How to Make a 3 Tier Cake Stand Mad Hatter Style




This tutorial was published in my blog originally, and it will show you how to create a "Mad Hatter" style cake/tea stand. These whimsical center pieces are very popular among vintage china lovers. A Mad Hatter stand is typically one topped by a teacup and saucer, and on occasion a teapot. The more Alice in Wonderland the better!

My Etsy shop Tea Times Creations offers all the supplies needed to complete this project!

For a long time I was faced with the problem that most of the fittings on the market have a standard threaded part in the stem that is not long enough to capture both the teacup and the saucer. I have worked with my supplier to create a stem that has a longer threaded part (26mm instead of 15mm). This works for most of the deep footed teacups. I now offer this special stem for style 11 (the large "clover" or big flower), and in gold. If your teacup has a flat bottom any style of the handles I offer will work. I have another project to solve this issue currently on the works, and will probably be tutorial 3!

These beauties grace tables from bridal showers, to wedding receptions and even baby showers! To celebrate this very exciting new accomplishment I will be releasing a series of 3 tutorials on how to create these beauties. The first one uses only the diamond coated drill bit we carry in the shop, and a common hand held household drill. The second tutorial will also be for a hand held drill using the tungsten carbide bit, and the third tutorial will be using a bench drill press. All 3 methods also apply to drilling glass!

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Step 1: Gather Your Supplies!


- One set of metal handles for a 3-tier stand

- Your favorite dishes (I use primarily bone china)

- Diamond coated drill bit

- Household drill

- Tape measure and marker

- A scrap of wood block (to anchor the plate while protecting the surface below)

- Water (used at all times for lubrication and to avoid overheating)

- Dust mask if drilling a lot of pieces. This stuff is dusty!

Step 2: Let's Get Drilling!

The first step, and maybe the most important one, is to create your "anchor". Because of the glaze in most porcelain is very slippery, if you try to go head on with your bit you won't be able to control the drilling and your plates will be moving all over the place! Some people use painters tape, but I have found this technique faster and more accurate. Start carefully to drill at an angle, and dry, to get enough of a "bite" into the plate. You can see that it generates a lot of dust, but you really need to get a good foot hold. Another important thing is always start drilling on the display side of the plate. It is normal that once the bit exits the plate to create what is called "love bites", meaning, the exit hole is not as clean as the entry hole (especially if the bit is has been used a few times already). There are situations when you do have to turn the piece (like with teapots), and in most cases the hardware will hide that, but better safe than sorry!

Once you get the anchor ditch started, gradually straighten the bit and continue to drill, SLOWLY (patience does pay here!), keeping the pressure constant, letting the bit do most of the work, not you! At this point add plenty of water as you go. Not adding water shortens the life of your bit, and adds extra stress to your fragile china in the form of heat and friction. So the water will not only cool the bit, but also acts as a lubricant! You can feel when the exit points approaches, be extra careful at this point. You can see this method drills a pretty clean hole.Once you have all of your items carefully drilled all that is left to do is assemble your masterpiece!

Step 3: The Possibilities Are Endless...

In my experience I know there are many ways to skin this cat (though no cats were harmed in the making of this tutorial!), but I have drilled thousands of holes in some of the rarest and most expensive china that is out there, so these instructions have been put to the test. Take time to plan the design of your stand, think of the composition, the balance between the pieces, and the color scheme. It's time well spent to create an heirloom piece that will last for generations to come. If you feel queasy about drilling into grandma's precious china my shop does offer custom drilling, so you don't need to have a heart attack! Now go ahead and share, comment and send me pictures of your creations!

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    12 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I am only doing a two tier cake stand but my too plate is not screwing tightly through the plate to the bottom plate ...can you help ? Many thanx


    3 years ago

    HELP! I made this and the top screw is not catching on the handle. I am using the same one shown in picture, except silver. Do I omit the washers? I was hoping for a waterproof seal to put chocolate sauce in top for dipping. Do a drill a hole big enough for the tea cup to float around the base?

    1 reply
    Tea TimesCnibradaigh

    Reply 3 years ago

    Yes, I do mention that sometimes a deep footed teacup is just too much for the regular size thread to catch. That is why I designed and had the custom one made. But on that model I only have it gold. If you need silver, I do have one that can catch deep footed teacups, the victoriana, and it can be found here

    The listing shows gold, but I have it silver.


    3 years ago

    Can you pleasw tell me what the yellow and fuschia china is called?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Your work is amazing. I totally love it. Do u know from where I can buy the Drill and the metal holder. For a new user do u think I can end up breaking the plate.

    1 reply

    This is great info for drilling through china and the finished product is darling! How do you contect the connectors through the plates though? Do they screw? Do you have to glue them?

    2 replies

    Yes they do screw. It is very easy to put them together and to take it down. They are great to have around the house, not only as a center piece at a table, but for jewelry or any tidbit (keys, change, etc). You can see the threaded stem comparison here:


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool idea. Will the upper tiers hold a few cookies or cupcakes without stressing the fittings too much?

    1 reply
    Tea TimesCseamster

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Absolutely! You have to match the fitting to the size of the plates, but with the exception of style 1 (the small crown), all others are pretty sturdy. The heaviest is style 11, good to even 5 tiers! Check it out: