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DIY Garden Obelisk

DIY Garden Obelisk - House & Home

Add height and drama to your landscape.

Whether bare and sculptural in your garden or covered in climbing vines and flowers, a four-sided obelisk adds major impact to your view. Try this design this weekend (it's a simpler version of the photo above, with horizontal stiles instead of diagonal ones). All you require are basic woodworking and measurement tools and wood. This is a complicated project, however, so you may also want to consider ready-made obelisks available at stores such as The Home Depot.

Materials and Tools

  • Safety glasses
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Ruler
  • Screwdriver
  • Power drill or hand drill (3/16" drill bit with countersink)
  • Compound mitre saw or hand saw
  • 120-150 Sand paper
  • Paint or stain (optional)
  • One box of 100 2" deck screws (#8)
  • One decorative cedar or pressure treated wood round or pointed finial/fence top for the top (about 3-1/2" at base)
  • 10 Pieces of 2" X 2" X 8’ cedar or pressure treated wood, cut into the following pieces:

            Corner rails/poles - 4 Pieces – 1 ½” X 1 ½” X 85 1/8” – Part #1
            Stiles – 4 Pieces – 1 ½” X 1 ½” X 27” – Part #2
                        4 Pieces – 1 ½” X 1 ½” X  23 ¾”  – Part #3
                        4 Pieces – 1 ½” X 1 ½” X 20 ¾:” – Part #4
                        4 Pieces – 1 ½” X 1 ½” X 17 ½” – Part #5
                        4 Pieces – 1 ½” X 1 ½” X 14 ½” – Part #6
                        4 Pieces – 1 ½” X 1 ½” X 11 ½” – Part #7
                        4 Pieces – 1 ½” X 1 ½” X 8” – Part #8
                        2 Pieces – 1 ½” X 1 ½” X 6” – Part/Spacer #9
                        2 Pieces – 1 ½” X 1 ½” X 8” – Part/Spacer #10

  • 1 Piece 2” X 10” cedar or pressure treated wood about 40" in length, cut into the following pieces

            1 Piece – 9” X 9” X 1 ½” – Part #11
            1 Piece – 6 ¾” X 6 ¾” X 1 ½” – Part #12
            1 Piece – 3 ½” X 3 ½” x 1 ½” – Part #13
            2 Piece – 1” X 1 ½” x 22” – Spacer/Jig #1
            1 Piece -  3” X 3” x 1 ½” – Spacer/Jig #2

Step 1: Cut wood

When you purchase your lumber, pay to have it cut into the pieces noted above. Or, cut it yourself before beginning the project. Because you have so many pieces that are close to the same length, mark the part number on them in chalk or pencil.

Step 2: Lightly sand all wood pieces

Use 120-150 sand paper to remove any rough spots from your wood pieces.

Step 3: Build one side

Lay two corner poles/rails (2” X 2” X 85 1/8” — Part #1) on the ground, angled so that they are spaced 28 inches wide at the outmost edge of the rails, and six inches wide at the top. Place a 1” X 1½” X 22” (Spacer/Jig #1) wood piece across the bottom and a 3” X 3” x 1 ½” (Spacer/Jig #2) wood piece at the top to act as spacers between the two corner rails/poles. On either corner pole/rail, use a pencil to mark a spot 4 ½" from the bottom, where the first stile (Part #2) will go across and attach the two. Holding the first stile in place, use the drill to pre-drill and countersink a hole roughly in the centre where the pieces attach on each side. (Countersinking the hole will insure that the lumber will not split.) Drill this hole so the screw head when driven will stop approximately ½” below the surface of the stile. Screw the stile into place on both sides.

Mark a spot on either corner pole/rail 12” above the first stile. Place the second stile (Part #3) across to attach the two sides and drill holes and screw the pieces together as above.

Turn the frame over in order to install the top spacer (Part #9). Mark two diagonal cut lines across the top and cut the spacer so it fits between the rails. Drill holes through the rails into the spacer from both ends to screw the pieces together as above.

Turn the frame over again and install the third stile (Part #4) 12” above the second bottom stile, marking the spot on each side with a pencil, drilling holes and screwing pieces together as above. Install the fourth stile (Part #5) 12” above the third stile; the fifth stile (Part #6) 12” above the fourth stile; the sixth stile (Part #7) 12” above the fifth stile and the seventh stile (Part #8) 12” above the sixth stile.

Step 4: Build another side

Follow the instructions above in step three to build another side.

Step 5: Attach the two sides

Stand the two completed sides/frames upright and lean them against one another and spread the bottom until the gap is 22 inches wide. (Place two 1” X 1½” X 22” — Spacer/Jig #1 — across the bottom next to the rails to act as spacers between the frames. Pre-drill and attach them loosely to maintain the spacing — they can be removed later.)

Spread the two frames at the top so that the top gap is three inches, and place the 3 ½” X 3 ½” x 1 ½” wood piece (Part #13) behind the poles/rails (looking from the side) so the cut angle can be drawn onto it. (You'll want to cut an angle on this block so that it's narrower at the top than at the bottom to accommodate the angle of the four corner poles/rails.) Once you've made the cuts, turn the piece upside down and draw an x from corner to corner using a ruler. On the lines about 1 1/4” from the centre point, drill and countersink four holes for attaching the top. Turn it right side up again and install this piece in between the frames. Install the remaining top spacers (Part #10) by placing the pieces behind the rails and marking two diagonal cut lines across the top and then cutting the spacers so they fit between the rails. Drill holes through the spacers into the installed 3 ½” block and screw them together.

Step 6: Attach the stiles on the new sides

Now you need to attach horizontal stiles on the two new sides so that they're either parallel to or just above the existing stiles, for a staggered effect. Mark, predrill and countersink holes for the first stile (Part #2) 4 ½" from the bottom. Then mark, predrill and countersink holes for the second stile (Part #3), third stile (Part #4), fourth stile (Part #5), fifth stile (Part #6), sixth stile (Part #7) and the seventh stile (Part #8) every 12 inches, so that they're parallel to the existing stiles on the first two sides, or just above them for a staggered effect.

Step 7: Make the top

Take the 9” X 9” X 1 ½” (Part #11) and the 6 ¾” X 6 ¾” X 1 ½” (Part #12) square pieces of wood and draw an x from corner to corner on each to find their centres. Drill and countersink a hole in the centre of the 6 ¾” X 6 ¾” piece and the 9” X 9” piece, as well as four holes 2”-3” from the centre point on the diagonal lines. Attach the finial to the 6 ¾” X 6 ¾” piece by placing a screw it into the bottom for the finial. You can now use the diagonal lines to centre the 6 ¾” X 6 ¾” piece on top of the 9” X 9” piece. Drive screws to attach the pieces together.

Step 8: Attach the top to the tower

Place your top (two squares plus finial) on the frame and align as required, and use the four holes you drilled into part #13 earlier to attach it to the frame with four screws. Your obelisk is now complete.

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