Im doing a 4 tier wedding cake and I'm looking for ways to properly support the cake ---its big...18, 14, 10, 6....other than this "SPS System" I keep reading about.
why 'other than sps sytem"? If you want the cake to be sturdy, easy to transport stacked, and don't want a cake wreck on your hands, buy the sps system, read the sticky on how to use it (by leah) and you'll be glad you did. Those are big tiers to try to support with less sturdy methods. Why tempt fate?
If you don't want to buy the system, then buy some "Bubble Tea Straws," sold thru retail on Amazon. They're basically 1/2" wide straws that we use instead of wooden dowels. I've been using these straws for about 2 years now and haven't had a single cake collapse--thank God. I used to use wooden dowels, but they're a PIB to cut. The straws are plenty sturdy and they cut easily with scissors. Just make sure you put enough in each tier. I tend to use three in each tier (spaced accordingly), and most of my cakes have 14" bottoms.
You'll want to use more this first time just to get the hang of it. Perhaps 8 in the 18" bottom, 6 in the 14", and 4 in the 10". Since your bottom three are so much bigger than top tier, I would then put two thick "central" dowels (wooden) through the top from the 10" to the 18", then place on the six and dowel that to the cake as well. I hope you understand what I'm saying, because it's so much easier to show you than tell you! You have to sharpen the ends of the wooden "stake" dowels after cutting them to size. This way, the dowel makes it through your cake boards as you tap it down. I double board each tier (two cardboard rounds taped together), and, honestly, have never had problems with the cake falling. Maybe you'll want to try it in the future, if people say it works that well. I haven't been in a place yet that uses that system, but there's no harm in trying.
If you want to use the "straw method," please message me if you want clearer (Paint Shop-produced, lol) instructions. It's really very easy, just not to type.