Steps // Make a Cedar Planter
1 ×

Overview

 
Step One // Make a Cedar Planter

Overview

overview illustration of building a cedar planter
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Cut List for Making a Cedar Planter

TOP
5/4x6s (mitered long points)
2 at 38 5/16 inches
2 at 24 1/4 inches

LEGS
4x4s ripped down to 2 1/4
 inches square
4 at 28 3/4 inches

TOP RAILS
5/4x6s ripped to 2 3/4 inches wide
2 at 17 5/8 inches
2 at 31 1/16 inches

BOTTOM RAILS
5/4x6s ripped to 5 inches wide
2 at 17 5/8 inches
2 at 31 1/16 inches

STRINGERS
5/4x6s
2 at 31 inches

CROSSPIECES
2x4s, ripped offcuts from legs

4 at 16 3/4 inches

PANEL PIECES
1x4s

28 at 13 inches

 
2 ×

Prep the Pieces

 
Step Two // Make a Cedar Planter

Prep the Pieces

mounting a dado blade on the table saw
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Using a miter saw, cut all the pieces to length, except the crosspieces for the base, following the cut list. Mount a 3⁄8-inch stacked dado blade on a table saw, as shown, to cut dadoes (grooves) in the planter’s rails and rabbets (notches) in the ends of side-panel pieces. Set the blade to make 3⁄8-inch-deep cuts.

 
3 ×

Cut the Dadoes and Rabbets

 
Step Three // Make a Cedar Planter

Cut the Dadoes and Rabbets

making the dadoes and rabbets on a table saw
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Position the fence to make a dado in one side of each rail that is offset 1⁄8 inch from the side’s centerline; cut the dado along the full length of each rail. For the rabbets, clamp a 1 guide block to the fence, as shown, and set the blade height to cut a 3⁄8-by-3⁄8-inch rabbet into both ends of each panel piece.

 
4 ×

How They Fit Together

 
Step Four // Make a Cedar Planter

How They Fit Together

fitting the rabbets into the dadoes
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

The rabbet on the end of each panel piece slips into the dadoes on the top and bottom rails, as shown. The offset dado makes an eye-pleasing 1⁄4-inch reveal between the panel pieces and the rails on the planter’s outside faces.

 
5 ×

Taper the Legs

 
Step Five // Make a Cedar Planter

Taper the Legs

making the taper cuts on a table saw for the cedar planter legs
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Replace the dado blade with a saw blade. Rip the rails to width and rip each 4x4 down to 2 1⁄4 inches square. Next, set or make a tapering jig to cut a 2.75-degree taper on the inward-facing sides of the lower legs. Mount a leg in the jig, and set the saw fence so the blade starts cutting the taper 8 inches from the leg’s end, as shown. Rotate the leg a quarter turn, put it back in the jig, and cut the second taper. Repeat with the other three legs. Use sandpaper to smooth all the cut sides and ease the sharp edges.

How to make taper cuts

  • Cutting a taper is best done on a table saw using a tapering jig, which angles the stock away from the fence. You can buy an adjustable tapering jig, or follow Tom’s lead and construct a custom jig out of scrap wood (overview).
  • To use his jig, Tom butts one end of a leg against the jig’s hook, slides the leg under the 1x3, and holds the leg in place by driving a couple of screws horizontally through the 1x2.
 
6 ×

Shape the Legs

 
Step Six // Make a Cedar Planter

Shape the Legs

routing a cedar planter leg on a router table
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Chuck a 1-inch-radius roundover bit into a router mounted to a router table. Turn on the router and feed each leg’s untapered edge past the spinning bit over the leg’s entire length. Use a block plane to make a slight chamfer in the long outside edges of the panel pieces.

 
7 ×

Drill Pocket Holes

 
Step Seven // Make a Cedar Planter

Drill Pocket Holes

using a pocket hole jig to drill pilot holes for a cedar planter frame
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Using a and bit, drill evenly spaced holes through the inside faces (not the faces with the 1⁄4-inch reveal) at both ends of the rails, as shown. Next, drill pocket holes into the inside faces of the top rails, down toward the undadoed sides. (See the pocket-hole placement in Step 12.)

How to use a pocket-hole jig

  • Set the depth. Adjust the jig and the stop collar on the bit to match the thickness of the stock. Both settings are shown on the jig.
  • Note the grain direction. Make sure that the wood grain of the piece receiving the screws runs perpendicular to the screw. Screws driven into end grain won’t hold.
  • Adjust the drill clutch. Set the drill torque so that the pocket- screw heads sit tight to the bottom of the pocket without stripping the hole.
  • Double-check the screw length. The screw tip should not exit the wood.
 
8 ×

Attach the Top Rails

 
Step Eight // Make a Cedar Planter

Attach the Top Rails

attaching the top rails to the cedar planter
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Clamp a leg, rounded edge down, to the workbench. Place a top rail on 1 spacer blocks with the pocket holes facing up. Line up the rail’s undadoed side with the top of the leg and butt the rail end tight against the leg. Drive pocket screws into the leg, as shown.

 
9 ×

Attach the Bottom Rail

 
Step Nine // Make a Cedar Planter

Attach the Bottom Rail

attaching the bottom rail to the cedar planter
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Rest the rail, pocket holes up, on 1 spacers and insert the ends of a panel piece snugly into the dadoes of both rails. Push all three pieces against the leg, then slide the bottom rail away from the top one by 1⁄8 inch, as shown. That allows the rails to swell when wet. Pocket-screw the bottom rail to the leg.

 
10 ×

Assemble One Side

 
Step Ten // Make a Cedar Planter

Assemble One Side

Tom Silva assembling one side of the cedar planter
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Slide the remaining panel pieces into the rails’ dadoes, leaving the 1⁄4-inch reveal on the outside. Clamp another leg to the workbench, as in Step 8. Rest the rails on 1x spacer blocks so the top rail is flush with the leg’s top, leaving a 1⁄8-inch gap between the rails and panel pieces. Pocket-screw both rails to the leg.

 
11 ×

Assemble the Box

 
Step Eleven // Make a Cedar Planter

Assemble the Box

Tom Silva and Kevin O'Connor building the cedar planter box
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Repeat Steps 8, 9, and 10 to make two more sides. Attach the rails to the legs, as shown. Follow a different order when making the last side: Screw the top rail to both legs, fit the panel pieces into the top rail’s dado, then slip the bottom rail over the panel pieces’ ends. Fasten that rail to the legs, leaving a 1⁄8-inch gap.

 
12 ×

Fit the Top

 
Step Twelve // Make a Cedar Planter

Fit the Top

Kevin O'Connor and Tom Silva attach the top of the cedar planter
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Miter the 5⁄4x6 stock to the lengths specified on the cut list. Drill pocket holes in the ends of the long pieces, then glue the miter joint and clamp it so the jaws straddle the joint. That will keep the faces flush as you drive the pocket screws through the miter. Wipe up excess glue with a damp rag. Now mark the 1-inch overhang on each corner of the top, and place the box upside down on those marks. Pocket-screw the top rail to the top, as shown. The top acts like the face frame on a cabinet, stiffening the box and preventing it from racking.

 
13 ×

Sand the Top

 
Step Thirteen // Make a Cedar Planter

Sand the Top

sanding the top of the cedar planter
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

When the glue dries, in about an hour, fit an orbital sander with 220-grit sandpaper and smooth the top, as shown. Also use the sander to ease the top’s edges and corners, and erase any glue residue in the joints. Follow up with 320 grit to eliminate scratches.

 
14 ×

Construct the Base

 
Step Fourteen // Make a Cedar Planter

Construct the Base

Tom Silva constructs the base of the cedar planter
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Cut four identical crosspieces from the 4x4 rip cuts and two identical stringers from the dadoed 5⁄4x6 stock. Space the crosspieces to support the crates. Position one side of each crosspiece flush with each stringer’s undadoed side, and fasten the pieces in a ladder-like frame with 2 1⁄2-inch deck screws, as shown.

 
15 ×

Install the Base

 
Step Fifteen // Make a Cedar Planter

Install the Base

Tom Silva slides the cedar planter base into place
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Slide the base, dadoed-edge down, between the bottom rails, as shown. Set the lower edge of the stringers 3 inches above the lower edge of the bottom rails, then fasten the stringers to those rails with 1 1⁄4-inch wood screws.

 
16 ×

Fit the Milk Crates

 
Step Sixteen // Make a Cedar Planter

Fit the Milk Crates

Kevin O'Connor and Tom Silva fit milk crates into the cedar planter
Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Put the grow bags into the milk crates and set the crates on the planter’s base, as shown. Place the planter in its final location and fill with soil and plants. To protect the wood from the sun and weather, apply a penetrating oil finish made for decks.

 

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