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DIY Tutorial – Decorative Wood Planter Boxes

Spring is here!  Time to beautify!  I had no intentions of making planters but after going to the store I became very discouraged as everything I liked was over $50!

Good news!  These are fairly simple to make even with all the angles!  Even better – the small planter cost about $10 in lumber and the larger about $14!  Also great – the pickets are pressure-treated so you can rest assured the elements won’t beat up on them so much.

You can choose what size you want to make – same steps for each one.. just more boards involved!

Small Planter:

Large Planter:

*these boards are cheap and you’ll need to dig around to find straight ones as well as ones that are all the same width (they vary up to a 1/4″)!

1×2 Furring Strip
Wood Glue + Brush
1-1/4″ Brad Nails
8 1-1/2″ Wood Screws
12 1-1/2″ Nails
8 1″ Kreg Screws + Kreg Jig (optional but recommended)
Exterior Wood Finish of your Choice
Sand Paper – Various Grits

Miter Saw

Table Saw (for ripping corner boards)
Nailer + Air Compressor for Brad Nails

Set your saw up to a 3.5-degree miter – keep it here until the end when you work on the top rim.

One thing to mention is that I built these wood boxes to fit specifically to the planters I found at Home Depot.  If you have a different size, it may help to know that I cut my top level boards 1-3/4″ bigger than the widest part of the rim on the plastic planter – from there it’s all matching and marking anyways (no math)! 

Like I said above, there’s no math involved in this project (believe it or not).  Once you cut your top level, you’ll use one of those boards to mark for your next level down (the bottom of the upper board is the size of the top of the lower board).  Got it?  See the diagram below how you’ll hold up your board to the upper level board to mark your cut line.  You’ll continue this for as many levels as you need for the size indicated.

Also, make sure you’re cutting your boards so the angles are creating a trapezoid shape!  This means you’ll make a cut, flip your board over, make a cut, flip your board, etc.

Small Planter:
Top level is 13-3/4″ at the longest point.  Make 3 levels.

Large Planter:
Top level is 15-3/4″ at the longest point.  Make 5 levels.

Your levels will overlap corners like above (butt end to side).  I staggered how my corners matched up on each level – but it’s not that important.  Each level is glued at the corners and nailed with brad nails about 3 times on each end.  For now, the levels are separate but will be held together with the corner strips.

Brad nails are very thin and follow the grain of the wood – they can easily pop out of the side so be careful not to hold your pieces around where you’re nailing or you could get a nail shot into your finger!  If this happens, you can pull them out with pliers and re-nail.

Next you’ll be ripping strips down the length of a few pickets to create the corner pieces.  You’ll need 2, 2″ pieces and 2, 1-1/2″ pieces.

While you’re at it, rip an extra 2″ piece for the top rim and set aside!

To find the length you need for your strips it’s easy!  First you’ll need to cut the ends of all 4 boards with your miter (same 3.5-degree angle).  With your levels stacked together you’ll place the angle of one or your strips flush with the floor and to the corners of the planter box levels.  Use your pencil and mark where the strip meets the top level and that’s where you’ll cut (notice this time that you’re making a parallelogram shape with your angles and not a trapezoid)!  You’ll need to cut 4 pieces from the 2″-strips and 4 pieces from the 1-1/2″-strips (use the first board as a measuring stick).

You’ll be attaching your corner strips with glue and brad nails.  Start with your 1-1/2″ pieces first and make a thick bead of glue along the entire length of your board.  TIP: always “test fit” your board to make sure you’re gluing on the right side (make certain the angles match up with the angles on the planters).

Use a brush to spread it around.

Line up your 1-1/2″ pieces flush with the corners of the planter.  I put a few nails in each board close to both edges of the strips.  TIP: Use pressure when you nail so you ensure the boards are tight together and no gaps.  You’ll put 2 strips on one side, as well as the opposite sides of the planter – leaving the other sides for the wider strips to overlap.

 Do the same thing for attaching the wider strips, making sure you’re overlapping the smaller strips this time.

 TIP:  If you have areas where glue seeps out, make sure to wipe it off with a wet rag before it has time to dry.  This is especially important if you are staining because the stain won’t take to glue!

 Now it’s time to cut your 1×2 furring strip for the ledge the plastic planter box will rest on.  I didn’t measure for this either… just cut, fit, cut more, fit, cut more if needed, etc.  Once you get one side to the size you want (how ever low you want the planter to sit in) then you cut the opposite side the same size.  For the other ends cut them about 1-1/2″ shorter (er on the side of caution and cut them slightly longer and you can always cut shorter if needed).  Note: you’ll want your 3.5-degree angles for these boards as well to get a snug fit!

 There’s a small gap between the wood planter and the plastic planter which will make it possible to take the plastic planter out if needed later on once the top rim is attached (it overhangs into the center).

 Find the 2″ piece you set aside for the rim and make a 45-degree miter on the end!  Match up this end with the corner of your planter box and have it overhanging on each long side the amount you’d like…

…mark in the corner for your next cut.  Follow the corner of the inside of the planter to make an “L” shape so you don’t have to many any guesses where the exact corner is.  Match up your line to your blade and make the cut (trapezoid shape)!

 For the remaining 3 sides use your first board as a measurer.  Match up the corners/edges…

 …pull your blade down (without it on) so it touches the end of the top board, remove “measuring board” and make your cut.
 Place your boards over the top to make sure you’re happy with it (it’s always easy to take a little off each board).

 If you don’t have a Kreg Jig you can skip this step and go straight to nailing your boards, however, they won’t be as secure and you may want to brace with metal brackets.
Set up your Kreg Jig for 5/8″ pockets holes.  Make a 2 holes on each end of TWO or your boards (underside). TIP: as you’re clamping the board, ensure the pocket holes won’t chip into the front side edge of your board otherwise it will be visible once you attach it to your planter.

 Use clamps and Kreg screws to attach pices together to make your frame.

At this point I sanded my planter and the top rim before attaching as it is would be easier.  The pickets are pretty rough to begin with so you’ll probably want to start with 100 grit and go up to 150 – I didn’t sand perfectly smooth as it’s an outdoor feature.

 Use nails to attach rim.  Hammer corners in first (more material to nail into) then put one nail in each middle piece being careful to nail through the board underneath.  TIP: as I’m hammering I feel along the board underneath to make sure the nail doesn’t poke through on either side – if it does it’s easier to pull it out sooner than later (and try again).

 You did it!

I used Behr Waterproofing Wood Stain for the first time (tinted to their Chocolate Shade).  I wasn’t please with the color – it was dull and bland – very matte looking!  I couldn’t live with it so once it dried I went over it with my trusty Flood (cedar-toned) stain I’ve been using lately.  I was worried about the different brands being ‘mixed’ but I took the chance.  The Flood gave it a warm-darker tone and it dried within a couple of hours!


PS – Make a magnolia wreath like ours by checking out my tutorial!  Click here.
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1 Comment

  • Reply Gypsy Quilter

    Wonderful idea. GREAT photos. Thanks so much for sharing.

    May 18, 2016 at 7:45 am
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