Intro: How to Build a Pedestal
The almighty white pedestal! Any object you put on top of this rectangular prism is automatically worth more, depending on who you ask. The subject of much debate within the contemporary art world, the white pedestal was questioned by Marcel Duchamp when he placed a common urinal on top of one and called it art. Thus questioning the very foundations of art itself. However, the white pedestal is a necessary way to display small objects. …No hate.
As a wood shop technician in the Bowling Green State University Art School, I have made countless pedestals. I have also seen quite a few different techniques. I learned the technique that I will be showing you at the Kansas City Art Institute. I don't remember who taught me this technique, but I would love to give them credit for it. I have passed this process on to many, including people who have been building them for years.
For this Instructable, the focus is on the construction of one pedestal. I chose to make four with a six inch height variation for a project I am working on. Please adjust the shape, size, and number of units to your needs.
The reasons why I prefer this Technique to others:
- Easy assembly
- No nails (means no wood filler)
- clean seamless edges
- very few tools and materials needed
Step 1: Gather Materials and Find Yourself Inside of a Wood Shop
You need a decent table saw for this process. If you have access to one it is the only power tool you will need. I also used a panel saw to cut down the 4x8 sheet that I started with because I was alone. But you can have someone help you to cut large pieces on the table saw. You will not be able to make any kind of pedestal with a circular saw. They are not accurate enough for this kind of construction. Lastly you will need a clean flat surface for assembly.
- MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard), found at any lumber yard. I am using 1/2 inch MDF. Use thicker material when building large pedestals or those that will be holding a lot of weight.
- Wood Glue
- Masking Tape
- Measuring Tape
- Table Saw Blade Gauge
- Sketch Pad
- Safety Glasses (of course)
- Hearing protection (of course)
- Dust Mask (MDF is nasty nasty stuff to breath in. Make sure you take precautions while cutting)
Step 2: Figure Dimensions and Map Cuts
Mapping your pieces and cuts on paper will help you understand the whole process. It is very easy to mess up if you do not have this visual aid. Take the time. It also helps eliminate waste. I have mapped all my pieces within a 4x8 sheet before purchasing material.
Step 3: Rough Cut
I have found that it is a bit easier to rough cut every piece first. I cut them about 1/8 inch larger then the final dimension.
I used the panel saw to cut all my varied lengths out of the 4X8 sheet of MDF. I then set the table saw to 11 inches at 90 degrees to make the rest of the cuts.
Step 4: Set Table Saw to 45 Degrees
*******This Is the most important step of this process*******
There are many different styles of gauges to help make this angle perfect (which it must be). If you do not have a gauge of any kind, get it as close as you can and do a small test with scrap wood. Adjust the angle until you get four pieces of wood to fit perfectly in a square.
I am using a digital gauge for this Instructable.
- Make sure the digital gauge is set at zero (00.00) on the table of the table saw itself first.
- Place the magnetic bottom of the gauge on the blade, making sure that the gauge is also resting on the table. The screen should now read 90.00
- Crank the wheel until 45.00 shows on the digital screen.
- Tighten the wheel before you remove the gauge.
Step 5: Mitre All Edges
When you set the table saw to cut a specific dimension, make sure you cut all pieces that need to be that size. This really helps when building multiple pedestals. The consistancy will allow the pedestals to work as modules giving you the ability to rearrange them in different configurations.
The majority of my dimensions are 11 inches, so I will start with these cuts first.
To set the Saw for an 11 Inch cut:
- . Using a measuring tape, position one tooth of the saw blade at the thickness of your MDF.(I am using 1/2 inch MDF so I have set the inside of the tooth to exactly 1/2 an inch off the table.)
- You may now adjust the fence so that it is exactly 11 inches from this point on the blade. (You can also take your dimension and subtract the thickness of the wood. In my case that would be 10 1/2 inches. You can then set your fence at that measurement and get the same affect depending on the reliability of your table saw).
- when you have measured twice…you may start cutting your sides face up, only on the edges which will seam with another piece (do not cut the bottom edge). Take it nice and slow. These cuts should all be perfect.
Again, you need to cut both sides of your length and width measurements, only one side of your height measurement and all sides of the top piece. If your top is square, run it through the saw once. Give it a 90 degree turn and cut again. Repeat until all sides are cut.
Step 6: Assembly: Part One
- Position all side pieces face up with their appropriate seams touching. The better you can line these up the cleaner your pedestal will be.
- remove any dust and tape seams from top to bottom with masking tape.
- Carefully flip all sides as one unit. (larger pedestals require an extra set of hands)
Step 7: Assembly: Part Two
- Carefully apply glue to the exposed seams. (use a small enough amount of glue that you don't get any squeeze out)
- Fold the sides of the box up to form a square and tape the last side nice and tight.
- Glue the top seam and add the top piece. (If you did everything right this step will be very rewarding for you).
- Tape the top piece on by stretching the tape tight across the 4 seams.
The nice thing about this assembly process is that you may take the tape off and paint the pedestal after just one hour. Remember that the glue is not fully cured until 24 hours, so be careful transporting.
Some folks have criticized this tape method. They say that the tape does not work as a proper clamping mechanism for the glue to hold strong. To them I say this… MDF is not wood, it is "wood stuff". Therefore it is not as strong as wood. It is glorified cardboard. Heavy clamping will damage the surface of this material. The tape method provides a joint that is stronger then the MDF itself, just as clamps do for real wood. That is all that is necessary.
Step 8: Painting
There are a few different ways to paint your pedestal:
- Spray Clear coat, (Leaves the nice neutral tone of the MDF. But also necessary to seal and strengthen).
- Spray solid color, (Make sure you have proper ventilation).
- Roll solid color.
I choose to spray the pedestals I made because they came out pretty clean. However I would always recommend rolling them. Rolling is cheaper, thicker, stronger and better at filling in any tiny gaps you might have. you only need to apply enough paint to cover them. Multiple coats are not necessary.
Let the paint dry for 24 hours before touching. Touching uncured paint will leave dirty marks. that will not easily come off.
Make sure that your pedestal is not more beautiful then what you put on top of it.