You're probably familiar with the idea of taking a plastic milk or juice jug, cutting it open at the top, leaving the handle, and using it as a plant pot. This works pretty well but actually using the resulting pots is a bit of a pain, you can hang them up using the handles but they tend to wobble around a lot and it looks a bit messy.
Anyway, a while ago I had a bunch of those and a broken folding clothes airer which I was trying to figure out if I could fix or make something out of it and inspiration struck.
If you want to build one of these for yourself, here's what you need:
- A collapsible clothes airer with a metal frame.
- Wood in various sizes (I used some planks from a pallet and scraps left over from other projects)
- Planks which will fit through the handles of your jugs. I used some bed slats which were 6cm wide and 1.5cm thick
- Some larger wood, 2x4 or similar
- Long planks to mount everything to. These are optional if you want to mount everything directly to a wall or fence
- Screws, at least 50mm long
- Wood glue
- Wood stain or whatever you prefer for treating outdoor timber
- Bolt cutters
- Hacksaw with blade for cutting steel tubing
- Pipe cutter (optional, can use instead of hacksaw)
- Large pliers
- Vice (or clamps etc)
- Metal file
- Drill bits for wood 3, 4mm (depends on screw size)
- Drill press or power drill and stand
- Drill bits for metal 4, 5mm (depends on screw size)
- 15 or 20mm Forstner bit (or same size wood bit)
- Marking instrument (pencil, marking knife etc)
Apologies for some of the measurements being a bit vague, this is the third one of these I've build and I tend to just work it out as I go along. It all depends on the size of your airer and the wood you've got so you'll need to make adjustments anyway.
Step 1: Break Down the Airer and Trim to Size
First you need to break down the airer into individual frames and trim them to size.
The ones I have used are held together with steel rivets which can easily be cut through with bolt cutters, or sawn through with a hacksaw. Remove any plastic hinges or handles, you just want the bare metal frames.
Once the frames are separated you need to trim them to length. If the frames are bent then try to straighten them out as best you can, it's easier to do this now as there's more leverage with the longer legs. Cut off the legs just above the hole where the rivet was. The length isn't critical so don't worry if they aren't perfectly level. After cutting the legs clean up the edges with the file.
You'll also want to remove some of the rods going across the frames, usually just the one nearest the top is sufficient. Some of them you can just break the welds by twisting the rod with pliers, if that doesn't work then cut the rod as close to the sides as possible with bolt cutters or a hacksaw and then twist off the stubs.
Step 2: Build the Frames
In this stage you're going to modify the frames taken from the airer so they can hold the jug planters. This is done by adding a wooden plank at the top secured by a pair of screws on each side.
First you need to find some wood the right size, I used some old bed slats.
Depending on the construction of the airer, there will be one or more holes in the side where the hinges were attached. This is where we are going to attach the wooden plank which the jugs will hang off. We need a pair of holes on each side so the plank won't rotate.The spacing of the holes depends on the width of your wooden planks, mine were about 6cm wide so I put the holes 4cm apart. Mark and center punch the holes and drill them through. Clean up any rough edges with a file.
Measure the internal distance in the frames and cut pieces of the planks to support the jugs to the same length. Drill out the ends of the planks to match the holes in the frame so they do not split when screwed into the frame.
Screw the planks into the frames.
Step 3: Mounting Brackets
This is the most complicated bit, making the supports which the frames are going to slide into.
If you are building this onto a pair of planks which will then be attached to the final mounting surface, measure the width of those planks. Take the 2x4 and cut it into lengths the same width as the planks. You will need two pieces for each frame, to hold the left and right legs.
There are 3 holes in each bracket, a 15mm hole through the top which receives the leg of the frame and two 4mm holes for the screws which will hold the bracket onto the backing. Mark out the holes as in the second picture, the exact position doesn't matter as long as the mounting holes don't intersect the hole for the leg and none of them are too close to the edge. If you look at mine the mounting holes are drilled in a different orientation on the left and right brackets, this is solely for appearance. Depending on the capacity of your drill press and bits you may not be able to drill the holes for the legs all the way through, so mark out the bottom as well so you can flip the piece over and drill through from the other side.
Drill out all the brackets and countersink the mounting holes. With the big holes for the legs, if you drilled from both sides don't be surprised if it looks like it hasn't drilled through even if you went past the middle of the block both ways, there will be a small disc of wood stuck in the middle which just needs to be knocked out with something.
Step 4: Attach Mounting Brackets to Supports
The supports need to be long enough to fit the number of frames you want plus the brackets and a bit of wiggle room to allow removing them. Look at the last picture to get an idea of the right spacing. For this one the distance was about 40cm between the mounting blocks.
To attach the blocks, put the screws in each one until the tips are just protruding from the bottom. Mark out lines where the base of each block should go along the supports. Place the support in position and give it a light tap with a mallet. This should transfer the positions of the screw holes onto the support. Enlarge the screw holes with a bradawl or drill bit.
Apply wood glue to the back of the bracket, place it onto the support so the screw tips line up with the holes and then screw it down.
Once you've fitted all the mounting blocks you can try putting the frames in to see how it looks.
Step 5: Retaining Clips
These are to provide some support to the upper part of the frame and stop them from wobbling.
Each clip has two parts, a base and a rotating lever. The base can be any size which fits in the available space, the important dimension is the thickness which needs to be the same as the distance between the face of the frame and the mounting surface. For the ones I have built this is about 25mm. The supports need a single 4mm hole drilled in the center.
The rotating part needs to be long enough to reach from the center of the spacer to the frame, this was 6cm here. These should have a hole drilled in them so they sit nicely on the supports.
Attaching these to the supports is the same procedure as the mounting brackets. You'll want to position them so the lever part is level with the middle of the wooden part of the frames. With just one screw they tend to rotate when screwing them in so use clamps to keep them in place.
Step 6: Finishing and Mounting
If this is going to be outside, cover all the exposed wood with a suitable stain or preservative. Don't forget to slacken off the screws on the retaining clips about a quarter turn to allow them to rotate easily and apply the stain on all of the support block.
To mount it to a wall or fence, work out where the top set of holes need to go and drill those out on both supports. Screw the first support on, making sure it's vertical. Work out where to put the second set of mounting holes, drill them out and screw in the bottom of the support.
To get the spacing right for the second support, put a couple of the frames in, hold the second support so the frames are level and then mark the position on the wall/fence. Mount the second support the same way as the first, making sure it's level with the mark.
Once both supports are attached you can put the frames in to check it all fits. If a particular frame gets stuck try it at different level or bend the legs until it goes in.
Step 7: Planting
You can remove an individual frame by rotating the retaining clips out of the way and lifting it out. The individual frames are fairly light and easy to handle, they can easily be transferred to a potting bench or immersed in a trough for watering.
The units I have built are mounted on a fence just outside the kitchen door and hold a small herb garden.