Magical Floating Planter Box




Introduction: Magical Floating Planter Box


This articulating planter light was a mix of ideas. I wanted some more plants for my desk and didn't want to buy a normal planter - no, of course; I had to make one. But just making one wasn't enough - it had to have something special about it. I decided originally to make it stand off of the desk, but after a great realisation:

Why would I have a floating planter box and not have some sort of under glow or lighting aspect to it?

That's exactly what I did - I made an articulating (jointed) under glowing planter box that now is home to 5 mini bamboo plants.

As with most of my wood, the wood (and hinges) used in this project came from an old chalk board.

This instructable is entered in the reclaimed wood contest - please remember to vote for it if you liked it! Thanks!

Step 1: Watch the Video

Watch the video outlining the general process of how this was built - and how the final product will look and work like. Link here.

Step 2: Materials and Tools

For this build you will need:

4 different sizes of wood strips (sizes in mm):

  • 1x long strip - 16.5x300x84
  • 2x short strips - 16.5x300x42
  • 2x end piece - 16.5x83x72
  • 5x connector pieces - 16.5x40x25

all dimensions are estimates.

and then some other misc things (still for the body of the box):

  • 2 small hinges - < 7mm thick and 15mm wide.
  • 2 normal hinges - any reasonable size.

all dimensions are estimates.

and then the typical assembly materials:

  • PVA wood glue
  • Screws
  • Drill

and then for the electronics:

  • 5 LED's with a colour of your choice
  • a source of power determined by your LED color choice
    • I used 5 BLUE LED's and used an Arduino Nano's digital pins to supply a voltage to the LED's. I have 0 ideas of how the 5v doesn't blow them up, I just tried it and it works. If not you may need a voltage regulator or a resistor on the line.
  • Some wires
  • Soldering Iron
  • Hot Glue + Gun

and finally for the plants, you will need

  • Plastic (e.g. milk carton, plastic bottle, etc)
  • Hot Glue + Gun
  • Scissors
  • Plants (obviously)
    • Mine were called "Lucky Bamboo" and are about $3 each
    • Make sure they are indoor plants and can tolerate shallow soil and aren't too tall.
    • Read up on how to grow your own chosen plant correctly.
  • Soil (appropriate to plant)
    • You may also need fertilisers depending on the plant.

Step 3: Assembly of the Planter Box

So as the title states we will be assembling the planter box. You should have all the pieces cut already - if not head back to the previous step and do that. But if not then you are ready.

Grab a drill bit that fits the screws you are using. These should obviously be slimmer than the thickness of the wood.

First thing to do is assemble the hinge mechanism. This involves the two thinner pieces of wood. The process of attaching the hinges goes like this: Place the pieces of wood next to each other so that the wider side is facing up. Then get the hinge aligned in the middle - so that the middle of the knuckle (see: Hinge Terminology) of the hinge is in the centre of the two pieces of wood; with roughly a 2 cm gap to the edge of the blocks. (now do it for both)

This will allow the 2 pieces to bend. This is the foundation of the articulating aspect of the planter box. After that you should be good to attach the two end pieces onto the sides, with the top being flush with the rest and the hinges facing inwards. After that is done you can just attach the wide front strip.

And for the last of the hinges, attach them to the BACK of the hinge jointed box part - on the bottom piece. These will later be attached to the desk to allow for 2 points of movement so that the planter box can stay upright when moving. This is quite a complex step so don't hesitate to ask questions in the comments below or PM me. Looking at the pictures always helps.

And for the final part of the planter box assembly, get your 5 pieces of wood to first drill a hole big enough for your LED's in (roughly) the middle and then position them roughly equal space apart in the bottom of the planter box with the hinged part folded in. These will hold the LED's and the actual plant pot from falling down when the box is placed in the floating position.

Now that is done, go ahead and drill a screw into the blocks from either just the back or from the back and the front if you are wanting to be really precise (I chose to screw in just the back for efficiency). And then you should be done for the planter box.

I was originally going to use a string mechanism to stop the box falling over but the box was cut so tightly and precisely that the box holds itself up well enough without it. I'm sure over time it will get looser and looser and then I will add a simple string mechanism using screws to hold it up.

Step 4: Lighting It Up.

This is really a step that is up to you and what you want. Most of these values, etc will change depending on your set-up. So make sure you know what you are doing.

That being said, I will show what I used, keeping in mind what you use may and probably will be different.

So for the lighting aspect of the build we will be using 5 LEDs with a color of your choice. I went with blue - a common choice for accent lighting. These blue LED's also worked without a resistor when powered straight from an Arduino's digital pin. And being lazy, I just used an Arduino Nano for nothing but power for the LED's (it was only $3...) instead of a more appropriate USB/DC plug solution.

These 5 LED's were wired in parallel with some recycled wire (lot's of this stuff was recycled) and connected to digital pins 11 and 12 on the Arduino. I then just set 11 to LOW and 12 to HIGH thus creating a power output of approximately 5v. These pins then just 2 male header pins soldered too them with the leads of the LED's having 2 female headers.

Step 5: Planting

Now for the planting - but before we actually touch any plants you need to get a mik carton and cut off some long strips from it. Combine some pieces together to form a long piece that will stretch the length of the box. This will insert into the box and the soil and most of the water from falling out.

Use hot glue and make it watertight, by adding end pieces and glueing them on.

If you are not using bamboo you can just plant your plant normally and go to the next step:

After that is done, cut 5 equally spaced round holes that are near the width of your bamboo.

Now for planting - gather the soil (moist), the insert, the box and the plants. First get the stalks and push them into the circle cut-outs. Making sure to try and not break off the bamboo roots. They should be long enough to be able to reach back out again. Repeat 4 more times for each one.

After that - they may still fall down - if they do then just add some soil to the container - this should keep them nice and snug. If after all that and they are still falling down then the next thing you do should be to add some small wooden dowel style pieces of wood and use fabric ties to tie the plants on (like they do with normal plant saplings).

Step 6: Final Assembly

If you thought you were finished - oh no: the best part is yet to come. Clear the area where the planter box will go. Remember! It will be screwed into the desk and wont be able to move easily.

I chose to place it at the end of my desk as a sort of divider to stop stuff from falling off easily. Remember you will also need a place where you can get a power cord to.

So go ahead and attach it to the desk by placing it in the floating position and then folding down the hinges and screwing them in - it's that simple.

If the box doesn't want to hold itself up in the floating position I'll repeat what I said earlier:

"I was originally going to use a string mechanism to stop the box falling over but the box was cut so tightly and precisely that the box holds itself up well enough without it. I'm sure over time it will get looser and looser and then I will add a simple string mechanism using screws to hold it up."

After small tweaks here and there; the planter box really does fit in with the desk and the plants are fine at the time of writing (1 week) so I must be doing something right,right?

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    6 years ago

    woow nice floating illusion


    6 years ago

    I was thinking about freshening up my room with a few plants the other day, and this is actually some novel inspiration to me. Thanks for that!

    Oh, and I figured out how the LEDs survive the heavy abuse: The atmega328 doesn't have perfect outputs, when an I/O is set there's still a low resistance between Vcc (+) and the I/O or GND (-) and the I/O.

    This value can be estimated with the help of the datasheet: Check out figure 35-22 and 35-24 on page 599/600. At 20mA there is a drop of 0.47V and 0.53V. The graph is almost linear so those values can be interpreted as resistors with 23.5Ω and 26.5Ω respictively.

    A blue LED has a forward voltage of around 3.6V so these resistors have to drop a total of 1.4V. This results in a current of 1.4V/(23.5Ω + 26.5Ω) = 28mA. This currrent is shared by all LEDs and will result in 5.6mA per LED on avarage. It won't split up that equal so you should propably factor in abouit 50% of tolerance. This maximum current of 7.8mA is still far below their rated current of 20mA of it works just fine!

    That said you seem to have hit the sweet spot where you fry neither the arduino nor the LEDs! As a general rule of thumb this solution is only suitable for blue or white LEDs and 2-5 LEDs per 2 pin combination.

    I hope you found this interesting.

    Keep making and stay awesome! :)