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I took two tree stumps of approximately 35 cm in diameter and stuck them inside my living room.

I read that, if I seal the ends with a strong varnish, it will allow them to dry out through the sides more slowly and thus I can start using them.

Now I'm about to attach a table top, meaning that both top and bottom of the stumps will be covered as it dries.. And I'm thinking I should probably get some second opinions to make sure that I won't come across any unpleasant surprises.

There are bugs behind the bark, but I got the idea that the main part of them will stay inside the tree and peel off with the bark in a year or so.

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    I have a Magnolia tree limb table about the same size as a memory of Hurricane Hugo (1989) setting on my front porch. We set plants on top. Anyway, over the years I've probably refinished it with polyurethane three times. I also used some wood filler where the bark at the top pulled away from the trunk. It still looks fine. The only problem I see with your plan is the bugs. I would definitely kill them before bringing the stumps inside. Otherwise they may find tastier wood inside. Incidentally, I'd also recommend varnishing the bark to preserve its integrity over the years. – getterdun Dec 4 '13 at 2:00
  • So how should I kill the bugs? Spray the outside of the bark with some kind of insecticide and seal them in a plastic bag for a few days? I have a lot of wood furniture in my living room that I would prefer the bugs not to move on to! My aim is not to preserve the bark, but to peal if off at some point. However, I think the wood might be too fresh for a wood-chisel job? Or maybe it's actually doable since it was cut down during winter time, and the tree likely hasn't been very active the last few months (in cold Denmark)? I don't know which kind of wood it is, unfortunately. – kensing Dec 4 '13 at 7:05
  • If you have a large enough oven at your disposal, bake the log for a while, say a few hours or more at 240F. It may check a bit more but it will be effective. Otherwise, going the opposite way may work too. Soaking it in a full immersion of pesticide solution. I did this by placing a statue base I made in a heavy duty garbage bag and wrapping it totally with duct tape. It has to be completely covered. Then pour the solution into the open top. I was using a preservative for this, the statue base was to be left outside. Should still work for you though. – Jack Dec 4 '13 at 12:51
  • Yeah, the idea of a sealed plastic bag with pesticide inside makes the most sense to me. If you can catch one of the bugs you could try to identify it on the internet to help you decide what insecticide. And, I really hope you save the bark; it's so much more natural looking with the bark on it. Also seems to me that if the bag is air tight they will die from lack of oxygen. You could even use a vacuum cleaner to suck all the air out before you tape it. – getterdun Dec 6 '13 at 19:03
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I would not let the bugs remain either, If it is cold outside where you are now as it is here in MD USA, the warm inside temps will make the bugs quite active again. I had that happen with a cherry burl I was turning, luckily I put it in a large clear plastic bag solely for the purpose of slowing moisture loss to reduce checking. After a few days I checked the bag and there were hundreds of carpenter ants crawling around inside. The varnish, or any paint, even wax that seals the end grain will reduce the amount of rapid moisture loss, and there for reduce the amount of checking. Without the sealer, it will split more aggressively.

  • So how can I kill the bugs? Spray the outside of the bark with some kind of insecticide and seal them in a plastic bag for a few days? I have a lot of wood furniture in my living room that I would prefer the bugs not to move on to! – kensing Dec 4 '13 at 7:02
  • I added the comment above, should have been down here, easier to pick up on... – Jack Dec 4 '13 at 16:14
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You asked in a comment how to kill the bugs - really you should make a separate question but regardless:

Take the tree stumps and put them in heavy duty plastic bags (one per bag) and set them outside in a covered area. Leave enough room in each bag for a plastic container of some kind to fit (a tupperware bowl or quart sized container like you might get wonton soup delivered in, whatever...)

Get some dry ice pellets - an internet search will help you find a local provider. They're more common than you might think. You only need about 2 pounds of pellets but more won't hurt.

Fill each plastic container with pellets and put them in the bag.

Now LOOSELY close the bag ensuring that the opening of the bag is up high - but don't make an air-tight seal.

The CO2 pellets will gradually dissolve into pure carbon dioxide gas. CO2 gas is heavier than air, so the idea here is to trap the gas inside the bags - but allow enough venting so pressure doesn't build up and rupture the bag. As the CO2 fills the bag it will push lighter gasses (like oxygen) out.

Insects are dependent upon Oxygen just like us and so with a bag full of CO2, they will die from CO2 poisoning.

Leave the bags sit until almost all of the pellets have dissipated. Seal the bag more tightly and let it sit for 24 hours just to ensure good killing of the bugs.

Remove the logs and the insects should be dead.

(This also works to kill rodent infestations - put the pellets in the ground and bury them. CO2 will expand, sink to fill the nests, and push out the good air)

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