How to Build a Pyramid Trellis

Nail thin strips of cedar together to form a functional outdoor accent piece

pyramid trellis installed in a beautiful yard filled with plants and flowers
Photo by Roger Foley

Whether you call it a pyramid, an obelisk, or a tuteur trellis, this distinctive garden structure is a hallmark of cottage style. Trellises have a long history of supporting climbing and vining plants, and the tapered, freestanding version shown here remains a fixture of many an English garden, where it gives clematis and other flowering climbers a sturdy platform and a chance at sun. But we wouldn't fault you for using a trellis in a purely decorative way, either.

Whatever your intention, you can find plenty of trellises at plenty of prices at garden centers. If you go that route, pick a model that's sturdy and not too tall to maneuver so that you can haul it inside in the winter. Alternatively, you can build one yourself without too much fuss.

To make our pyramid trellis strong, lightweight, and weather resistant, we used ½-by-2-inch strips of cedar (they may be stocked as lattice at the lumberyard), which can be left unfinished. You can customize yours by adding more pickets or crosspieces, or by varying their positions. You can even nix the tricky cut-to-fit cap in favor of a store-bought post cap or finial if you sub in a nailing block. However you customize it, the finished product is sure to provide a fresh focal point.

Western red cedar obelisk, $134; Rustic Natural Cedar Furniture Company

Download a cut list to build this pyramid trellis.


Steps // How to Build a Pyramid Trellis
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How to Build a Pyramid Trellis Overview

 
Step One // How to Build a Pyramid Trellis

How to Build a Pyramid Trellis Overview

diagram of parts required to build a pyramid trellis
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

CUT LIST
You can use the cut list below or download the cut list to build a pyramid trellis here.

Framing strips: 8 @ 58 inches from long point to short point. Set the miter saw to 10 degrees and cut the ends parallel. One of each pair of A-frame legs will need to be mitered again to fit flush against its partner at the peak. Hold the left side of the A against the nailing ledge with its outside edge flush with the finial's outside edge and angle; hold the right side with its outside edge flush with the end of the nailing ledge—leaving a gap for the adjacent side's A frame. Scribe the tip of the right leg where it overlaps the left and trim it off with a utility knife.

Crosspieces: 4 @ 21½ inches from long point to long point. Set the miter saw to 10 degrees in one direction and miter one end of the crosspiece. Set the saw to 10 degrees in the other direction and miter the opposite end of the crosspiece so that the two ends are not parallel.

Crosspieces: 4 @ 17 inches from long point to long point. Set the miter saw to 10 degrees in one direction and miter one end of the crosspiece. Set the saw to 10 degrees in the other direction and miter the opposite end of the crosspiece so that the two ends are not parallel.

Crosspieces: 4 @ 13¼ inches from long point to long point. Set the miter saw to 10 degrees in one direction and miter one end of the crosspiece. Set the saw to 10 degrees in the other direction and miter the opposite end of the crosspiece so that the two ends are not parallel.

Crosspieces: 4 @ 9¾ inches from long point to long point. Set the miter saw to 10 degrees in one direction and miter one end of the crosspiece. Set the saw to 10 degrees in the other direction and miter the opposite end of the crosspiece so that the two ends are not parallel.

Lattice: 4 @ 47 inches from straight cut to point. Clip the top corners at 45 degrees to create the point.

Lattice: 8 @ 20¾ inches from straight cut to point. Clip the top corners at 45 degrees to create the point.

4x4 finial: 1 @ 12 inches. First, rip material off two adjacent edges using a circular saw to create a 3-by-3-inch block. Then, mark a line 1½ inches from the bottom edge on each side of the block. Set the depth of a circular-saw blade to ½ inch and cut the line on each side. Stand the block on end, cut end up. Fix a clamp to its base, then clamp the clamp to your work table. Mark off a square on the bottom of the block inset ¼ inch from each edge. Change the saw depth to 1½ inches, adjust its angle to 10 degrees, and position the blade so that it's angled toward the center of the block. Cut each line to create angled notches of the nailing ledge. Finally, mark the center point of the top edge of two opposing sides of the block and make diagonal lines from those points to the corners above the notch. To hold the block in place, sandwich it between two short lengths of 2x4 and screw them down to your work table. Set the saw blade to 90 degrees at its maximum depth, and cut along the diagonal lines; the blade won't go all the way through. Pop the block out, rotate it 90 degrees, and put it back in place. Mark the same angles and cut the lines. Remove the block and finish the cuts with a handsaw to create a pyramid. Finish by sanding as necessary.

 
2 ×

Make the Finial

 
Step Two // How to Build a Pyramid Trellis

Make the Finial

make the finial to build a pyramid trellis
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Create a 3-by-3-inch block: Cut a 4x4 to length and rip material off two adjacent sides. Using the cut list and detailed instructions (see the last paragraph on the previous page), rip angles along each side to produce a pyramid-shaped finial. Notch its base to create a nailing ledge for the A-frame peaks.

 
3 ×

Miter the Pieces

 
Step Three // How to Build a Pyramid Trellis

Miter the Pieces

Miter the Pieces to build a pyramid trellis
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Once the framing strips' ends are mitered at parallel 10-degree angles—to get an A-frame that's flat at the top and bottom—one of each pair must be mitered again at the tip for the peak to fit against the finial. Hold one strip against the nailing ledge with its outside edge flush with the finial's outside edge and angle; hold its partner in the A-frame with its outside edge flush with the end of the nailing ledge, leaving a gap for the adjacent side's A-frame. The second strip's tip will overlap the first. Scribe the overlap and trim it off with a utility knife. Repeat for all pairs.

 
4 ×

Build the Sides

 
Step Four // How to Build a Pyramid Trellis

Build the Sides

Build the Sides to build a pyramid trellis
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Lay out an A-frame and set equally spaced crosspieces on it, leaving a ½-inch gap at either end. Nail them in place. Flip the assembly over and nail a tall lattice strip to the crosspieces, bisecting the A, and the two shorter ones flanking it. Repeat for the other three sides. The second strip's tip will overlap the first. Scribe the overlap and trim it off with a utility knife. Repeat for all pairs.

 
5 ×

Assemble the Trellis

 
Step Five // How to Build a Pyramid Trellis

Assemble the Trellis

Assemble the Trellis to build a pyramid trellis
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Position the peak of the A against the nailing ledge, flush to the left edge of the finial. Drill pilot holes and screw it in place. Repeat on all sides. Finally, screw through pilot holes in the face of one framing strip and into the adjacent one's edge at each corner of the trellis.

 
 
 

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