This Instructable will walk you through how to make a 4'x2' reclaimed wood planter using only a handheld drill, a few clamps, a circular saw, and a metal file.
*Because you will be working with reclaimed wood, please don't assume that my exact measurements will work for your project. Your posts may be thicker or thinner than what I used. Always measure things for yourself.
**Measure twice, cut once.
***ALWAYS pre-drill holes before using screws or nails.
Step 1: The Find
Step one: the find
Disclaimer: I have amazing access to reclaimed/used wood since I work on a farm, so it was relatively easy for me to find all of this. However, there are TONS of people looking to get rid of wood. Check craigslist in your area, and even post what you're looking for. Just knowing that I can get rid of something for FREE from my yard is amazing, and there are many people who feel the same. If you're feeling adventurous, you could also drive through alleyways and pick wood scraps that people place by their trash bins.
1) For my pick, I looked for 2''x2'' posts (we use them to support young trees). For this project you need to find
- 16 2''x2'' posts that are 4 feet long
-16 2''x2'' posts that are 2 feet long.
*Make sure that the posts are relatively straight. If they are warped or twisted you won't get a nice uniform look.
**The board lengths all need to be "good wood", so make sure that you have enough 4 feet and 2 feet lengths of "good wood" left after you cut off the ends that are splintered or rotten.
KEEP IN MIND that the posts we use for trees (and the ones I use in this Instructable) are pressure treated and meant to withstand rain, sun, and other elemental factors. If you don't find wood that is pressure treated, it would be a good idea to coat the boards you find with some linseed oil (colorless to keep the uniqueness of each board) or outdoor decking stain. You don't have to, but your planter will last longer if you do.
2) You will also need to find some sort of wood to be the bottom of your planter. When I was younger we moved into a home with an old barn that my dad tore down. We still have a bunch of leftover 1''x6'' wood planks, so I grabbed a few pieces of that and coated them in some linseed oil, since those boards will take the brunt of the moisture, being at the bottom of the planter, and were not pressure treated. You can use whatever thickness you want (I wouldn't recommend anything less than 1'' though), just remember that the boards need to be the same length as the bottom of your planter. For this reason, I didn't actually go out and "pick" the bottom boards until I finished step #6.
3) Next you will want to find some sort of metal strapping to hold everything together and give it a rustic look. I was able to find some metal straps that are used to hold wooden crates together. The metal is about ½'' wide. You will need 4-5 lengths about 34'' long to go all the way around the side of the planter (see step #6 for more information and pictures, and please read the disclaimer at the top of step #6 to see if you want the 5th additional strap as a pattern).
4) This is optional, but I decided the planter would look nice with a finished edge around the top. Because I "picked" 2''x2'' posts for the sides, I found a few lengths of 2''x4'' boards for the top edge.
Step 2: The Straight Cuts
Refer back to Step #1 when I said that each board needs to be completely comprised of "good wood" when you have finished cutting them down to size.
The easiest way to get all these cuts done fast is to measure one board and then use it as a pattern. Take one post (cutting off one bad end if necessary) and measure it out to 4 feet long. Grab your circular saw and cut the post to the correct length. Now you can take that completed post and use it as the measurement for the correct length on all your remaining 4-foot long posts. Repeat this step for the 2-foot long posts as well.
When you are done with your straight cuts, you need to make sure you have a pile of 16 posts that are 4 feet long and a pile of 16 posts that are 2 feet long.
Step 3: The Angled Cuts
Just like you did with the straight cuts, measure your first post out, cut it, and use it as a pattern for the remaining 15 posts (of both sizes). Take a measuring triangle and line the corner of the triangle up with the edge of the post, so that when you draw your line, you will form a 45 degree angle.
Chop the ends of each post off so that one complete side of the post still measures 4' or 2' long, respectively, so that when you put two 2' long posts together with two 4' long posts, you will make a nice, square rectangle.
If all goes well, you will be left with 16 4' posts with angle cuts, and 16 2' posts with angle cuts.
Step 4: The Section Assembly
Now everything is cut and it's time to start putting the sections together!
Start by gathering 2 posts that are 4' in length and 2 posts that are 2' in length.
Make sure that you are working on a level surface.
(Refer to the picture above that has the clamps in it when reading this)
Position one 4' post on the edge of the work surface and clamp it down with a spring clamp. Grab a 2' post and put the edges together to form the first corner. When you're satisfied with the alignment, secure the 2' post with a second spring clamp.
* you will find that when you clamp both posts down, one post may be higher than the other. This is where the c-clamp comes in to save the day.
Find a spare piece of wood and place it on top of the formed corner. Now take the c-clamp and clamp both posts together. This will "level the playing field" and make both edges of the post more even with each other.
Take a hammer and lightly tap on each post to close any gaps until you are satisfied with the alignment of the posts.
(Refer to the picture above with the finished corner and screws)
You will need 2, 3'' drywall or wood screws for each corner (that means you will need 36 screws if you don't lose, break, or strip any. Count on at least one of those happening and get about 50).
****Do NOT just screw a screw into the post. Reclaimed wood is older and has more of a tendency to crack when you introduce a screw or nail into it. ALWAYS pre-drill your holes. You don't need to pre-drill the entire length of the screw, but make sure your bit will pre-drill at least 3/4 of the screw's length.
Using a drill bit one thickness size smaller than the screw you are using (you still need the screw to grab on to something), drill one hole in each side of the corner. Make sure that the holes don't intersect. If you look at the picture above, one side's screw is positioned higher than the other.
Repeat this process on each corner until you have a finished section. You will need to assemble 8 sections to continue on to the next step.
Step 5: The Compression
Now that you have 8 completed sections, its time to put them together.
I have two adjustable pipe clamps ($13 each at the home depot plus $6 for each pipe) that I used to squeeze everything together.
Put each section on your work surface, positioning them so that the outsides are even with each other.
**As you can see in the picture above, the inside of the planter does NOT matter because it's going to be filled with dirt and nobody is going to be the wiser. The outside is what people are going to see, and what will count. However if you like the uneven look, then this step will be a breeze.
Put one of the pipe clamps on each short end and squeeze the sections together. Make sure not to "overclamp" and crack the sections. Clamp them together just enough that there aren't any size-able gaps in the sides.
Use a spare piece of wood and a hammer to lightly tap the sides into place, even with each other.
Step 6: The Strapping
***Disclaimer: This step was hashed out and hacked together because using old metal strapping was a new one to me. Keep in mind that the first strap I did looked really ugly, but I ended up using it as a pattern for all the holes that needed to be drilled. I attached the strap to the planter, bent it around the entire side of the planter, drilled holes all over the place, and then circled the ones that I liked with a sharpie. I then transferred the measurements to the next 4 straps and drilled all the holes before attaching the straps to the planter. Everything turned out great after that.
1) Cut whatever kind of metal strapping that you have to lengths of 34'' (you will need 4 of these).
Take out your metal file and file away at the line that you marked at 34". You don't need to file the whole way through, just enough to have a clear place where you can bend the strapping back and forth until it separates. Use caution with the ends of the strapping, because the friction of filing and bending the strapping back and forth will heat the metal up. I had a small container of water that I dipped the ends in afterwards to cool the metal down.
2) Next, place the strap on a piece of spare wood and clamp it down with spring clamps or c-clamps.
3) Drill a hole on one end of the metal strap (big enough for the head of the screw to be semi-even with the strap, but still enough that it doesn't go through the strap). You will need to drill a few more holes so you can screw the strap to the inside of the planter, keeping in mind that you won't want any holes showing when you wrap the strap around the outside of the planter (see pictures above for an idea).
4) After drilling the first hole, measure from where the strap will attach to the bottom-most section of the planter to a couple additional sections on the inside of the planter (just two are fine).
5) Drill a hole in the strap for the top side of the planter.
**Unless you like the look of screws down the side of your planter, don't drill any holes in the strap that will be showing on the outside.
6) Drill another hole in the bottom (later it will be covered up by the bottom wood boards).
7) Attach the strap to the sides using 1'' or 3/4" wood screws (so they don't poke out the other side of the posts)
If measured correctly, your strap will wrap around completely and end up at the bottom of the planter, where you first started. Again, please don't assume that my exact measurements are correct for your project. Your posts may be thicker or thinner than what I used. Always measure things for yourself. This is especially true for the metal strapping.
**As shown in the picture with the clamp in it, it's much easier to make bends when using a clamp. Refer to the picture notes for more explanation.
When all four straps are attached, remove the pipe clamps. The planter sections will slightly expand, but shouldn't expand too much. If they expand too much, you will need to clamp everything down and try to get the metal straps more snug around the sides of the planter sections.
Step 7: The Bottom and Top Finish
Now to finish the whole deal!
Whatever you find for the bottom of the planter, cut those in lengths equal to the bottom of the planter.
Again, I don't recommend using anything thinner than 1" but that's ultimately up to you to decide.
For the top finish, I used 2''x4'' boards, cut in similar fashion to the posts for the planter sections. Adding a top finished the planter off nicely and better hides the screws used for securing the metal straps.
Step 8: Optional Casters
When this planter is complete, it's going to be heavy. It's going to be 20x heavier when you fill it with dirt. If you plan on moving this around at any time, you might consider putting this on casters. To catch enough sun for my tomatoes, I roll the planter to one spot in the morning, and then another in the afternoon. Mobile gardening!!
Step 9: The Gardening
Last step would be to fill it with dirt and figure out what you want to plant! Make sure to read up on what you want to plant, soil acidity, nutrients, spacing, and sunlight. You don't want to plant something that requires low sun and high sun in the same planter!!
Optional idea would be to add an irrigation system. Refer to the picture for how I set it up. After about 2 weeks of watering (to plant specifications), the soil compacted enough and I topped everything with potting mix from Ace, covering the irrigation main-line completely. Now everything looks swell (refer to second picture regarding two-week growth)!!