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SteL

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About 2 years ago I somehow agreed to (got roped into) make a cake stand for the other half's sister's wedding. At the time it sounded simple enough, she wanted 4 tiers on branches of part of a cut-down tree. Now I have just over a year to go and panic has set in! The main difficulty is sourcing the tree and log slices that fit the bill. Over the past year, I've collected all kinds of bits and pieces for it. I read on here some other poor soul in a similar predicament (It has pictures if you're struggling to understand the type of cakestand I mean)


Does anyone have any experience working with this type of thing? The wood I've collected is obviously still wet. What about bugs in it? Is there any way of getting them out like in a bath of bleach or something? I can imagine halfway through the wedding a conga line of ants eating the cake! Anyone know of a way to source this kind of tree offcut and the log slices? I bought some log slices that were quite cheap but the wood is so light and soft they don't look real. I don't know what species it is but I think I could drill a hole through it with a screwdriver.

I had a go last weekend on an off cut that is close to what she wants. I managed to cut a round tenon on the top so that could be morticed into the top log slice. I'm thinking the other three will have to be notched into the trunk and maybe a large dowel or something through the branch.


IMG_3366.jpg


Here's a complex CAD drawing of the positions for the tiers...

Capture-stand.PNG



Anything I should look out for? Any help or ideas welcome. Cheers.
 

Cabinetman

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Well, as the old joke goes " I wouldn’t have started from here " Best of luck with this one, I can’t help with the bug thing I’m afraid, my only thought is that if you use lots of bits of branch glued together as a base as in the other one I can see the whole thing falling over with all the cakes on it. (Not good!) When it comes unglued as that’s quite a heavy set of branches you’ve got there. Perhaps you could do something similar with sections of branch with dowel running through them all and into the trunk of the cake stand. Ian
 

Jameshow

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Why not cut a big circle of 18mm ply for the base. Perhaps 30" dia? Then some 12mm ply circles for the cake stands??

Cheers James
 

Awac

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I think you are up against it.
You have got to start now to dry the wood, it takes longer with bark on it (and btw most insect life lives in this). Do you want the bark left on for aesthetics? Seal the ends to encourage equal drying (moisture escapes here 10-12 times faster than the sides, leading to unequal drying which causes splits), and move to a dry airy place. With so my limbs you are likely to get splitting, and until it drys and you see the result it is difficult to put the hours in.
If you wanted to carve it then remove the bark and do it when it's green, much easier to get the general shape and thinner limbs means moisture can escape faster.
Look on line with the words "green woodworking" for people in your area, they will have a source, as would a turning group. Try searching for a local tree surgeon and give him a call.

If you want a natural weathered look I have to sing the praise of this stuff, only £20 as well.

 

Richard_C

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Certainly needs a base, if you knew where it was going you could paint or stain the base 'carpet coloured' so it blends in. The whole thing will have to be transportable so will need to come apart - screws into the bottom of the log? Unless of course the wedding reception is to be in your workshop. The ply circles would be fine, I wonder of you could get glass cut to 4 different sizes with a centre hole in each? Then you can polish up the cut ends, wax or varnish so they look nice, all done.

If you have time to start again and can get hold of it, there are more interesting tree barks about, Silver Birch (Betula Pendula) has lots of sub species and varieties some with paper white bark. Or as suggested above peel the bark off what you have and gloss varnish it for that mid-west USA cabin furniture look.

I'm assuming it only has to last 'the day' so further splitting as the timber dries out won't matter at all. Bit like all those Star Trek sets that only had to last one episode - rocks that rocked when Capt Kirk shouted. In fact best to make it so it doesn't last otherwise some poor soul (you) has to cart it home and look after it for years. If you keep the bark on, maybe cover the whole thing with a quick dry satin acrylic varnish to keep the bugs in for the duration?

If the wedding comes before the vaccine, likely there will only be 15 present so 4 tiers not needed. One old 12" record nailed to a stick would be enough. But may not be the right thing to suggest at his stage..... If the pandemic worsens it might be a cup cake on a CD for the 2 of them to share.:)
 

SteL

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Why not cut a big circle of 18mm ply for the base. Perhaps 30" dia? Then some 12mm ply circles for the cake stands??

Cheers James
Thanks. I might well do that for the base if I can't get hold of a big enough log slice. I think she was after the tiers to have bark or at least look naturally worn wood.
 

SteL

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@Cabinetman that's my other worry! If I make someone a drawer and the bottom falls out of it the worst thing is their undies end up on the floor! I'd never live it down if that cake stand falls apart with the cake on!
 

SteL

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I think you are up against it.
You have got to start now to dry the wood, it takes longer with bark on it (and btw most insect life lives in this). Do you want the bark left on for aesthetics? Seal the ends to encourage equal drying (moisture escapes here 10-12 times faster than the sides, leading to unequal drying which causes splits), and move to a dry airy place. With so my limbs you are likely to get splitting, and until it drys and you see the result it is difficult to put the hours in.
If you wanted to carve it then remove the bark and do it when it's green, much easier to get the general shape and thinner limbs means moisture can escape faster.
Look on line with the words "green woodworking" for people in your area, they will have a source, as would a turning group. Try searching for a local tree surgeon and give him a call.

If you want a natural weathered look I have to sing the praise of this stuff, only £20 as well.

Some good suggestions there, thanks. I didn't consider taking the bark off, that's a good idea that I'm going to try this weekend - and you're right about the insects in the bark. I have to admit that some woodlice were harmed while cutting that tenon.

I'll have a look at tree surgeons. We've got a large dead tree at the bottom of our garden. The thing looks like something from a horror movie. All the bark has come off and it is very white - like a stone. It's not very flexible anymore as well. As that has been dead for a few years do you think it might be an option? I'd have to get someone in to chop it down, though. Next door's shed is under it and there's a shed under it on the allotments behind.
 

SteL

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Certainly needs a base, if you knew where it was going you could paint or stain the base 'carpet coloured' so it blends in. The whole thing will have to be transportable so will need to come apart - screws into the bottom of the log? Unless of course the wedding reception is to be in your workshop. The ply circles would be fine, I wonder of you could get glass cut to 4 different sizes with a centre hole in each? Then you can polish up the cut ends, wax or varnish so they look nice, all done.

If you have time to start again and can get hold of it, there are more interesting tree barks about, Silver Birch (Betula Pendula) has lots of sub species and varieties some with paper white bark. Or as suggested above peel the bark off what you have and gloss varnish it for that mid-west USA cabin furniture look.

I'm assuming it only has to last 'the day' so further splitting as the timber dries out won't matter at all. Bit like all those Star Trek sets that only had to last one episode - rocks that rocked when Capt Kirk shouted. In fact best to make it so it doesn't last otherwise some poor soul (you) has to cart it home and look after it for years. If you keep the bark on, maybe cover the whole thing with a quick dry satin acrylic varnish to keep the bugs in for the duration?

If the wedding comes before the vaccine, likely there will only be 15 present so 4 tiers not needed. One old 12" record nailed to a stick would be enough. But may not be the right thing to suggest at his stage..... If the pandemic worsens it might be a cup cake on a CD for the 2 of them to share.:)
haha. I'll just say to her "What's more difficult me getting this cake stand made and transported or you rearranging the wedding to be in my shed" I think she'd understand.

I like the removing the bark idea and I'm going to try it. I did think about locking the bugs in there, but bringing a mass insect grave into a wedding reception seemed a bit much. Now I have a word for stripping the bark off - mid-west USA cabinet furniture - I might be able to sell the idea to her!

If I put your other proposals forward this cake stand would be the least of my problems. I agree, though. A lockdown just before the wedding is my only hope.
 

Awac

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Some good suggestions there, thanks. I didn't consider taking the bark off, that's a good idea that I'm going to try this weekend - and you're right about the insects in the bark. I have to admit that some woodlice were harmed while cutting that tenon.

I'll have a look at tree surgeons. We've got a large dead tree at the bottom of our garden. The thing looks like something from a horror movie. All the bark has come off and it is very white - like a stone. It's not very flexible anymore as well. As that has been dead for a few years do you think it might be an option? I'd have to get someone in to chop it down, though. Next door's shed is under it and there's a shed under it on the allotments behind.
It might be dead and not have moisture content (but rotten?). Try a small drill in a discreet part and see what kind of resistance/dust you get?
Seal the ends with some wax or even paint just to help with cracking. Mind you, if you get that, how about looking at filling cracks with coloured resin? Never done it myself but you could create something contrasting? Arc welding lightning effect? Look up Lichtenberg wood burning.

To get bark off- if it is dry something sharp, if still wet use something blunter (they are called bark spuds btw) and you will do less damage to the wood underneath. Draw knifes can work well.
 

Robbo60

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Couple of ideas to source slices. Are there any sawmills near you that turn trees into timber? They may be able to help. Or a log processor. They basically cut trees into bits and split them. They may cut you some slices. Kiln dry as well but splitting issues. There was a thread a few weeks ago about how to reduce splitting by making a cut from the centre to the outside edge. For your purpose this could be filled for the day?
 

smiles2life

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I can't be of any real help here, but found a picture on the internet which was exactly what I conjured in my mind when I read this thread. They have used a base, taken off the bark, and used ply platforms. They seem to have used several branches so no need to find the one perfect tree trunk
 

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SteL

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Thanks for the information @Awac I'll give it a drill and have a look. I don't think I'll get drawn into the mysterious world of resin art. I googled Lichtenberg wood burning images and at the top was a news article about someone being electrocuted! That'd be another way to get out of doing this cake stand I suppose. They look nice, though.

Thanks, @Robbo60 I'll have a look around. That's true it only has to survive the day so I could fill it closer to the time.
 

SteL

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I can't be of any real help here, but found a picture on the internet which was exactly what I conjured in my mind when I read this thread. They have used a base, taken off the bark, and used ply platforms. They seem to have used several branches so no need to find the one perfect tree trunk
That looks good. I did think about multiple branches but I worried about their strength and securing them together. I wonder how they've secured the branches to that plywood base. The plywood actually looks better than I imagined it would when someone suggested it earlier. Thanks for the photo. The fake moss is a good idea to disguise the base as well.
 

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I would think large dowels, or even bits of broom handle, drilled a few inches into the end of the logs would be the best option. Glue them to the base and use two or three per branch. They don't need to be glued to the branch, so it can be knock down, just one screw into one of the dowels would be enough to hold it together in use. The same can be done at the 'plate' end either using ply as suggested or log slices if you can get them. Perhaps use very thin log slices backed with ply...
 

SteL

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I would think large dowels, or even bits of broom handle, drilled a few inches into the end of the logs would be the best option. Glue them to the base and use two or three per branch. They don't need to be glued to the branch, so it can be knock down, just one screw into one of the dowels would be enough to hold it together in use. The same can be done at the 'plate' end either using ply as suggested or log slices if you can get them. Perhaps use very thin log slices backed with ply...
Thanks very much. Good thinking. Someone is going to be wondering why the broom has mysteriously lost 1ft off the handle... Blame the dog as always.
 

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Trouble with this sort of thing is once you start thinking about it, it's hard to stop.

Not wanting to quell the excitement, remember you have to transport it all in and out, likely while wearing your best suit. Depends on venue but many do more than one event a day so set up time can be tight. Single logs of varying length on a simple base like the last photo might be the way to go, stood on the little round table the venue has for cake-cutting.

Think about height of cake and stature of participants. The cake-cutting photo is an official big thing, and all the ones I have seen have the happy couple shoulder to shoulder wielding a knife. I've never seen on with them kneeling, or with either or both partners standing on a little box to reach up.

You could add to the overall effect with 2 small carved or plastic figures swinging from tiny ropes between the tiers. Sorts out the groom's speech as well, he only needs the 4 words uttered by Johnny Weisemuller: beat chest and say "Me Tarzan, you Jane". Job done.
 

stuartpaul

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I appear to be in a minority but what you've done already looks quite good to me! It's all one piece so strength of joints isn't an issue and you complex CAD drawing appears to show it would actually work.

Perhaps a strong, weighted base (designed to account of any out of balance weights from cake positions) and I suspect robert may in fact be a relation!

As you've got a year it can dry out more (but it might move/split) and if you want it 'clean' what about a pressure washer?
 

SteL

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Trouble with this sort of thing is once you start thinking about it, it's hard to stop.

Not wanting to quell the excitement, remember you have to transport it all in and out, likely while wearing your best suit. Depends on venue but many do more than one event a day so set up time can be tight. Single logs of varying length on a simple base like the last photo might be the way to go, stood on the little round table the venue has for cake-cutting.

Think about height of cake and stature of participants. The cake-cutting photo is an official big thing, and all the ones I have seen have the happy couple shoulder to shoulder wielding a knife. I've never seen on with them kneeling, or with either or both partners standing on a little box to reach up.

You could add to the overall effect with 2 small carved or plastic figures swinging from tiny ropes between the tiers. Sorts out the groom's speech as well, he only needs the 4 words uttered by Johnny Weisemuller: beat chest and say "Me Tarzan, you Jane". Job done.
Good points. I might have to do a test cake cutting demo. I suspect I might have to lower it a bit from the base. I've just got my head buried in thinking about making it at the moment, the logistics can be worried about later. That top tier is quite high, though - tier 4 - where no household wedding cake cutting is allowed. I'm going to strip this one and see what it looks like without the bark. As someone already said, that'll give me the opportunity to make it thinner.
 

SteL

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I appear to be in a minority but what you've done already looks quite good to me! It's all one piece so strength of joints isn't an issue and you complex CAD drawing appears to show it would actually work.

Perhaps a strong, weighted base (designed to account of any out of balance weights from cake positions) and I suspect robert may in fact be a relation!

As you've got a year it can dry out more (but it might move/split) and if you want it 'clean' what about a pressure washer?
Thanks, @stuartpaul. That was the intention - all in one for strength. As soon as I start jointing bits together there's the chance of a failure. I did run the CAD drawing through a high-end physics algorithm and it agrees that it should be structurally sound so long as it is sponge-based cake. I didn't think of a pressure washer. I was originally going to go at it with a wire brush to tidy it up. I'll get the bark off and see what it looks like after that. Cheers
 
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