Introduction: Mario Block Planter Plywood With Cedar CNCed Inlay

About: I've been doing woodwork since I was a small child, mostly just nailing every board I could find to whatever I could get a nail to stick in. Over the years I took shop classes and worked for my college theatr…

This is a fairly simple and fun project. I used scrap plywood and some scrap cedar found at my shared space shop.


  1. wood- For both of these there was scrap, and I also only make a 4 inch square planter box. Both woods were 3/4 inch thick

plywood-I used a piece of scrap 11 layer birch ply that was approximately 8x24

Cedar- I found a piece of scrap cedar aproximately 8x20

2. Assembly

I used Titebond 2 and pneumatic stables to assemble the box but you can choose however you would like.

3. Finish

I kept this simple and used a spray poly.

Note- I know that the glue from plywood, poly, and the titebond aren't good for plants. To overcome this I plan on either placing the plants in a seperate container within the Mario Block or lining the Block with plastic to keep them away from the container.

Step 1: Making the CNC File and Cutting the Pieces

I started this project by going to the makercase website ( and putting in the dimensions of the box I wanted to make. I decided on 4 inch square. Don't forget to put the correct depth of your wood in otherwise the sides of the box won't fit correctly. I might have learned that by experience on a different project. I downloaded the box as an SVG and then opened it in inkscape.

In inkscape I created a vector image of the iconic question mark from Mario Bros. and added it to the middle of the 4 sides of the box. Then I brought it into Aspire to create the tool paths. To create the tool paths for the main body is fairly simple. I created 2 different tool paths. The first was the V-carve for in the pockets. I put the depth of the inset at 0.5 inches and I used a 60 degree V-carve bit. The 2nd tool path was to cut out the boxes and used a 1/4 in strait, fluted bit. I then had to cut out the inlay parts. For that I went back into Aspire, making sure to keep the same file I used for the inset cuts. I then added a box around the entire project. For this there is only 1 tool path to make but there is a tool change. The first tool that I used was the same V-carve bit at 60 degrees. I started the depth at 0.25 and the end depth at 0.25. The 2nd tool I used was the same strait bit as before just to speed the process up and remove more material. This video can explain why you do set the depths that way and in general how to set up your files, its the video where I learned how to do this in general.

Basically the first cut made the holes for the second board to be seated into.

Step 2: Glue Up and Separating the Pieces

The next step is to cut apart all the inlay pieces, sand and small wood burs, and glue them together. This part is fairly strait forward. I didn't add any tool paths that would cut apart the different inlay pieces because the way I arranged them on the cedar board they had to have some overlap and I didn't want to risk cutting into one of the parts I needed. If you have a larger board for the inlay pieces you could simply add the tool paths. I used our table saw and miter saw to cut the pieces apart. I used a medium grit sandpaper(180 grit) to make sure all the sides were fairly smooth and there were no parts sticking out. I also tested all the inlays in all the different inset pieces and found which ones fit best, there wasn't much difference but in my mind there was a specific inlay for each inset piece. I applied glue, with a small chip brush, to both the pieces and glued them together. I felt like clamps wouldn't apply equal pressure to the entire piece so I used metal weights that covered the entire area. I let these cure for the full 24 hours before messing with them.

To separate the pieces I used a band saw. You could use a planer but cedar has a tendency to chip out and my planer is currently down. I cut them a little proud and sanded everything flush. I ended up sanding everything down to 320 grit. If you use plywood, like I did, make sure you don't sand to much and expose the layer under the nice top.

Step 3: Finishing the Sides and Assembly

I had a few small problems with the block pictured above. When I placed the cedar and ran it on the CNC there was a small area that the wood had started to rot and wasn't up to snuff. I used a small knife and sandpaper to break all of the rotted area away and smooth the sides a little bit. I then mixed some glue with some fine cedar dust I collected from the orbital sander. When filling a hole like this I like to use very fine dust so it mixes very well with the glue and the color goes threw it all, I also make it a smooth consistency and kinda watery so that it will get fully into all the cracks. After using a tooth pick to put the homemade custom wood putty into the crack give it 10 or so minutes and check on it. Often the putty will flow into small cracks and the result is that you won't be level or above level with your project. I let this dry for a full 24 hours as well because when you sand it you don't want to expose wet glue.

After you have sanded everything down I like to put at least 1 thin coat of the spray poly on. I do this now to allow every area of the piece to have at least a little sealant on it. I will not put the poly on areas that will have glue on them. After this has dried I'll put the glue on and use the pneumatic staple gun to assemble the piece. This is always the part of a project that I love. when all the things you have done come together and you get to see the object you made for the first time. After the glue has dried for at least an hour or two you can start adding coats of poly. I used about 7 coats of oil based poly sanding with 000 grit steel wool between, its important to use oil based if you are going to use steel wool if you use water based you will get rust spots on the project. After you have put on all your coats of poly you can then either add some plastic to the inside of the box or just put your dirt and plant in a separate container and put it inside the box. I'll give fair warning I've got a fairly black thumb but I think you could probably just put your dirt and plant in the box if you put enough sealant on it and allow it to dry fully.

Step 4: Put Mario Block Planter in a Window

Optional step here. Put your plant and planter in a window or on your desk of wherever you want. Enjoy the plant and the knowledge that you made something pretty cool.

Planter Challenge

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Planter Challenge