Project Excerpt + Book Review: Knothole and Hollow Log Frames from Tree Craft

Tree Craft: 35 Rustic Wood Projects That Bring the Outdoors In
By Chris Lubkemann
Almost everyone (save polar explorers, desert dwellers, and submarine
crew members) can step outside and find twigs and branches that have
broken off trees and bushes. These scraps of wood are mainly an
annoyance for people who like to keep their grounds tidy, but for
craftsman Chris Lubkemann, these bits of wooden detritus are treasured
raw materials for projects such as jewelry, desk accessories, kitchen
implements, games, and functional home decor pieces.

Lubkemann’s book, Tree Craft: 35 Rustic Wood Projects that
Bring the Outdoors In
, reveals how to transform twisted, gnarled,
and knotty sticks and branches into rustically-appealing home
accoutrements. I admire the author’s aesthetic: he avoids overworking
the wood, leaving the bark on his candlestick, and bud vases, and
using clear varnishes instead of opaque paint when a finish is called
for. His hooks and coat racks accentuate the pleasing organic shapes
of plant growth, leaving you to wonder why you ever settled for the
dull, unwavering predictability of mass-produced items.
The projects in Tree Craft are all easy enough for a rank beginner to
tackle. Start off with keychain or pendant, and work your way up to a
large coat tree. Once you get started, I’ll wager you’ll never look at
a fallen branch the same way again. – Reviewed by Mark Frauenfelder
The following is an excerpt from Tree Craft showing us two different ways to make frames from trees: one from knotholes and the other from hollow logs.

Photo Frames

Wood photo frames seem to pop naturally out of knotholes. Fencepost holes and hollow logs also work well. You can also use these without photographs. Simply hang them on the wall as art.
The various frames that follow in this section can be used in various ways: for photos, paintings, drawings, settings for carvings, etc. How each one is used will depend on you, your decor, and your tastes. Of course, if we’re talking about a family’s opinions (in other words, “you” plural), there will probably have to be some committee work and some arriving at a consensus as to how these frames are used. Regardless of their intended uses, these handsome frames will put a unique twist on your next few framing projects. Choose from hollow log slices, fencepost holes, or knotholes (or use your own imagination!).
Hollow log frames: Creating a hollow log frame is very similar to making the centerpiece project on page 28. Be sure to flip to that project for further guidance.

Materials + Tools

Hollow log
Materials to clean log

Step 1: Find a hollow log and drag it to your shop. Clean both the outside surface and the inside of the log to remove any loose bark and dirt.
Step 2: Using either a table or a bench as a cutting surface, saw 1″ (25mm)-thick slices off the log.
Step 3: Once you have the frame sliced, scrape out any loose wood on the inside of the ring (I used the side of my chisel). Sand around the rough edges.
Knothole Frames: Knotholes serve as unique frames for photos, prints, or small paintings.

Materials + Tools

Board with knothole
Photograph or art of choice

Step 1: Trim the board with the knothole to desired size. Smooth the edges and face with sandpaper.
Step 2: Sand the corners to eliminate sharp outside edges.
Step 3: Knock down any rough edges in the knothole itself. Finish as desired.
Step 4: Next, gather the materials you want to frame (I’ve used photos of my grandchildren). Trim them (the photos, not the grandkids!) to fit just behind the holes, and then use masking tape to attach the photos to the back of the frames. You can also cut some thin plastic to size and make a sandwich with the photo between two pieces of plastic―this will protect the photo a bit more. Nice looking kids, aren’t they? They take after their paternal grandmother.
Finding knotholes: The best places to find boards with knotholes are woodworking shops that use milled lumber. Boards with open knotholes usually can’t be used for cabinet doors or drawer fronts. Wood shops dispose of them in one way or another…firewood, wood chips for livestock bedding, and who knows what else. There’s a chance that if you go to a local wood shop you’ll find a board or two, or maybe even a lot more, in a scrap bin someone will let you look through. Over the past dozen or so years, I’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of knothole pieces at a nearby woodworking shop. With permission from the management, a couple of the chop saw operators save the board cut-offs with open knotholes. Every so often I’ll stop by and collect the little pile of knothole blocks they’ve accumulated under their workbench.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!