Why not bring the woods into your own garden, or even your home? This DIY guide shows you how to turn a tree trunk into a decorative light using your STIHL chainsaw. The tree trunk lamp is very practical, and can also be used as a stool or side table.
Selecting your wood
In principle, you can use any kind of coniferous wood to make this decorative lamp, such as larch, pine, or spruce. But it need not be fresh wood – not at all: even cracked, slightly splintered trunks can be used. These cracks add to the natural appearance of the lamp and help to make it unique. The only constraint is that the wood mustn’t be damp or rotten: the drier the wood the better suited it is.
It’s a one-of-a-kind pattern and slivers of light that give these wooden lamps have their own special charm. These are formed naturally when the wood dries quickly, and only need to be gently expanded using the chainsaw. If you’re working with a piece of wood that doesn’t have any dry cracks you can create some using the chainsaw as you construct the lamp.
Make sure your chosen piece of wood doesn’t have any branches or forks, and that it has grown straight. We recommend using wood without bark, or that you remove the bark before starting work.
Even amateur artists need to use appropriate protective equipment when using a chainsaw. Protection begins at the head: wear safety glasses or face protection and use some form of noise prevention, such as ear defenders. Hands, legs, and feet can be protected by work gloves, trousers with cut protection, and boots with cut protection inserts.
If you’re using a STIHL cordless chainsaw you won’t need any noise prevention. Find out more about protective equipment when sawing with a chainsaw.
Please note, some countries may have specific requirements for personal protective equipment, and be aware that protective equipment is no substitute for working safely. Therefore, please also always follow the operating instructions for the tool you’re using.
Step 1: Materials required for the DIY lamp
- STIHL chainsaw
- Log, preferably without bark
- Folding ruler
- Marking chalk/pencil
- Angle grinder
- Heavy sawhorse
- LED fairy lights for outdoor use
Step 2: Mark where to plunge cut
Before you start hollowing out the trunk, you need to draw marks for where your plunge cuts will go. First, fix the log onto a solid sawhorse using a chain or a tensioning belt, then draw a square on the cross-section of the trunk. Be sure not to make the outer rim too narrow, otherwise the lamp may not be sufficiently stable.
Step 3: Hollowing out the log
Before hollowing out the log, it’s a good idea to first make a mark on the guide bar of your chainsaw: this will ensure you make each plunge cut to the sane depth (e.g. 25 cm). You could use a pencil to mark the length on the guide bar, or make a mental mark by cutting to a specific letter of the STIHL logo on the bar.
Now you can make your cuts. As you cut all four sides, position the tip of the guide bar on at an angle into the wood on each side of the square, so that the removed part is in the shape of a pyramid. Make sure you don’t damage the outer edges of the wood as you work.
Please pay particular attention to the following points during this step:
- This method of working means an increased risk of kickback. Make sure you always follow the safety component of the operating instructions, and only use this technique if you’re familiar with it.
- Use a solid, heavy sawhorse. Plunge cutting can cause powerful horizontal forces, which in some circumstances can make a lighter sawhorse fall over.
We recommend using a new chain with a smaller distance between the depth gauge and saw teeth. This should make the plunge cutting a little easier to manage. Saw chains with a larger distance between the depth gauge and saw teeth are more likely to cause kickback.
Step 4: Measure the lamp housing
Use a folding ruler to measure the deepest point of the hollow space inside the trunk. Add around 3-5 cm to that measurement, and mark the resulting length on the outside of the trunk.
Make a separating cut at the mark to cut the lamp housing to the appropriate size. Make sure you hold the saw straight.
Step 5: Sawing dry cracks to make light slits and adding mitre cuts
Fix the cut piece of wood to a sawhorse. Now you can use the chainsaw to deepen the dry cracks and expand them until they reach the hollow space in the centre of the lamp. Saw the cracks down to the fastening. You can also add new cuts. We recommend having four to six recesses for the light to shine through, though you can have more or fewer, depending on the thickness of the tree trunk and your personal taste.
Tip: STIHL cordless chainsaws, are particularly well suited for this application, because they have very narrow chains and guide blades. Additionally, they mean you can avoid noise and emissions in your own garden, as cordless power tools are particularly quiet and emissions-free.
You can also add mitre cuts around the top of the lamp to round the edges. We recommend you use the incoming saw chain – i.e. the lower end of the guide bar – to make the mitre cuts. If you use the outgoing chain, there’s a risk the edges might splinter.
Then turn the lamp over, fix it in position, and repeat the process used on the upper side for working on the dry cracks and making the mitre cuts.
Step 6: Fine sanding and treatment
If you like, you can use an angle grinder to smooth the wood’s edges or the light slits.
You can decide whether or not to treat the wood. If you plan to use the lamp in the garden at a later point, the wood doesn’t necessarily need to be treated – it can develop a lovely patina. If you’re going to be using the lamp inside, however, we recommend treating it with hard wax oils.
Your handmade tree trunk lamp is finished!
Take the string of fairy lights and place these inside the tree trunk. If you want to use the lamp in your garden, you must choose a water-resistant and weatherproof string of LED fairy lights. Make sure the plug socket for the power supply is also protected against the weather – e.g. using a plug safety box.
If necessary, you can use the chainsaw to saw a small recess in the base of the lamp. This only needs to be as high and wide as the lamp’s power supply. When the lamp is in position, the cable can run through the small recess, improving safety and ensuring your lamp stands up straight.