature herself.
It all starts, of course, with a log. Although I’m lucky enough to live in a heavily forested area of Virginia where trees (and thus, logs) are easy to come by, precut versions are usually easy to find at your local craft store. The fact that rustic seasonal decor is making its annual reappearance on shop shelves also makes the materials-gathering process of this project much easier.
Coincidentally, my parents who live in the area happened to be doing some forest clearing at their house, so it took just a moment for me to dig through their pile of cut logs to choose one for my bookend project. My goal was a log that was about 4 inches in diameter and 2 feet in length and also as straight as possible.
Next, I needed to split my log in two to create the two halves of my bookends. To do so, we employed a German-made froe rather than breaking out the power saw. This tool makes the DIY project much easier to handle if you, like me, aren’t well versed with (or don’t happen to own) a chain saw. Simply hold the L-shaped blade above the wood with the sharp edge centered on the top of the log, and (for lack of a better word) whack the top of the blade with a wooden mallet, as shown above.
Tip: Having a friend on hand to hold the froe in place while you keep both hands on the mallet to drive the blade into the wood makes the process go a little smoother. Just avoid hitting his or her knuckles in the process.
The blade will become easier and easier to drive through as you go and, when you reach the middle of the log, you should be able to wiggle the blade gently back and forth to split the log fully in two. Next, take your halves inside to a clean, dry area with a worktable and use a handheld block plane to shave down the rough edges.
To further hone the inside edges as well as the top and bottom of my logs, my father ran them through his electronic jointer/planer and his bandsaw. This allowed us to level off the surfaces of each log, but this step isn’t entirely necessary if you don’t have access to power tools. A hand-sander also will do the trick to eliminate any splintered areas that may have occurred during the sawing and splitting processes.
Perfection is not the goal with this project — instead, it’s about the unique character of the wood itself. So celebrate those little flaws!
After that, there is just one final step required to complete this DIY bookend project: felting. When dealing with real wood, you can’t always predict its reaction to indoor elements. For example, after bringing my logs home, the edges felt ever so slightly damp, so I left them to stand on a piece of newspaper overnight. When I picked them up the next day, the paper had buckled just a bit in reaction to the naturally dewy effects of the wood.
To ensure that my tabletop and shelving surfaces aren’t thus damaged, I decided to add a bit of felt to the bottom of each log. To do so, I placed the logs on a piece of scrap felt (I chose hot pink just for fun) and traced the edges with a Sharpie pen. Then I cut the two half-moon shapes out of the felt and laid them in place, using a bit of craft glue to permanently adhere them to the wood.
And with that, I was done. The logs will continue to dry, and some small cracks may eventually appear as the wood adjusts to the cuts and its new environment, but I’m looking forward to seeing the character that will emerge. I love the contemporary yet rustic appeal of the bookends, and that hint of pink from the felt base is the perfect finishing touch.
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