Custom Potted Plant From TechShop




Introduction: Custom Potted Plant From TechShop

About: Part man, part machine -- all awesome!

Purpose: Re-purpose salvaged materials to add a unique feature to your garden.

Tools: virtually none
Materials: old washer drum, spray paint, rocks, dirt, plants and light

Step 1: Salvage Operation

Easily the trickiest part of the process, finding scrap materials to use can be a challenge.  If you have an idea in mind, there are ways to hunt down specific items, but otherwise is it is a state of mind where you need to be creatively awake and alert.  I have been wanting to upgrade my garden for a while, but didn't have any specifics locked down yet as I am still brainstorming ideas.

One day, just hanging out at TechShop, this old washer drum pretty much found me.  Someone had left this back by the metal scrap bin earlier that morning, and I knew it would make a perfect funky planter (and subsequently save me ~$80).

Don't look at objects as they are, but as they could be.

Step 2: Clean Up

While I could certainly powder coat my “new” planter, I opted to get out of the shop and spend a little more time enjoying the sunshine.  Because of this decision, I didn't need to be very meticulous with the clean up.  A hose set to higher pressure and a coarse brush are plenty.  Quick scrub and set out to dry while you go pick up the other materials.

Step 3: Paint

I wanted to try my hand at a dual coat and in the process practice my spray painting techniques.  The first coat was a standard application of a midnight blue across the main portion of the drum and the bottom.

Try to work in the shade or on an overcast day and utilize more uniform lighting.  Direct sun makes it difficult to see what has been fully painted since the contrast between light and shadow is so stark.  I had to go back and touch up sections because my yard was too warm and sunny and nice (ug).

The next day I flipped the drum over and added the second color across the top.  The challenge here is to paint as little as possible – it will be very easy do over do this part and ruin the effect.  I focused on painting a band four inches high across the top and that's it!  Since I was using aerosol spray paint, the method automatically created a gradient between the light and dark colors.  This way I didn't have to worry about masking anything, but if you actively try for a gradient, you will probably ruin it.  Let the dust settle where it may.  If you can't see the transition point then you did it right.

I had considered using our CNC vinyl cutter for an intricate masking, but decided that it would be too busy of a composition with all of the holes currently in the metal.  On a solid pot though, this would look sweet.  Often times, what you don't do is as important as what you do choose to do.

Step 4: Accessorize

Here comes the extra awesome part. Since the washer drum had a perforated surface... and I had old christmas lights in the garage gathering dust... I did the only normal thing I could think of. That's right, my new planter is also a lamp.

But what about the lights getting wet?” people asked. Remember that these lights are designed to be outside in the rain and snow and other elements. Besides, if it didn't work out the lights were free anyway so I had nothing to lose. Now a year ago I would never have considered trying this, but hanging out at TechShop has given me new confidence in tinkering with the unknown and taking creative risks.

The holes at the base were too small for a plug, so I needed to cut and re-splice the wire. Ideally, I wanted a clean splice and reconnect the wires to the original contact. You will notice in the pictures that this did not go according to plan. I broke the first plug trying to take it apart because (I learned) these plugs are not meant to be disassembled. Not ideal, but I learned something new in the process so it was totally worth it.

Step 5: Fill the Void

To help with filtration and protect the lighting, I put down a weed blocker / moisture barrier first.  Cut this extra, extra big and then trim off the remainder once the planter is filled.  I added a bag of rocks, again for filtration, then a bag of dirt, and lastly two bags of fertilized potting mix.

For plants I chose an Austrailian flax and some smaller, yellow-green grasses. 

At long last, nightfall!  The result is hard to convey in pictures, but the atmosphere is perfect: more subtle than LEDs, and just the right amount of twinkle.  I couldn't be more pleased.

For more resources, tools, and training, head over to TechShop!

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    10 years ago on Introduction

    I actually have a dead washer, yeah, I love going to the laundry now...sigh. Rather than just set the whole thing out for the recycle people, I do believe I will take that sucker apart and recycle a bit of it myself. Thanks. Great idea!!!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Planters that size are so expensive and this would have such good drainage. I'll keep this instrucable in mind - thank you.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I thought the same thing. I love authentic materials and when I saw the cost for pots my jaw dropped. "You gotta be kidding me... I can do better than that." It's also amazing what a little paint can do.