Wood obelisk in a garden.

How to Make an Obelisk for Climbers

Wooden obelisks suit almost any garden design, be it formal or a relaxed country-cottage style. Use them draped with clematis or other flowering climbers to add height to a border, as a feature to flank an entrance, or to create a focal point at the end of a walkway. Top-quality wooden types are expensive to buy but you can make one yourself for a fraction of the cost.

When to start: Any time.

At their best: Depends according to planting.

Time to complete: 1 ½ hours.

You will need: 4 x 8 ft (2.5 m) pieces of 1 ½ in x 1 ½ in (34 mm x 34 mm), timber for uprights, 2 small remnants for template, 80 ft (25 m) of 1 ½ in x ½ in (34 mm x 9 mm) batten – cut into short lengths for horizontal struts, remnants of 1 in x 3 in (25 mm x 75 mm) timber for top plinth, 1 decorative finial, galvanized 1. in (34 mm) screws, drill with countersinking bit, screwdriver, saw, nontoxic wood stain or wood preservative.

Make a template

First, make templates for the sides. Drive two screws halfway into a remnant, 5 in (12 cm) apart, for the top of the obelisk. Drive two screws halfway into a second remnant, 20 in (50 cm) apart, for the bottom. Lay remnants parallel to one another, 8 ft (2.4 m) apart. Place two upright timbers between them to create a quadrangle shape.

Create the shape

Bring the top ends of the upright timbers up against the screws in the top remnant template, as shown. Repeat at the other end of the timbers, butting these up against the screws in the bottom remnant template.

Screw in a batten

The uprights now form a fat triangular shape. Lay a piece of batten across the uprights, 12 in (30 cm) from the bottom ends. Using the drill with the countersinking bit, make holes in the batten and uprights, and screw them together.

Attach a plinth

In the same way, place a small remnant for the plinth at the top of the two uprights (narrow end). Make four holes, two in each upright, and screw the plinth into place to secure the top.

Finish the battens

Following the instructions in step 3, screw more battens in place at 6 in (15 cm) intervals, from the base to the plinth, to create a triangular, ladderlike structure.

Trim the ends

Using a saw, trim the battens flush with the sides of the uprights. Repeat Steps 2 to 5 to create a second ladderlike structure and trim the battens. Treat both with a wood stain or preservative.

Fix sides together

Fit the two sides of the obelisk into the two templates, as shown here. Then, screw in a piece of batten between the two sides to start forming the third side, lining it up with the existing battens. You may find this easier if someone holds the structure to keep it stable.

Finish the sides

Work your way up the third side, screwing the battens carefully into place, and then repeat the steps for the fourth and final side. Trim all the battens as described in Step 6.

Cut the cap

Screw in remnants to complete all four sides of the plinth. Measure the top and cut a square to fit. Stain it and, when dry, screw it into place in each corner to form a cap.

Attach finial

Wooden finials are available in various styles. Here, we have used an acorn. Stain the finial and screw it into the center of the cap.

Finishing touches

To complete the project, stain the remaining battens and touch up any missed areas. The stain or wood preservative will prevent decay and prolong the life of the obelisk. Reapply it every couple of years in early spring before clematis and other deciduous climbers start growing. Secure the obelisk in place either, by burying the bottom 4 in (10 cm) of the structure in soil, or by using custom fence post supports.