by Tim McCarthy
When deciding how to display your Bonsai trees outside, there are several options. Many people build a bench, usually out of wood to display their trees. If you have a fence along your yard boundary, this can work well. In my situation, I do not have this. I also have limited areas in my yard with receive enough sun to grow most of my trees. Also, My pines and junipers need full sun, whereas my Japanese maples do not. After visiting Sue and Dales yard, I saw what I needed, circular platforms, one for each tree. For my arrangement, I thought that a variety of sizes would work best. The general rule when looking for a natural grouping, odd numbers and non-uniform sizes works best. My first two were 24 inches and 19 inches in size. Once outside with a tree, I decided this looked too large for my size trees. I settled on sizes ranging between 11 and 16 inches. The ones pictured here are 10.5 and 12 inches in diameter.
The materials needed are as follows:
● 1 x 2 cedar boards
● 4 x 4 post (preferably green treated)
● 2 inch deck screws
● Tape measure
● Saw (Power Miter saw works best)
● Screw gun (I use a impact driver which works great)
● Something to space the boards apart (I used two paint stirring sticks taped together)
● Sable saw
● Sander (or sanding block)
The first step is to decide how big you want to make your platform. You will want to make it so that a whole number of boards will fit across. Note that 1 x 2’s are actually 1.5 inches across. I used the following number of boards/size:
10.5 inches – 6 boards
12 inches- 7 boards
14 inches- 8 boards
16 inches- 9 boards
I adjusted the spacing between boards a bit to get the correct width. Once the correct length and number of boards is cut for the top, you need to cut two more of the same length as the top for the base. You then need a section of your 4 x 4 post. Using the post, measure two more short pieces to space the two main pieces of the frame so that the post will fit between them as shown in the picture. Note, that the two long pieces at the ends are just used to square up the 2 long pieces that will make up the frame, and are not included when screwing the frame together. Once you have the two shorter pieces cut, you need to screw them in place so that there is one on either side of the 4 x 4. Do not make this too tight of a fit. You should position the 2 shorter pieces so that the post will be centered on the two longer pieces. 4 x 4’s can vary slightly in size, and it is all right to be a little bit too big since you will screw the frame in place, when you mount the platform on the post. Screwing the frame together is the hardest part.
I marked the spot to put the screws in the larger pieces, then started the screws before holding the pieces in place to screw them together. Fortunately, cedar is very soft and easy for the screws to go in. Once the main frame is in place, As shown. The next step is to line up your boards to go on top of the platform. Use your spacing stick to evenly space the boards on top. The actual spacing is not as important as an even amount of space for each board. Once all are in place, you can screw down the first board. I start with one of the middle boards, you can remove all but the one you are working on, since they will move anyway. You just needed to find the correct position of the first board. You should put the screws centered on the frame board below. It is important to put the screws all in a straight line which looks best. I have tried to trace a line on top, but since the frame below is not always square, this ended up not working well, eyeing each screw seemed to work best for me.
One thing to note when picking out your wood (Which I got at Menards). Cedar can be white or more brown, which you can see in the picture below. I did not pay attention to this when I made the one shown. Once weathered, it probably would not matter, but best to pick all of one color if possible.
Next you must trace a circle centered in the middle of the platform. I used a pencil on a string as shown here. I have tried various methods of nails to hold the center of the string, but found that just holding it in place works as well as any other method. This is also a tricky part since you need a good round circle.
Next, take your saber saw and cut along the circle you traced. I find it best to keep moving along the circle to get a nice even cut when moving from board to board. Pay attention to keeping the saw blade straight up and down. My biggest mistake is to angle it outward as I cut around, which puts an odd bevel on your boards. The last step is to sand down to top and sides. I use a sanding block with rough sandpaper to clean off and ragged edges from cutting the boards, since cedar tends to splinter a bit when cut. I then use a power sander to sand off the pencil marks and smooth the top. Make sure your screws are countersunk so the sand paper does not catch.
Once you are all finished you can cut your 4 x 4 to the length you you like for the height of your platform ( allowing 1.5 – 2 feet buried in the ground) Once the 4×4 is in place, put the platform on top and put 2 screws through the side of the frame and into the 4×4. The final image is the finished product. In this case I choose to set the displays at different heights, and an odd number which is a nice combination.