Introduction: Simple Planter Bench
In the fall of last year I visited my mother who lives in Moncton, New Brunswick (I live in Ottawa, Ontario, so it isn't very close). While I was there I decided to build her a simple planter bench as a thank you for being a great mother. We happened to get lucky and have a hurricane visit at the same time, so throughout this build you will see that I had to resort to using hand tools as the hurricane knocked out the power for a few days.
Also, because I was not able to access my normal selection of tools, I designed this to use off the shelf lumber that can be acquired at many home centers/hardware stores. The planter sections are fence boards and the bench part is decking board.
I hope you will join me on building this simple planter bench, it can be done with minimal tools, or if you want to save your strength, pull out the power tools and get to work! Either way, I suggest you start by watching the video above to see what I did to make this planter bench.
Below are links to tools and materials I used in this article. It is either the exact tool/supply or something very close.
Pressure Treated or Cedar Lumber (or anything else suitable to the outdoors)
- Four 2x2x8
- Twelve 1x6x8
- One 4x4x6
- One 2x4x4
- Three 2x6x8
- Deck screws
Note: The links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Step 1: Drawing Out the Design
The first thing I did was draw out a rough sketch, which is included as the first picture. As I have now had the opportunity to draw it up with the precision of both hindsight and computer software, so I have included that with some imperial and metric dimension.
Note: It is best to adjust according to the size of wood that you have available to you. For example I used 1x6 material (which is the nominal measurement, the actually measurement is 3/4" x 5 1/2"). The height of the planter box ended up being 28 1/4". That is five boards stacked up (5 times 5 1/2" = 27 1/2") and one laying flat (3/4"). If your wood is a different width or thickness just make some adjustments so it gets close.
Step 2: Measuring and Cutting Out the First Board for the Planter Box
I measured 23" on the first board and marked out a line using a square. Using a square makes sure that the line is perpendicular to the long edge of the wood.
Then using the handsaw I cut along the line. As this was the first board and I was going to use it as a template for all the other boards, I was very careful to cut along the line.
Step 3: Cutting the Remaining Boards for the Planter Box
I grabbed the closest thing my mother had to clamps (which are picnic cloth hold downs) and I clamped the template board onto the work piece. I then was able to use the template board to guide the saw and make sure the cut was going straight.
If you don't have any clamps you can use the template board to draw a line and then cut along the line.
In the end you need to make 48 of these boards in total.
Step 4: Cutting the Support Pieces
The support pieces consist of 4x4s where the bench will be placed and 2x2s everywhere else.
For the 4x4s I measured out 16 1/2" (the height of three boards) and cut four pieces.
For the 2x2s (not pictured) I cut four pieces at 27 1/2"
Step 5: Assembling the First Three Rows of the Boxes
The design of this simple planter box uses deck screws to attach all of the parts. I started by attaching the first board to one of the 4x4 pieces. I made sure to line up the edge of the board with the edge of the 4x4. I then put on the second board and lined it up so that the edge was lined up with the first board (as seen in picture two). I kept repeating this process around the box. I used two 4x4s and two 2x2s per box on opposing sides.
Each of the rows alternates which side has end grain showing. You can see this most clearly in the fourth photo.
Step 6: Adding Bench Support
In order to add a bit of support for the bench section, I needed to add a piece of 2x4 between the 4x4s. I measured between the 4x4s to get the exact measurement then luckily the power came back on so was able to use the miter saw to make these cuts. I attached this support with three screws through the box and then used two screws from the back into the 4x4s at an angle. This would be a great place to use a pocket hole jig if you have one. Since I didn't have one available to me, I instead started the screw going in straight and then before it got too far I rotated it on a 45 degree angle. This made sure that it would go into the 4x4 section.
Step 7: Move to Final Location
At this point I moved the two unfinished boxes to their final location on my mother's deck. This is a good time to move them as it will get very heavy and hard to move once everything is attached together. I also used the 2x6s to get the boxes in the right distance from each other.
Step 8: Add Side Supports for the Boxes
As the 4x4s are shorter than the total height of the planter boxes, I had to add some 2x2s on top of them to extend their height. In order to support those 2x2s I added a second 2x2 at each corner that I could use to go between the third row and and forth row.
Using the miter saw, I cut four 2x2s at 11" and four more at 8".
I put an 11" piece on the corner of the 4x4s and I screwed the 8" piece to both the side of 4x4 and the third row of the planter box. I then added the first board of the fourth row. I screwed this into the 8" 2x2 and the 11" 2x2. This added the support needed for the 11" 2x2 to not fall over. I did the same for all four corners.
Note: I would say that this is the worst part of my design. Although it worked, there are many better ways to do this, but I was designing on the fly and this is what I came up with. In highsight I probably would have made the 4x4s the entire height (27 1/2") and then cut dados (which is joinery technique, but basically fancy way of saying a slot/notch in the wood) to accommodate the 2x6 bench pieces.
Step 9: Installing the Bench Pieces
I centered the 2x6 boards on the planter boxes and used a carpenter's pencil to add a 1/2" spacing between the boards. I then used deck screws to attach the 2x6 boards to the supports that were created earlier.
Step 10: Marking the Cut Out for the Bench
In order to accommodate the 2x6 bench boards, two of the 1x6 planter box boards needed to have a notches cut out of them.
I laid out the board and registered it against the side of the planter box so that it was in the correct location. I then put a mark on both sides where the bench boards stopped. I measured up 1 1/2" (the thickness of the bench boards) and put two marks. I then connected the marks using a straight edge.
Step 11: Cutting the Cut Out for the Bench
Using a jigsaw I cut out along the line drawn in the previous step. With jigsaws you cannot easily make 90 degree corners. Instead I like to cut a rounded corner and then go back afterwards and square it up.
If you don't have access to power tools, you could use a handsaw instead. As this cut involves corners I would recommend a compass saw.
Step 12: Installing the Top Layers of the Boxes
Now that the notches are cut out I was able to install the fourth and fifth rows of 1x6s. I made sure to follow the same alternating pattern of which side had the face grain showing and screwed them into place.
Step 13: Adding Support for the Top Part of the Boxes
At this point I had run out of 2x2s and I did not have enough time to go to the store and buy more, so I had to make my own. I used a scrap 2x4 that I found in my mother's garage and marked a line down the center. As I didn't have access to a table saw, I had to make due with a circular saw. I attached two bits of scrap 2x4 across the piece using screws. This gave me two spots where I was able to hold down the boards using my foot so that the 2x4 I was working on would not move and I could have complete control of the circular saw. I then followed my line with the circular saw. I now had enough 2x2 material to finish the project. If you plan things out better than me then you will have enough material so you can skip this step.
I cut 8 bits of 2x2 to a length of 19 1/4" and then screwed them into place at the top of the each planter box.
Step 14: Installing the Top Part of the Boxes
Installing the top bits was a bit tricky as you had to line up multiple boards at once to ensure everything was centered. I just took my time and measured everything at least two times. After it was all in place I drove some deck screws through the face of the boards and the planter bench was done!
Step 15: Enjoy!
It's time to put some plants into the planter boxes. I designed this to work with potted plants as it was going to be sitting on a deck. If you want to have dirt in the planter boxes I think my design could be easily adapted for that purpose.
Now you can crack open a beer and sit back and relax as you have made a simple but beautiful planter bench!
I would like to note that there was one important thing that I was not able to do before I left (due to rain) and that is to seal all cuts I had made. I used pressure treated lumber and anywhere that you cut you need to brush on sealant to ensure the lumber is protected from rot and moisture. My mother promised to do this after it was sufficiently dry. She also wanted to stain the bench planter the same colour as her deck and was planning on re-doing her deck in the spring, so I did not add any protection finish.
I hope you enjoyed this project, if you did, you might also enjoy following me on other social media:
If you make one, I'd love to see pictures and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below.
Participated in the