How to Make a Wooden DIY Garden Obelisk Cheaply

I am so excited to start doing DIY projects for our outdoor spaces for the season! It will be busy as we DIY a fence for our big fur baby but we snuck this DIY wooden garden obelisk DIY project in after a year of waiting for one. What is a garden obelisk exactly?

A garden obelisk is a fancy name for a pyramid-like shape you can use for climbing plants and vines. An obelisk is like a tomato cage, but with style. You can purchase them in various sizes as vertical decorative pieces for flower pots with climbing vines. I found the large tall garden obelisks can be quite expensive. And they didn’t look very strong, making building your own garden obelisk worth the extra time and money.

I wanted Hubs to help me build a wooden obelisk last year for squash but he refused. This year I started to make two for my pumpkins, and he got curious about my project and jumped in to help me. I think they will look fantastic in the front two corners of our vegetable garden with small sugar pumpkins growing from them.

Materials for One DIY Garden Obelisk

Type of Wood

It’s a good idea to use cedar or pressure-treated wood for your obelisk. That said, we made ours using regular lumber and then finished it with an exterior stain to match our deck and fence which was much cheaper for us.

Ladder Stand Supplies

  • Four – 2 x 2 – 8′ feet long
  • Two – 1 x 2 – 8′ feet long ( for cross pieces)
  • One 1 x 3 – 8 feet long (for brackets)
  • 5 1/2 x 5 1/2″ square scrap wood, and 4 x 4″ square of scrap wood

Decorative Topper Supplies

  • 1 1/2″ 18 gauge air nails
  • Construction wood glue
  • 3″ wood screw
  • Chocolate brown stain
  • 5 1/2 ” square scrap wood
  • 4 ” square scrap wood

Tools Required

  • Miter saw (or hand-held circular saw)
  • Jig saw or scroll saw
  • Nail gun
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill with a drill bit
  • Level
  • Tape Measure
  • 12-inch clamp

Step-by-Step Instructions for Obelisk

Begin cutting the lumber to length.

Cut Lengths

For the Legs

  • Cut the four 2 by 2 – 74 inches long. This will be the four legs.

The bottom of the legs are cut at a small diagonal. I purposely left the angle small so we don’t have to angle-cut the ends of the side slats. Making this build a simple project

Set your Miter saw to 6 degrees. Cut the angle so the long side stays at 74 inches for the bottom of the four legs.

Cut Cross Piece Side Slat Lengths

The cross pieces of wood are cut to different sizes to accommodate the changing widths from the top to the bottom of the garden obelisk. Begin by cutting the short side pieces, then use them as a guide to set how far the garden tower legs are apart.

For the Short Side

  • Cut 2 pieces of 1 by 2 – 6 1/2 inches (top side slat)
  • Cut 2 pieces of 1 by 2 – 7 1/2 inches (center side slat)
  • Cut 2 pieces of 1 by 2 – 9 1/2 inches (bottom side slate)

For the Long Side

The short side pieces fit inside the long sides so they are each cut 1 1/2 inches longer to account for the width of the wood.

  • Cut 2 pieces of 1 by 2 8 inches (top side slat)
  • Cut 2 pieces of 1 by 2 9 inches (center side slat)
  • Cut 2 pieces of 1 by 2 11 inches (bottom side slat)

Making the Garden Obelisk Topper

You must have the 5 1/2 by 5 1/2-inch square piece of wood to align the top piece of the obelisk to it. You can decorate it any way you like at the end. Finding some rare finials was my inspiration for making the obelisks this year. You could use a fence post topper, and attach it to the 5 1/2-inch square piece. I have seen some examples with a solar light on top as well.

1 – To make mine Hubs cut two pieces of scrap wood, one the 5 1/2 ” square one and a second 4″ square.

2 – Find the center of the 4 ” piece and mark it with a pencil and then pre-drill it.

3 – We will attach the filial top using a 3″ wood screw. Drill the screw into the center, so about an inch shows on the other side.

4 – Apply a thick layer of glue to the bottom of the filial and then center it over the poked out screw end. Then finish drilling the wood screw up into the filial.

5 – Once the filial is attached, apply glue to the underside of the 4″ wood piece. Align both pieces of wood to the center. Once centered attach the wood pieces together with air nails.

Making Decorative Wooden Supports

As this obelisk is meant as a large wooden trellis for my pumpkin plants I gave it extra strength and structure by adding small wooden brackets to the bottom of the side slats. You can make the little braces any shape you like, a simple 3-inch triangle would be faster. but I think the simple curved edge makes this garden obelisk stand out.

1 – Cut the 1 by 3 lumber into 24 3-inch lengths.

2 – Print out the obelisk support pattern, cut, and trace out the curved edge on each piece.

3 – Cut the curved edge out using a jig saw or scroll saw

4 – Sand to remove slivers

Cut out wood support brackets, the image shows 12 of them.

Build Obelisk First Ladder

You want to work on a flat surface as the garden trellis needs to be square. We have a stack of lumber for our fence that we used but saw horses or a large flat table work well.

Place the two 6-degree angle pieces at the bottom, short side facing center.

The four legs of a DIY obelisk cut at a 6 degree angle

Use a square to ensure the two legs are even on the bottom.

Measure Horizontal Slats Placement

Once you have the two legs aligned mark for horizontal placement, the following image illustrates where we placed the markings.

Two of the ladders for building a DIY wooden obelisk.  The image is marked with measurements for horizontal slat placement

Measure from the top of each leg down 12 inches and make the first pencil mark.

Make your second mark 19 3/4 inches below the first mark (this leaves an 18 space)

For the 3rd mark measure 36 3/4 inches below the second pencil mark.

Lay each side slat along the markings. Double-check the placement and adjust the leg pieces in or out as necessary so the edges are flush with the edge of the leg.

Take the top of the legs and tack them to the 5 1/2-inch piece. This is necessary to stabilize the angle of the legs.

Before tacking the cross-piece slats in place use a level to ensure each slat is level, then tack with an air nail. We will drill pilot holes first and then apply screws later on.

Placing horizontal wood braces onto a Garden Obelisk project.

After you have finished the first rung, repeat the process with all the remaining rungs.

Once everything is square, flush (with the side of the legs), and tacked in place. Drill one hole at the end of each slat and attack with a 2-inch sew. Repeat for the remaining rungs.

Attach the wooden supports using a combination of wood glue and the air nailer.

Once the first two legs are tacked in place, turn it over and use it as a template for the opposite ladder.

Placing, leveling and attaching the horizontal slats on a DIY garden obelisk project.

Align the next two legs to the first two. Clamp the top and bottoms of the legs together to keep them identical. Then repeat the entire process.

The two sides should look like the image I shared with the horizontal measurements on it.

Now we need to attach the slats and braces to the opposite side to form the pyramid shape.

Make the Opposite Sides of the Obelisk

Now that we have the two sides done, we add the horizontal slats on the other two sides and permanently attach the top.

We will use the long side cuts as we fit the ends of these horizontal slats to cover the ends of the first sets we put in.

Adding the outer horizontal slats to a DIY garden obelisk.

Both the 1 by 2-inch boards and the 1 by 3-inch boards were supposed to be the same thickness. As wood manufacturers seem to be purposely making lumber smaller, our 1 by 2-inch lumber was 1/4 inch thinner than the 1 by 3-inch lumber. If you look at the image above you can see the difference in thickness. As this is a garden structure it’s not a big deal, but I thought I would mention it.

Just like you did the first set of horizontal slats, place them at the same height, and make sure they are level. Tack with an air nailer, adjust the width, and then drill and screw in place. Then add the remaining wood brackets under the slats.

Adding the Obelisk Topper

Once you have all the cross pieces and brackets fit you can go ahead and stand your obelisk up on its legs.

Adding the obelisk topper is much easier to do with two people and a ladder.

Begin by applying wood glue to the top of each leg then attaching the topper. Starting at one corner make sure the two edges are flush, then drill and screw in the first corner to the leg.

Two people placing a top onto an obelisk.  One is standing on a ladder with a drill, the other is handing clamps.

Then repeat with the opposite corner, making sure that the top of the leg aligns with the edge of the topper. If the leg wood is tending to bow out a little bit use a clamp to pull the leg into place before screwing in place. Once you have the first two corners attached, repeat with the final two.

Finishing the DIY Garden Obelisk

This is a matter of choice, if you used cedar you could use it as is or add a coat of polyacrylic. For mine, I used a Minwax espresso brown stain and sealer in one.

(It still has not gotten warm here although the leaves are out, and the garden is empty. I hope to update the pictures once the pumpkin plants have grown.)

A tall full sized obelisk in the garden.  The diy garden obelisk is made out of wood and stained a dark espresso brown.

Planting the Obelisk

At the beginning of the post, we used a 6-degree angle for this obelisk, and we built it very tall. To keep it standing straight we buried ours ten inches into the ground by digging four small holes for the legs and compacting the soil around each leg with our hands. We had two days of high winds and the obelisk stayed in place.

Step-by-Step Video Tutorial

Hubs and I bravely went through the entire process of us working on the obelisk. If the blog doesn’t share enough information for you, I am certain this video will help.

The latest on Youtube:
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A large 7 foot DIY garden obelisk sitting in a garden with lots of tree in the background.

Other Garden Ideas

A bucket garden stand sitting in a garden filled with tomato plants. The garden bucket containers are all 5 gallon white buckets.

5 Gallon Tomato Bucket Stand

This easy-to-make bucket stand works well. It keeps our tomatoes cleaner, and it saves space in the garden for our other vegetables.

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