Rustic planter boxes are deceptively simple

My book-in-progress, “Build Stuff With Wood,” is all about projects that any beginner can build … but don’t look like they were built by a beginner. It’s actually possible to build beautiful pieces of all kinds with just a few simple tools and techniques. This versatile planter box is just one example.

Aside from the rough-sawn cedar boards, sold as fence slats at your local home center, the charm of these boxes is all about the overlapping corner joints. Like all of my favorite ideas in the book (and on this blog), it’s deceptively simple. You cut half of the boards extra long, round their corners, and then attach them in an alternating overlap that looks like old-world craftsmanship but is so much simpler.

Another thing I love is how versatile these planter boxes are. You can make them short and stand-alone, or a bit taller with a seat suspended in between. And you can finish the project in a day–quicker if you have a power saw of some kind, or slow but steady with a handsaw.

standalone
If you build the boxes three boards tall, they stand alone beautifully. Here I paired them with another project from the book, but you’ll have to wait for that one!
benchbuiltin
If you build them taller and add a simple cleat to each box, you can suspend thick deck boards between them to make a seat, creating a complete backyard oasis!
cut
Once you know your the size of the big plastic pot that goes inside, you can start cutting the boards to length. I used a miter saw with a work stop screwed on (an awesome way to make lots of duplicate parts). Remember that these boards are two different lengths, though.
round
Rounding the corners of the longer, overlapping boards is easy, using a small block and some 80-grit sandpaper.
firstboardsdown
Here’s how it all goes together. I cut some pressure-treated posts a little longer than the combined width of the side boards (so there would be small legs at the bottom). The shorter boards go right to the edges, while the larger ones overhang a bit.
combineitall
Once you have two opposite sides done, you can stand them up and fit in the boards that connect them, screwing those on one at a time.
overhang
Be sure to even out the overhang of the extra-long boards.
addcleat
To add the built-in seat, you just need to screw on another piece of the post material, and then screw the seat boards down on top of the cleats. I used 1-1/2-in. thick cedar boards for the seat, so they wouldn’t sag under my beer-guzzling friends.

 

 

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