Introduction: Rain Gutter Garden Planter Troughs

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Here's a great way to repurpose those spare bits of rain gutter from that construction site down the street. These trough planters are a great addition to any garden. Here's how I made mine using only the left over materials from other projects.

Step 1: Collect Tools & Materials

If you have a construction site down the street, it might be a great place to find good materials for a variety of projects. Make sure you get permission from the person in charge before you take anything. In many jurisdictions, even taking things out of the dumpster is technically theft, so don't do that. I was able to get three 8 ft lengths of left-over rain gutter from the new development in my neighborhood.

You will also need sheet metal and rivets or screws. I used the body from an old microwave that I got from freecycle. It's dirty and greasy, but that's perfectly fine with me. These garden planters are going to be outside holding soil anyway. It's not like I'm going to eat off it, per se.

The rest of the materials really depend on how you are going to mount, hang or attach the planters to a support structure. I used some old bits of cardboard, wood, pvc, conduit clamps to create legs for my three planters.

The tools I used are a hammer, rivet tool and rivets, a drill and various drill bits, C-clamps, an angle grinder with a cutoff wheel, tape and a permanent marker.

Step 2: Create Templates

Using the good, clean cardboard, stand your rain gutter on end and trace out the general shape of your gutter. You just need to get the general shape and angles drawn. Next, using a straight-edge, draw a straighter representation on top of your tracing. The last step before you cut out your template is to add tabs to the sides and bottom edge. The top edge will not need a tab, unless you want a rolled edge in your final end-caps. Now cut out your template.

Once, you have a single template, it's okay to reuse that to trace five or six more. It's easier to do that than trying to fiddle with a giant piece of rain gutter again. I also decided to make six templates which enabled me to lay everything out before I started cutting with my angle-grinder/cutoff wheel.

Be very mindful of how you lay out your templates. Pay close attention to the direction of the inside cuts. You want to align your templates so that when you are cutting a line through the center of your layout, you don't run smack in to another template and have to stop your cut short. You'll notice in one of my pictures, the templates are laid out in such a way that I can make straight cuts without stopping short, but in the other layout, I would have to stop short at least once. Also, since I wanted the finished white side of my metal to show on the finished product, I had to make three left-side end-caps and three right-side end-caps.

Once you are satisfied with your layout, trace around the whole thing. Then, remove the cardboard pieces one at a time, tracing the remaining inside edges as you go.

Step 3: Cut the End-Caps

With an angle-grinder and a cutoff wheel, carefully cut out all your end-cap pieces. Always remember to use leather gloves when working with sheet-metal or you will get cut. I then used a grinder attachment on my angle-grinder to smooth over the sharp edges.

Drill holes of the right size for your fasteners in each tab. These will be used to accept rivets or bolts very soon. I used a drill press and clamps to perform this step safely. Then, using some spare wood and clamps, grab each tab area on your end-caps and bend them up.

Step 4: Prepare Your Rain Gutters

As you can see in these photos, my rain gutters did not exactly have the straightest edges. I found the easiest way to deal with this was to align all three pieces of rain gutter together as close as I could. Then using tape, I just eyeballed a straight edge and cut off the damaged ends with my cut-off wheel. I did the same on the other end as well.

Step 5: Match & Attach the Caps

Do not use a single cap to mark and drill out every hole on your rain gutters. The caps and rain gutter will likely not match up. Instead, do them one at a time. Take one end-cap and loose fit it to one rain gutter. Using a marker, draw through the holes of your end-cap to mark the corresponding positions on your rain gutter. Drill out the holes in your rain gutter and then rivet or attach that one together. Once that end is finished, proceed to the next rain gutter and the next cap. Doing it in this order will ensure a perfect fit for each and every cap.

Step 6: Build the Support Sructure

Your method of supporting the entire structure will most likely depend on the materials you have available. I had some spare PVC pipe and conduit brackets. I realized that if I bent the tab on my brackets, I could rivet them directly to each end-cap and it would make the perfect hook. All I had to do from there was position the troughs on top of each PVC leg and it would stay put against my fence.

Now, the only thing you need to do is add your soil, water and plants!

I built these planters and created this Instructable in hopes that it inspires others to build useful items out of material that would otherwise end up in a landfill or the recycling plant. Please Vote for my Instructable in the Outdoor Projects Contest.

Thanks for looking and good luck!

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