Our neighbors were having a tree removed, and the guys chain-sawed it into stumps and made a big pile to haul away.
First, I had a good cry about that big, beautiful tree leaving the landscape forever. Then, I put on my big girl boots and went over to haul a few stumps home. I stored them on top of 2×4’s so the air could circulate. I let them dry out for 3 months. This is recycling at a premium. Later, my husband took a chisel and peeled and worked the bark off. He said it was easy.
Then began the sanding. You definitely want to go with an electric palm sander and start with coarse grit. Then medium. Then a fine grit to get the wood super smooth and soft to the touch. From there, use a rag to thoroughly wipe all the dust off. Then, begin adding coats of varnish. We used a hardy polyurethane, because we wanted to use it like a side table and not have to use coasters.
After the first coat of varnish dries, sand with a light grit sandpaper to get the varnish “bubbles” out. Then wipe it all down again with a rag, and add another coat of varnish. Three coats is great. We added wheels to the bottom of our stump. It was terrible watching that tree go down. But we love our stumpy stump.