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Raised Planters

Posted by joeabbott on February 14, 2010

We’re having some work done in our yard to remedy a sink hole that’s developed up the hill. It’s unfortunate that we’re actually spending money having someone dig out a hole to figure out what’s causing the hole … but that’s a completely different story. As long as we were having someone come out, we decided to have them work on a few additional projects: bring in some more gravel to address a bit of settling we’ve seen to our pathways, create a path to where we plan on building the coop, and create another “level” in the yard so we would have space to put in a few raised planters. Sure they said. Yay!

The initial plan was to buy the pre-made planter kits from a nearby nursery … we thought they had a 4’x8′ planter for $80 (just the lumber) or $150 (lumber plus fill). The “just lumber” price wasn’t great but when you added the fill (32 cubic feet) for another $70, it turned out to be OK. When Suzy brought me to the nursery to look the deal over, we realized they were just 4’x4′ raised beds! We’d need four of these, plus I’d have to do some special work to adjust the planters to span 8′. And suddenly the price jumped to $600 for our gardens! Yikes!

But, we’d really liked the idea of raised planters so at 9 AM this morning I headed to the local lumber store, grabbed some wood, and in three and a half hours we had two 4’x8′ raised beds. We’d called the folks working on the backyard sink hole to see if they could haul in planting soil, they could, and we were set.

Here’s how the planters came together.

I started buying the following

  • 1 – 4’x4’x8′ cedar post
  • 13 – 5/4″x6″x8′ cedar planks

And then I brought them home for cutting.

I started by cutting down the 4’x4′ post into 12″ sections. The actual post is about 97″ long so I was able to get 8 complete 12″ lengths for all parts. Usually the saw blade width (about 1/8″) will reduce your final part, but the extra length helped to avoid this.

I then went to my table saw and setup a dado blade to cut a groove about an inch wide and 3/4″ deep. Unfortunately, maxing out the dado width still left the fit too tight for the planks. So I cut the main groove, moved my table saw fence 1/8″ to the left, cut again, moved it 1/8″ (from the original position) to the right, and made a final cut. While this seems like an extra step, it did allow me to clean out the bottom of the cut nicely.

I did this twice on each of the eight post sections. They ended up looking like this:

I then fired up the belt sander and cleaned up the faces. When I bought the lumber I could get a nice finished post for $22 or the rough post for $13 … you know I went for the cheaper post and, yup, I had to sand the sections but I saved $9! 🙂
And this allowed me to ensure the corners had a nice round to them.

With that final touch, the corner parts were done. Oh, I also got the tip of my left hand ring finger trapped between a board and the sander. Yeowch! Look for the bandaid in the picture below.

I then found the planks with the biggest warp\bow in them. I’d spent a bit of time finding lumber that was pretty straight, but not all planks were perfect. The worst plank was cut into eight “caps”. The board was about 5.75″ wide but the edges were rounded … I knew I’d have to square those off so I made 5.5″ length cuts. I then went to the chop saw and cut off one of the rounded edges from each board. Then set a stop and made sure the other rounded edge was removed and the length cut down to the same dimension as the width. I now had squares about 5.25″ on a side.

Back to the table saw where I angled the table top by about 7.5 degrees, set the blade to extend 1.5″, and positioned the fence to allow me to cut the side and just barely have the blade surface. I then sat the caps on edge and ran them through four times … turning the piece 90 degrees after each cut so I ended up with a chamfered top that had a center flat spot about 2″ on a side. Here’s what they ended up looking like:

I then went back to the planks and cut the next four “worst” pieces in half.

The logic here is that a 96″ board that has a 1″ bow in the center will, when cut in half, result in two 48″ boards each with 0.5″ bow in the center. I’ve essentially halved the defect. This assumes the warp is symmetrical but it works out pretty well: reducing the overall size reduces the defect. And I needed to cut four boards in half so this makes perfect sense.

This left me with eight 96″ length and eight 48″ length planks. I then stacked two same-sized planks on edge, inserted a corner piece on each end, and continued building out each planter until I had the raised beds. Perfect!

The only remaining steps are to screw the finial caps on the end pieces, take these to the back yard, screw the boards into place (once Suzy has a spot picked out in the yard), and then add dirt and seeds!

And that’s how we built the planters in a short morning, had fun with a quick project, and saved hundreds of dollars! Oh, and it was a very passable Valentine Day gift for Suzy! 🙂

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One Response to “Raised Planters”

  1. […] you remember back on Valentine’s Day, I gave my sweetie a couple of raised planters. Now, it may not be the most romantic gift around (“pure cedar!”) but it’s what she wanted […]

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