Upcycle Tree Branches and Make Cool Coasters

How to make environmentally creative natural wood coasters.

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert
4 min readMar 8, 2021


There is Beauty in a Dead Tree

Last summer my husband chopped down a dead tree in our backyard. Dead trees rot. During rain, wind, and snow storms they break and can be dangerous. Sometimes they cause property damage. Two summers ago, a heavy rain storm with whipping winds knocked down a huge branch. It went right through the back windshield of my car parked on our driveway.

As my husband was sawing the branches from the dead tree for winter fireplace firewood and kindling for our fire pit, I realized that many of the branches were long and thick enough in diameter to make coasters. I thought of my son and his wife. They had recently purchased a new home. The coasters would make a cool and practical house warming gift.

I want to share with you how we made the coasters. There is beauty in a dead tree. Upcycling describes what we did with one dead tree branch.

Upcycling, a term coined by Reiner Pilz, and also known as creative reuse,

is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products, perceived to be of greater quality, such as artistic value or environmental value.

Photo by Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

Instructions and Equipment

The coasters were easy and fun to make. To chop down a dead tree and saw off its branches, you will need a ladder, a chainsaw, goggles, and work gloves. For safety reasons, it’s a good idea to have someone with you.

Or you might not need a ladder. You might find a good size tree branch you can pick up from the ground. Find a nice, long, and thick branch three to four inches in diameter. Then, saw the branch into half-inch slices. You can use a handsaw, but a chainsaw will be quicker. However, do not attempt a chainsaw if you lack good balance and a steady hand.

You will have many slices to choose from. Select the best ones and begin sanding each. You’ll need an electric sander and a workbench vice. Clamp each slice on the vice to sand with the electric sander. If you don’t have an electric sander and vice, use a hand sander or sandpaper for wood. It will take you longer.

Photo by Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

Select, Sand, and Test

We selected 8 slices from the pile of about 50 slices. We sanded them until each side was smooth and even. To test that each side was leveled, balanced, and would not rock, we placed a Mason jar, a glass, and a wine glass on each coaster.

Some of the slices needed a bit more sanding. Two were not balanced so we put them aside and replaced them with two other sanded and leveled slices from our pile. So, make sure all your slices are smoothly sanded and leveled.

Seal and Engrave the Coasters

Once the slices have been transformed into coasters, you are ready to engrave the coasters, if you wish. Use an electric engraver. My husband Jon engraved ‘By Mom & Dad’ on one side of each coaster. It gives the gift of coasters a special touch.

Whether or not you engrave the coasters, seal each with shellac, a clear wood finish and sealer. I brushed one side of each coaster with a few light coats of shellac. When they dried, I turned them over and brushed the other side with a few light coats of shellac and let them dry.

Photo by Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

This set of 8 handmade natural wood coasters upcylced from a dead tree branch in our backyard made a unique housewarming gift made with love.

Photo by Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

Make Coasters

We have many more coasters to make with all the slices we have. We don’t know what kind of dead tree we had in our back yard. Maybe it was an oak tree.

What kind of trees are in your backyard? Is there a dead tree you need to cut down? Is there a a big branch that was knock down by the wind? Is that branch on the ground long and thick enough in diameter to make coasters?

Go ahead! Upcycle and make cool coasters for yourself, or as a unique and creative gift for someone celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, a new home, or any special occasion. Coasters made from upcycled dead trees have great sentimental and environmental value.




Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

My debut memoir Come What May, I Want to Run: A Memoir of the Saving Grace of Ultrarunning in Overwhelming Times is published. Website: miriamdiazgilbert.com