The idea for this project came from my experience registering for a cake stand and not finding anything I liked for under $50. I started thinking about ways to make one out of wood. After building the wedding arch that went up recently, I had leftover pieces of 4x4 lumber. I got the idea of doing a pyramid-shaped base, and that’s what started the inspiration for this.
I had been thinking for a couple weeks about how to get a base that wasn’t just a post (but actually had some slope to it). There was a breakthrough moment with the 4x4 when I realized I could take a piece of the block and cut the ends off at an angle to create this little pyramid.
This is a really simple project, so I took advantage of this situation and decided to come up with a few different designs. We built three different tops and two different bases. Base A has the sloped top, whereas Base B is just a block. If the first base is beyond your skill level, do the second one! The important thing is that you’re learning how to make something with your own two hands.
Step 1: Base
There are a couple ways to make this step more safe. If you can, clamp the wood down. If you feel comfortable you can hold it in place, but clamping it down is safer. Additionally, if you have a moveable fence on your miter saw, moving it as close to the middle as possible will give you more to brace the wood against.
There are two types of 4x4 posts for sale at Dunn Lumber: one is a kiln-dried clear doug fir, which means it’s really high quality. The other one is green—either green cedar or green doug fir. Green lumber is significantly less expensive, but it wasn’t dried in the milling process. That means when you’re dealing with green lumber, it may split as it dries. If you end up using green lumber, let it dry before you cut a base to avoid splitting. To dry, bring green lumber inside and keep it in a warm, dry place for a week or two (it takes a while because it’s so thick).
To cut Base A, set your miter saw to 10°. Take a 4x4 piece of about 12-20 inches and mark 3 ½” from the end. Clamp down with the length of the 4x4 parallel to the saw blade. Line up the saw blade with the 3 ½” mark so that the cut ends there. Make your cut. Now turn and repeat with the other three sides. Sand if needed.
If sawing produces any rough corners, hand-sand the cut edges. I didn’t need to; my saw cuts fine enough that there weren’t any splintered edges. If it’s needed, sand. If it’s not, skip it.
Cut a 3 ½” piece of 4x4. I then took an electric sander and sanded the corners at an angle to mimic the octagonal top. This was just to make it a look a little more interesting.
Step 2: Top
Believe it or not, there’s a standard cake size, which is where I got the dimensions for these patterns. The standard cake size is 9 inches (but a bundt cake is 10 inches). I went with the biggest option I had, which was a 1” x 12” (and actually 11 ¼ inches wide). You want the board to be a little bigger than the cake that’s going to sit on it, especially if you’re going to me presenting a bundt cake with a glaze that runs over the sides.
Cut a piece of 1” x 12” doug fir into a square ( 11 ¼” x 11 ¼”)
Top B: Octagon
Measure in from either end 3 5/8”, and mark with a pencil. Set your miter saw to 45°, and cut out an octagon shape using the pencil lines as a guide.
Top C: Trimmed Edges
This one is still an octagon, but you’re cutting off less from each corner.
Measure in from either end 2 5/8” and mark with a pencil. Set your miter saw to 45°, and cut out the shape using the pencil lines as a guide.
The edges that are pre-cut on the board are rounded, so I took an electric sander and rounded out the edges I cut too, so that all the edges matched each other. I used 100, 150, and 220-grit sandpapers. I know that seems like a lot, but there’s a good reason! You have to increase your grit level gradually. The 100-grit curves the edges enough to match, but I wanted it to be a 220-grit smoothness. To get there, you have to do a 150-grit sand to smooth out the scratches you made with the 100-grit. (Then again, it’s really always a choice of what you want to be lazy about. You can totally get away with doing less.)
Step 3: Attach
Pre-drill, glue, and then use a 1 ½” screw through the top into the base to secure. If you like, use wood filler to cover up the screws.
To make sure everything is even, measure the center of the top and then the center of the base. Pre-drill each individually. Start a screw going through the top of the top, and then when it starts poking out of the bottom, fit it over the hole you pre-drilled on the base and continue drilling. Then just make sure the top and the bottom are squared off. You can use wood filler to cover up the screw, but the cake is going over the top. In other words, you won’t see the screw when the cake is on it. If you're using it for smaller desserts or as a cheese platter, you may feel differently.
Gluing may seem redundant, but we used glue as well, because if you just have one screw it will pivot and spin. I used waterproof wood glue. It’s kind of my default because it covers everything. And if you’re washing the cake stand to get icing and crumbs off, it’s going to get wet.
Step 4: Finish
You can stain and apply a clear finish to protect the wood and create a barrier between the stain and your cake, or you can use a treatment like Daly’s Kitchen Treatment or mineral oil as a food-safe way to treat the wood.
I did a lot of research on food-safe finishes, and here’s what I learned: Any finish that you use is food safe as long as you give it time to cure. (Keep in mind, that’s a different conversation than one about using a stain. This is a clear finish.)
Cure time is different than dry time; curing actually takes longer. Dry time is when it’s dry to touch. Cure time is when all of the chemicals that are in the finish get released. Once that happens, there’s no more chemicals that can be released (like, into your food). Cure time may be labeled on the side of the can. I’ve heard it said it's anywhere from seven to 30 days.
If you just don’t feel safe with that, go with something all-natural like mineral oil, walnut oil, or linseed oil. You can even use beeswax or shellac. If you do, remember that basically all of the finishes that are all-natural and universally recognized as food safe aren’t very protective for the wood, and have to be reapplied often.
I think a good method is melting beeswax and mineral oil together (one part beeswax to eight parts mineral oil). The two ingredients together make for a more protective finish. Rub it into the wood hot or cold.
I’m really happy with the way this project turned out, especially since I got three cake stands out of a very small amount of leftover lumber! I like this better than most of what I’ve seen for sale—these will officially be the cake stands at my wedding! The technique for cutting the pyramid base was one of those fun moments where it’s not just a design that’s unique, but a technique that’s unique too—and something that came out of my own head. That’s always really rewarding.