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Avadon 05-10-2019 10:47 AM

Conical Steeple / Witches Hat Construction
7 Attachment(s)
Hello All,

I'm trying to figure out how to construct a small scale conical steeple. Some of these steeples look like a witches hat depending on how flared out they are. These are the typical "fantasy steeple" you seen in all the fairy tales. I imagine the framing is made from several curved pieces of wood, all braced with smaller pieces in between, such as with standard dome framing. My biggest question is how is this structure then sheeted and roofed? In some pictures I've seen bands of wood wrapping around horizontally, but my fear is that the compound curves will not allow for skinning it in long strips? My only other thought is that it's somehow sheeted in some sort of tile sections?

I found several pictures of conical steeples/spires but nothing showing their framing or their sheeting. Just FYI: I'm making a small version about 2' tall by 1' wide so this doesn't have to adhere to code. ;)

Thanks for the help. :grin:

woodnthings 05-10-2019 11:25 AM

make a wooden cone ......

Not gonna be easy...... unless your cone will be the same size as a traffic safety cone? If that's possible, then there are several ways it can be done.

You can cut tapered strips from thin 1/16" Baltic Birch plywood that run from the top to the base and glue them together, but not on the cone which you have sprayed a release agent on or wrapped with brown paper. Cutting the correct taper will be the biggest issue, so you would have to experiment in thin cardboard, like Strathmore.

The other way I can envision, is the way I made a cone shaped bird house from wooden tongue depressors. I used various size plastic containers as the form and hot glued them on like shingles, row after row all the way up. I did not remove the containers after I had my completed shape, however.

There are formulaes for making a cone or conical sections from flat stock as a sheet metal shop would do. Too much math and layout for me, however.

Finally, a series of decreasing diameter discs mounted on a dowel rod at proper height spacing will give you a substructure to build on using either technique I mentioned above. If you had a very large lathe and a large log, turning the cone that size would be another choice, but I'm thinking ....NOT. :vs_cool:

gmercer_48083 05-10-2019 11:33 AM

Avadon, Here is an article that may be helpful.

Steve Neul 05-10-2019 11:36 AM

The last picture you show pretty much tells the story except unless you want the inside to show the curve would go the opposite direction. This one may have framing above it that you don't see which does go the opposite direction. What is in the picture is the framing for the interior ceiling. What is disturbing though is the person that built it went to so much trouble framing it and used OSB for the curved round beam holding it all together.

unburled 05-10-2019 12:33 PM

i easily found lots on framing large conical steeples.

the last OP picture is a dome, not a conical steeple.

But while you might be wanting to build a scaled down version, you won't be able to use the same techniques because your radii will be so very much tighter.

1' wide? cut a bunch of disks out of 1x stock and narrower lumber with radii that correspond to your desired flare, spacing and weight. Assemple the stack with alternating the grain direction. Sheath it with tapered lath running from the even to the vertex. If you need it to be hollow like a hat, cut rings instead of disks out of your 1x stock.

But basically, your question is radically underposed because you haven't specified the application. Is it a theater prop? playground structure?

FrankC 05-10-2019 01:46 PM

There is information here on a full scale structure, likely not a lot of help but he does offer some advice that may be useful:

Mikhail2400 05-10-2019 03:40 PM

If I were building a cone 2' tall and 1' wide I would use a router to cut out a ring for the bottom diameter, then I would cut either 2 or 3 other rings in reducing sizes with the top most cut to fit about 2-3" below the very tip. Then I would cut uprights to fit between the rings that would fit flush with the outside. The very tip wouldnt be hard to make with some thought , a saw and some sanding. After that you have several choices of how to cover the outside. Thin slats would be one way but I bet one of these folks could come up with an even easier way. Then you shingle it or what ever covering you choose.

Im no great woodworker but that is just what popped in my mind. Good luck!

Tony B 05-10-2019 07:16 PM

Trying to replicate a very large structure into a very small structure could be next to impossible using the same technique. the pieces wouls be too small to handle.
One way could be if you had a traffic cone and some veneer sheets, you could wrap the veneer around the cone to conform to the shape. make several thin layers while staggering the seams. the very first layer would have to have the seam taped from underneath. Each succeeding seam could be glued directly to the layer beneath it.

Or even easier, using the same traffic cone idea - use fiberglass instead.

Does it have to be wood?

Avadon 05-11-2019 01:50 AM


Originally Posted by gmercer_48083 (Post 2054459)
Avadon, Here is an article that may be helpful.


Thanks for this great article. I get most of it, but how is he calculating these ply sheet dimensions?

is there math behind this part of it? or is this a guess and by golly?

Avadon 05-11-2019 01:57 AM

The Splayed Miter Angle Calculations

on this youtube video show you how to make steeples and multi-sided taperd polygons. However conical is another story. I'm thinking that wrapping sheeting horizontally is really the only way to do this well at any scale. However I'm not totally sure how that sheeting dimensions are calculated. The Fiberglass idea taht Tony mentioned is not a bad idea, but doesn't really answer the problem of how to do it in wood, just a good and easier work around haha. I'd still love to know how this can be done in wood.

Steve Neul 05-11-2019 10:20 AM

The cone you are making, how is it to be finished out? No bigger than it is you could laminate wood together and turn it on a lathe. We just don't know what the finished product should look like. Anyway when bending wood there is several ways it can be done. Making the wood thin is a way. Also you could construct a steam chamber and steam the wood. This makes it very limber. Also wood cut in small segments even though it may be completely flat will take on the appearance of being curved going around a radius. The pictures of castles that have been posted probably didn't use curved roof tiles, regular tiles made for any application could be used, you just don't see that in the finished product. The type wood used can also affect the project. Some woods bend easier than others.

gmercer_48083 05-11-2019 10:37 AM

Avadon, Maybe this will help.

Avadon 05-11-2019 04:33 PM

Thank you Gents,

Thank you Gary!! Yes that is exactly what I was looking for. Excellent it does the calculations there as I'm a little rusty on my algebra. haha

Thanks again everyone!

gmercer_48083 05-11-2019 09:49 PM

Avadon, What are you making?

woodnthings 05-11-2019 10:20 PM

You would need to draw it first ....
This article shows step by step how to draw a cone:

Once you have your dimensions you can start the construction. You will need a bandsaw and a large stack of plywood pieces of decreasing sizes, larger than the circumference of the cone's base.

From the drawing, you know the cricumference and the angle of the side. You set the bandsaw table to that angle, and cut the first piece which becomes the base. The next piece is smaller in circumference and sits exactly on top of the first piece. You are making a stack of "segmented cones" the thickness of your plywood. It will look roughly like this:

You can use a thicker material than plywood, if desired by stacking pieces of solid wood around in a circle. Obviously there are other ways to do this, but this one is easy to do with few calculations. Another is method runs the pieces vertically as I suggested in post no. 2 above.

Packard 05-13-2019 01:59 PM

Are you looking to building the steeple or just the spire atop that steeple?

woodnthings 05-13-2019 03:23 PM

Maybe this is useful?

TimPa 05-13-2019 03:35 PM

your original examples are of a concave cone, with curved sides. the construction methods described for cones could be used for a concave cone as well, but the vertical stringers would have a concave, or curved in, exterior edge. for a 1' x 2' project size, you would not have to sheath it (with wood) as the bend radius would be very small - tin or rubber would be good. the shingles would all have to be trimmed on both side edges to mate the adjacent shingle, asphalt or wood shake. I would plan on a pre-fabricated cone for the top, maybe a copper one soldered up.

and pics, pics, pics....

gmercer_48083 05-13-2019 07:58 PM


Originally Posted by gmercer_48083 (Post 2054603)
Avadon, What are you making?


gj13us 05-14-2019 09:53 AM


Originally Posted by gmercer_48083 (Post 2054821)

I'm not sure, but I think some kind of conical steeple.

Sorry. It set itself up.

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