Well, folks, it’s the time of year to start putting your plants outside—and what better way than setting them up in a nice handmade, segmented planter?
I know what you’re thinking. Last spring I made a simple box-style planter and wrote about the new home for my basil plant, Pretzel. He lived a nice long warm-weather life, but the winter was not kind to him. I don’t have a great place for inside plants, so, there came a sad day when Pretzel made lots of delicious pesto.
This year I decided to make another planter for a new basil plant and use the old one for oregano. This segmented planter is slightly more difficult than the simple box-style we made last year but with a little patience it’s not too hard and the end result is well worth it.
- 42 pieces of wood cut at 30 degrees and 6 or 6½ inches long from the long sides
- 1 piece of wood that is big enough to fully cover the bottom of the planter
That’s all the wood you need. It’s still a pretty simple project. I found several different species of scrap wood and cut them all to 1½ inches wide. After all of the pieces were sized, I cut the 30 degree angle on the sides. I set up a stop block at 6½ inches and trimmed the pieces to length. If you don’t want your planter as tall, only cut 36 pieces. This will remove one layer from the planter. I decided to use the same species of wood for each ring. It’s not a necessity to do this. If you decide to mix and match the species, make sure they are the same thickness so that each ring is the same height.
Glue-up #1. Yes, this means there’s more than one glue-up!
Now that all of the pieces are cut, it’s time for the first glue-up. That’s right this project has two separate glue-ups in it. Don’t get freaked out though—both are simple. If you read my project build on making a hexagonal planter it’s almost exactly the same. Start by putting six pieces down on your tabletop with the short part on the table. Then use painters tape to join them together along the long part. Flip the pieces over so that the tape is on the bottom, add a little glue on top of the pieces and smear it around. After the glue is spread around both sides of the angle lay your piece down and curl it into a hexagon shape. You can use painters tape to connect the last pieces together, then add some rubber bands, and let it sit. Be patient and let the glue set up fully before moving on to the next step. You can do this with however many rings you want. After the pieces have had at least and hour (preferably two) to dry, take the tape and rubber bands off.
Now it’s time for the second glue-up. Take whatever is going to be your bottom ring and put an even layer of glue across the top. Now get your second ring on. When you put your second ring on make sure that you rotate it about 1/8th of a turn. You want to make sure that the joints of the corners do not overlap one another. Every joint should be connected to a piece of wood and not on a joint. This is important because when you glue something on the end grain only it’s not super strong, but if you have the end grain and the long grain glued together your joints will be reinforced and super strong. Before clamping this, get the piece of wood that will be the bottom of your planter and trace the inside of your bottom piece. Cut it to fit on the bandsaw and glue it into the bottom. Now you need to apply even pressure to your entire stack. The easiest way to do this is to find two pieces of plywood that are just slightly larger than your planter and put a clamp on each corner. You can add some weight in the middle but you don’t absolutely need it. Give this six or seven hours to fully dry.
Rounding it up on the lathe
Now for the fun part. Find the exact middle of your bottom piece and attach a faceplate to it. It’s ok if your screws poke all the way through because this is a planter and you want a few holes in the bottom for the water to drain. Now toss it on your lathe. I did have to take my planter to the band saw and cut a few corners off so it fits fully on the lathe and didn’t hit the rails on the bottom. So now is the fun part. This is a pretty easy thing to do since all you are really doing is to make the outside rounded. If you want you can smooth the insides some also but since it’s going to be full of dirt you really don’t need to do that. I did round the top lip a little bit but that is up to you and what you want.
All that’s left now is to finish it. I used some tung oil to finish the exterior. Just follow the instructions on the back of the can for directions on how much and how often to apply. The amount may vary by brand depending on the purity of tung oil blend. Every brand is a little different but none of it is hard to apply. After the tung oil was dry I mixed up a little epoxy and coated the entire inside and bottom. I used epoxy on the inside because after it is dry no water will get to the wood to rot it. If you don’t have epoxy that is fine you just need to create some type of water barrier between where the water and soil and the wood.
Throw in some potting soil and a plant and you are good to go. (Wait, please don’t actually throw your plant. It’s just not going to work well for anyone.)
One of the things I love about this project is that it uses lots of scrap wood and the more different types you use the more interesting it is going to be. I planted a brand new Basil plant in my fancy new segmented planter and, of course I named him. My new basil plant is named Waffles and my oregano is named Chicken. So now every morning I go out to water Chicken and Waffles.
Adam Kittrell is the Wood and Metal Shop foreman at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. He has been working in and around shops since middle school and has only cut his fingers on a saw once. His shop teachers would be proud.