June 6, 2013

How to make a planter box out of cedar fence pickets

My wife asked me to make a planter box for our front porch.  I showed her the Ice Chest/Cooler box and said imagine this wider and shallower.  She like the basic idea but wanted it lower to the ground and shallower.  I redesigned the box to fit her wishes and came up with the planter below.  I used 6 - 1 x 6 x 72 cedar fence pickets to make this planter.

I started out by setting up a stop block on my miter saw at 16".

I cut the bottoms off of all 6 pickets to use as legs.  This leaves me with six 56" boards.

I then cut three of these at 39".  These will be used for the sides.  I ripped one board into two 2 1/2" strips.  Each side will have one 5 1/2" board and one 2 1/2" board.

I reset the stop block at 13".  I got three pieces from the leftover after cutting the 39" pieces and then got eight more from two more pickets with the bottom cut off.  This leaves me with one more picket at a length of 56".

This gave me 11 boards to work with.  I will be using 3 for the ends and 8 for the bottom.

I set my table saw at 2 1/2" to rip the legs and the boards for the sides and end.

I ripped four legs at 2 1/2" and one of the 39" sides into two 2 1/2" wide boards and one of the 13" ends into two 2 1/2" wide boards.  I made sure to keep the two pieces of each leg together to make matching legs.

I took the two remaining legs and ripped them to 3" wide to be used in the center.

I left the stop block set at 13" and adjusted my miter saw to 45 degrees and cut both sides of the center legs.

Here are all the pieces cut except for the top frame.

Make sure to make 2 left legs and 2 right legs.

I built the legs using glue, a nail gun, and clamps.

I let the legs sit for 2 hours while the glue set.

Once the legs were dry I put a slight chamfer on all the exposed edges to soften the look and minimize splinters.  I also chamfered the pieces to go on the bottom to help with drainage.

Here are all the pieces chamfered, sanded to 120 grit, and ready for assembly.

I started with the short ends so that the bottom pieces will be the right length to stretch across.  I also setup the legs so that the joint will be facing the short side.  When you look at the long side of the planter you will only see the full 3" side.

I glued and screwed the 13" boards to the top section of the legs.  I put the 5 1/2" section on the bottom.  The floor pieces will be screwed into this so I wanted them attached to a board with more screws in the legs.  I couldn't find any coated deck screws in a 1" length so I had to use drywall screws.

I then took the two sides and glued and screwed in the 39" boards.

I marked the center of the side and the center of the middle leg.

I applied some glue and then clamped it in place.

I then set the planter on it's side and pre drilled & counter sunk the holes.

I then screwed the legs to the side..   

All assembled and ready for stain.

I went with a light cherry stain.

I took the last remaining 56" piece of picket and cut it into one 14" length and one 41" length.  I ripped each of those into two 2 1/2" wide boards and then cut the ends at 45 degrees for a frame for the top. 

I attached the frame to the top using glues, 1 1/2" brads and clamps.  I applied a heavy coat of indoor/outdoor spar urethane to the entire planter inside and out.  Please note that the floor has not been installed yet.

The floor consists of seven 13" full boards and one more cut to fit.  I applied two heavy coats of indoor/outdoor urethane to these.

Here is the floor ready for assembly.

Here is the chamfer I made earlier.  I am hoping that this will work for drainage.

I predrilled,

and screwed the floor in.  No glue.

Here is another look at one of the chamfers. 

Once the floor was installed I put one more coat of the spar urethane on the whole thing.  It is now ready to be installed.

Now we just need to put some flowers in it.


  1. Thank you very much for the detailed plans. I am fairly new to wood working so these plans really help.

  2. Thank you as well! Brand new to wood working and can't wait to tackle this project! Todd

  3. I like to work with wood but I am not very skilled. Consequently, your step by step plans are really great. I plan to make one of these this spring. I will change the plans so that a 36" plastic planter box (with the water reservoir on the bottom) will fit inside of it which will make it last much longer. Thanks again.

  4. Found the post - turns out the one I'm building is much bigger and more detailed. I'd love to send you some pics along the way...I plan to start it in the next week or so after I finish setting up my shop.

  5. A cut list would be really usefull. Cool project. Thanks

  6. Just a thought your cut list for the top is short. Should be cut around 42 and 3/8th inches and 14 and 3/4th

  7. great info...THANKS! Wish I had your shop :) and all the tools and clamps. :)

  8. Looks great. Can you tell me the type and brand of stain ?

  9. As soon as my wife saw these, she wanted 3 of her own so here I am making 3 for her =) So far, the only issue I've run into while making these is despite taking all my boards from the same bin, half the boards were 6" wide and the other half were 5.5" wide so I had to re-rip a few widths to make things symmetrical.

  10. Great info, thanks. Can you please show a cut list. I'm a total beginner to wood work and want to make sure I get the correct pieces and sizes. I want to make sure I also ask Home Depot for the correct pieces.

  11. I rally liked the video and the planter box nice plans . I will keep an eye on your site Thanks

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  13. I Watched your Tip twice , it really nice plans . Thanks for your sharing with us .

  14. Looks great. I love DIY wooden project very much. And I love your planter box, too. But I don't know what it is use for? Can I use it for planting a tree?

  15. Great tip! I will buy a miter saw.

  16. Great project, I made 3 with my fourteen-year-old son, it was easy and we got to spend quality time and we'll have Memories that'll last for years, thank you

  17. Now I know to make a planter box cedar fence pickets out of it needs a lot of steps and meticulous. From the simple wooden pieces, we can create a variety of products such as tables, chairs or planter box, ... Thanks to your article

  18. It is a great guide for someone new to woodworking like me! How long does it take in total for this project?

  19. This is the most detail tutorial I've seen. Thanks for sharing with us. I'm gonna make one for my family.

  20. It looks stunning! Thanks for your specific tutorial. I love making things with wood. I will make this box for my family.

  21. Our wives are the best Quality Control group - aren't they? And it pays to listen all the time to avoid arguments, LOL!

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  23. I enjoy woodworking and think it is time I miter saw blades instead of borrowing my brother in law's.

  24. Your flower box project is just what i was looking for, thank you so much. I built it today, had a little problem though. Bought cedar boards at Lowes , 11/16 x 5 1/2 x 6. The top frame came up short, 41 inches was not long enough. Here's the math I had to use:
    Side = 39" long + thickness (11/16") of RT end board and Right leg = 1 3/8" . Plus Left end board and left leg, another 1 3/8". So 39" + 1 3/8" + 1 3/8" = 41 3/4. Now add another 3/4 over hang and I am at
    42 1/2. Good thing I bought that extra board. Happy wood working!

  25. This is a great design!! I think that I might have to build a few for the house. Great write up!!