I know what some of you are thinking…this Blog Title sounds a lil off-kilter. Hardware tools? For cake decorating? Just when we thought a mixer & whisk were all the equipment we were gonna need..
True, there are TONS of magical concoctions we can whip up without the need of the following tools listed on this page. But today in this blog post I’ll be sharing some helpful & nifty hardware store finds which can help make our caking craft more – convenient, efficient & exciting!
THE BASIC ESSENTIALS
There are 4 basic tools that over the years, have become my must-haves for creating a whole range of cake support structures… from the simple right through to the complex.
A reliable drill with an assortment of drill bits is probably at the very top of my “essentials” list. Drills are much needed tools for building support structures and making holes in boards. I use them on a regular basis to securely stack my cakes with a sturdy & safe central dowel system (a must if you’re not a fan of having your cake tiers slide off or your cake masterpiece fall over). I personally prefer to use a cordless drill but that said, there ain’t nothing wrong with a corded one too.
Then, onto the fun BITS (pun totally intended). The drill bits! I invested in 2 different sets. The first is a high speed Driving drill bit set (mine has 21 bits) which allows me to drill teeny tiny holes all the way up to 1cm holes.
Another set of drill bits that I find ultra useful is a set of Spade drill bits. I have a set which lets me drill holes from 1cm all the way up to 3.8cm. It fits just as any other bit does in a regular hand drill which makes it easy to use.
There are other tools for boring large holes through boards such as self-feed bits, hole saws & Forstner drill bits. Definitely have a look a those and purchase what suits your budget, ease, ability & needs. Personally, I find having a simple set up of 1 hand drill, 1 drill bit set for small holes and 1 spade bit set for large holes perfectly sufficient for my basic caking structure needs. It’s low cost, uncomplicated and doesn’t take up a lot of room. Tick, tick, tick!
A third necessary tool is a hacksaw. A sturdy, sharp, non-rusty cake saw. This is especially handy for cutting central dowels as well as cutting pipes & pieces of wood for novelty structured cakes. For little jobs, even a little hand saw will suffice. We’ll chat about some other more advanced cutting tools later on.
When I was first starting out in this whole caking thing, a craft store glue gun worked decently enough for most jobs. The trouble I started to find over time, was that these little craft glue guns wore out pretty quickly and couldn’t heat the glue hot enough for larger gluing jobs (which resulted in my futilely trying to press pieces of structure together with hardened glue).
If you face any of the above issues or are simply looking for an upgrade, I personally am a big fan of my Bosch 200w Glue Gun. It’s durable, heats glue reeeeaal hot (which gives me a bit of time before it hardens up completely) and has a longer, narrower tip (great for squeezing glue into tight spots). This is totally not an ad pitch, I just think it’s awesome if you can afford the upgrade and if you use your hot glue on a frequent basis.
SUPPLEMENTARY TOOLS & SUPPLIES
So these items here aren’t exactly essentials. Meaning, you’ll probably be able to cake rather effectively without them. But these tools are things I’ve discovered along the way that in one way or another, enhance the cake making experience with convenience, ease & speed.
Topsy turvy cakes are awesome, but outside of that .. we cake decorators need our cakes to be level & straight. Whilst our eyes do an OK job of this, the best way to check if your cakes are level is to pop a level tool on top to check. It’s a very inexpensive tool and such a simple gizmo to help ensure our cakes are finished off professionally.
Have you ever have trouble picking heavy cakes off the bench top and wondered if there was a way your fingertips could be spared from weekly punishment? Enter self-adhesive floor protectors. These lil’ guys are stick-on tabs that are normally used under furniture legs to prevent scratches to the floor surface. I normally purchase the non-slip cork or rubber ones for added grip and to apply: it’s simply a matter of sticking a few under your cake drum prior to building your towering cake masterpiece. *[Alternatively, small pieces of foam core work well for this purpose too].
The next time you’re at your local hardware store, I would recommend perusing the paint scrapers section if you’ve never done so before. I know some decorators who swear by industrial paint scrapers as some of the best scrapers for getting smooth fondant & ganache finishes. I myself picked up a handy chisel which I regularly use for scraping hardened bits of isomalt, chocolate & batter off my workspace. Just a note to make sure that the materials used to make the scraper won’t rust and are food-safe
Pipes, Joiners & Flanges
I must admit, I do enjoy a lil browse down the pipe aisle. Who doesn’t? I particularly like to see what bits & bobs exist and the cake structure possibilities they present. In the States, plumbing pipes, joiners and flanges (all with joining threads) abound and work perfectly for creating crazy & kooky gravity-defying cake support structures (pictured*). Locally in Australia, we have access to PVC pipes, copper pipes & threaded rods which work too with some tweaking & twiddling. So go on, have a browse and see what possibilities you can find in your local hardware store!
Sandpaper is a pretty handy thing to have on-hand if you work with foam dummies. Occasionally, foams come with slight imperfections.. Imperfections which are easily be scrubbed off with the use of some sanding sheets. Sandpaper is also useful when carving foam pieces for novelty cakes as it allows you to round off edges and create smooth surfaces for decorating. I prefer working with a fine-grit sandpaper on my foam projects and rougher-grits for smoothing off the edges of freshly cut wood pieces.
By this I’m referring to a groovy hand-held tool that enables you to cut odd shapes & angles through wood and not, a puzzle that leaves you scratching you head well after dinnertime. Those 3D animal cakes and gravity defying constructions we see floating around the internet? Chances are a lot of them (note, not all of them) are built upon custom cut boards, cut with a jig saw or other similar tool. Another fantastic option that you could look into in a RotoZip (only available in the US to my knowledge) which does its cutting with a rotating drill instead of a saw.
Table Vice & Clamps
Don’t forget that with all this cutting, drilling & sawing, there needs to be something to securely hold these objects that you’re working on in place cause trust me, sawing with one hand whilst holding down a stick with your foot is NOT..I repeat…NOT a wise idea (so I hear anyways *cough*). These tools are pretty much a need if you plan on doing any of the aforementioned work. Similarly, clamps are also pretty handy for holding backdrops in place when photographing your edible works of art.
Toolboxes & Toolkits
Cake tools have an unscrupulous way of taking over the entire house, studio & kitchen. Wherever it is that you conduct your caking practice, chances are at some point, you’ll run into a space shortage issue. There is a plethora of organisation & storage solutions in your local hardware department. Think peg boards, tool boxes, shelving, stackable trays, compartment boxes … the works! It’s a great way o get organised and reduce the clutter so we can make room for…(you guessed it…) more cakie toys! whoop*whoop*
So tell me dear reader, what other Hardware Store treasures do you find useful for cake decorating?