Introduction: Rustic Fence Board Planter Box

About: multi maker -- small woodworking, mosaics, quilting, diy, vintage trailer restoration

This project is designed to meet the following criteria

  1. Be functional-- in this case a planter box for kitchen herbs
  2. Be aesthetically interesting -- in this case, the symmetry of the boxes creates a cross shape
  3. Be made from readily available materials. Fence boards are very easy to find and very cheap, you could also use pallet wood.
  4. Be beginner friendly using simple power tools or hand tools-- jig saw + circular saw, jig saw alone, hand saw.
  5. Be FUN to build!!

This should take just a couple of hours to make. I got the fence boards for less than $5 but you could probably find them free. You could also use pallet wood. Use whatever nails, screws, and glue. Get cuttings from your neighbors, also free, I paid more for the plants and potting mix -- about $15 total.

Step 1: What You'll Need:


  • 2 6 ft fence boards (cedar or redwood preferred). These are typically 5.5" wide and 5/8" thick. Make sure to measure your boards, cause if they are different than the will need to adjust sizes (see end of instructable for how to adjust)
  • Wood glue
  • fence nails or outdoor screws (# 6 or #8 x 1 1/4 inch is enough)
  • masonite or mdf to make a template (optional) for the cut outs


  • Flat work surface
  • Clamps ( to hold it while cutting gluing)
  • A good measuring tape
  • Speed Square or another straight edge to clamp to your work as a marking and cutting guide
  • Circular Saw and Jig Saw, or Just a Jig Saw, or a hand saw.
  • Mallet or Hammer (may be needed to fit boards together)
  • Drill to cut drainage holes in the bottom of the planter.

Step 2: Cut List


From the 6 ft fence boards which are 5 1/2" wide and 5/8" thick cut the following

5- 16 1/2" x 5 1/2" side pieces (4 will be used for the sides, 1 for the bottom)

2-- 5 1/2" square pieces for the bottom

4 -- 5 1/2" x 6 1/8" pieces for the ends


1- 16 1/2" x 5 1/2" template from Masonite or MDF

You will have about 18 inches left over from one of the boards. Use a circular saw/ jig saw/hand saw with a straight edge guide to cut the pieces. With a circular saw or jig saw you can probably cut two pieces at a time.

Step 3: Make Template for Slot Cuts in the 4 Side Pieces

The planter box nests into itself to make an X. Slots are cut half way into each board and then 2 of the boards are flipped and nested together.

I strongly recommend making a mdf/masonite template so that all of your slot cuts line up accurately and because it will probably save time and wood (waste). If you are going to make several planters, this will save you lots of time. If you are not going to make a template do the following carefully for each board.

1. Divide the board or template into thirds by drawing a pencil line 5 1/2" from each end.

2. Divide the template in half lengthwise by drawing a pencil line 2 3/4" from the bottom (midline)

3. From each of your 5 1/2" marks measure 5/8" inches towards the center and mark a line to the midline.

4. Carefully remove each of these 5/8 x 2 3/4" with a jigsaw or hand saw. Use a straight edge to keep your lines clean. Take your time. Clean up the ends with a file or piece of sand paper.

If you made a template-- use it to transfer the slot lines to each board and then cut accordingly.

Remember to remove the pencil lines with your cutting or your slots will be too narrow. But don't cut outside the lines because you'll end up with slots that are too loose. A template will help keep things tidy and accurate.

DO this to 4 Boards. Do not put slots in the last 16 1/2" by 5 1/2" board, it's for the bottom.

Step 4: Assembly

  1. Take each of the 4 side pieces and fit them together in a double X. The slots should fit into each other. You may need to sand or file the edges to get them to fit. Or you may find a mallet handy for pounding them together. They should be a snug fit, but if they are loose it's okay cause it's gonna be filled up with dirt and no one will really notice except you.
  2. Square it all up as much as you can (remember these are fence boards, it won't be perfect). Once you are happy with the fit, decide which side will be the bottom.
  3. Fit, glue and nail/screw the remaining side piece to the bottom.
  4. Fit, glue and nail/screw the 5 1/2" square pieces to cover the rest of the bottom.
  5. Wipe off excess glue.
  6. Clamp or weight down.
  7. Allow to dry.

Step 5: Assembly Continued

  1. Fit, glue and nail/screw the 5 1/2" x 6 1/8" end pieces.
  2. Wipe excess glue
  3. Clamp to dry. (straps or bungee cords work well)

Step 6: Finishing

Drill holes in the bottom for drainage if you are going to use as a planter.

Do not paint stain the inside if you are planting herbs or other edibles.

Cedar and redwood are naturally rot resistant and will last for a number of years without any treatment. The wood will change to a natural gray color. To avoid this graying use a fence stain on the outside, or paint the outside of the box. You can also use a dilute solution of titebond II as a kind of water seal, or other water seal for wood. This will retain original color a little longer.

Plant with Herbs, bring inside for knick-knacks, etc... .

Step 7: Making Adjustments for Other Board Sizes.

This project is designed to work with multiples of the board width and thickness. If your boards are narrower/wider etc... here's how to make adjustments.

1. Measure the width of your board _______= W

2. Measure the thickness of your board ______=T

Each side will measure 3 x W (for 5.5 that's 16.5)

1 Long bottom piece 3 x W

2 Short Bottom pieces W x W (square)

4 End pieces W x (W+T) So 5.5 x (5.5+5/8) = 5.5 x 6 1/8

For the slots:

Mark 1/2 W for the mid point line (eg 2 3/4 for a 5.5 board)

Divide the board into thirds Measure 1 T from this mark towards the center on each side.