Outdoor Planters

Tony's Woodworking Projects

Planters (closeup)
Planters (front view)
Abandoned Design for Steps
I had a fair amount of extra wood lying around from the various deck related projects from the previous year (see Decks, Deck Screen and Deck Furniture). This wood consisted of pressure treated 2x6's and 2x4's, plus some Ipe 1x6 and 1x4 deck boards. This wood was originally slated for an oddly shaped area between the new decks and the pool. The proposed plans for this consisted of some steps and planters, which are shown on the Deck Perimeter Project Page. To save on delivery charges, I bought the wood for this in advance of having a firm plan, since I needed to gte the wood for the project Deck Furniture - Phase II.
I grew dissatisfied with the initial plans and later decided not to follow through with the wooden steps idea, and went with paving stones instead. The extra wood sat there for about 9 months before I had a plan for it. The wood was also preventing me from being able to park my car in the garage, so I was motivated to find a use for it.
With the new deck and removal of the old decks, we were left with a somewhat barren area toward the rear of the property. Creating planters that would match the deck seemed to be a good combination of being functionality useful, visually adding to the backyard and consuming the extra wood.
The trickiest parts of designing planters for this project were the constraints:
  • needs to be very sturdy to hold the weight of a lot of soil and pots;
  • should be relatively simple to construct;
  • needs to tolerate standing water/soil well; and
  • needs to be made with only the remaining materials.
I would have normally used 4x4 pieces for the legs, but since I had 1x6 pieces, I used those. I also was going to make three planters, but wood limited reduced this to two.
Plastic Base (closeup)
New Planter Design
As usual, I created the design using the Blender software. What proved the most difficult though was designing the flooring that the plants woudl sit on. I did not like the idea of direct contact between the pots/soil/water and wood. I thought about and researched various rubber and plastic coatings I could use, though about plastic supports, but then found these sturdy, marine-grade plastic bases that were designed for use in artificial waterfalls. They were meant to be submerged and have heavy rocks on them, so fit my requirements perfectly. They were 2 feet by 4 feet, which was just about the size I was planning on for the platers, so I modified the designs to accomodate theitr exactly dimensions.
Frame Completed
Frame Assembly
Cut Frame Pieces
Once the design was complete, the building was straigh-forward and uneventful. I used the extra stainless steel screws I had from the Deck Furniture project to ensure it would hold up to the elements. I first cut the frame pieces out of pressure treated wood. I decided to assemble the frame first so I could get precise measurements for the Ipe pieces that would be the exterior surfaces. Because every edge on the Ipe needed to be mitered, and because I had very little margin for error in the amount of Ipe wood I had, I did not want to risk any mistakes.
Painted frame
Painted end grain
Frame closeup
Though the legs were pressure treated wood, the treatment does not always fully penetrate the wood. When you cut the wood, if the end grain is exposed to the elements, there is some chance it will not hold up as well as the uncut and better treated parts of the wood. The cut ends of the legs of the planetsr woudl be sitting directly on the ground (concrete though), but still would often sitting in water. Thus, I wanted to make sure the end grains were liberarlly sealed with some outdoor paint. There was just a little bit extra left-over paint, so it was used on the rest of the frame as some additional protection (it would have dried up in the can by the next time I went to use the leftover).
Assembling Ipe
Ipe after oiling
Ipe after cutting
The overall dimensions of the planter were dictated by the plastic bases that I bought, so this determined the lengths of the Ipe boards I would need to cut for the outside. I originally thought to make 3 planters when the design was a little smaller, but the plastic base required a larger footprint, so I could only make 2 planters.
To make the appearance as nice as possible, I beveled every edge of the Ipe, which was a breeze with my relatively new miter saw. This was have been a bigger pain to do on my table saw, and likely not as precise. I also had left-over oil stain from the deck, which was just about the right amount for the boards.
Completed (closeup)
Completed (side view)
I wound up about 2 feet short of the Ipe 1x6 boards I needed. I dealt with this by modifying the design so the lowest side pieces were 1x4 pieces instead. The official reason for this design change was that it would prevent leaves from accumulating under the planters and make it easier to blow the leaves out. It is not all that noticable, as the picture at right shows.
Final Results
In the end, I had very little Ipe wood left and used all the good pressure treated lumber (there were some really crappy pieces I got delivered but did not notice until too late). The only thing I needed to buy was the plastic bases and all else was from the leftovers. The end result wound up being much, much heavier than I anticipated: probably a good 200 pounds each. I had to call a friend to help move them from the garage to the backyard.
Closeup View
Side View
View from Deck
Front View