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How to Build a Pallet Wood Planter
I may be in lock-down, but I am still trying to be productive by making pallet wood planters. This has the added bonus of making my teeny-tiny shed less cluttered. Also, it has kept me somewhat sane over the last few weeks of the global pandemic.
How to quickly break down a pallet (so that you have too much pallet wood)
For a self-professed minimalist, I was shocked at how much pallet wood I managed to accumulate and store in a tiny shed. Even though lock-down sucks, its a good thing that building suppliers are closed for corona-pocolypse because it forced me to use what I have.
If you have ever broken down a pallet, you will know how frustrating it can be. Especially when you put so much effort into prying apart the planks only to split the wood.
So, this is the best video/technique I have found so far on how to break down a pallet. You only need a flat surface and some basic tools. All credit to the person who devised this method.
However, this approach doesn’t work for every type of pallet that you can get your little magpie hands on. It will teach you to be more discerning about which pallets you bring home with you.
Design a DIY Pallet Wood Planter
I knew from the outset that I was not going to make something “polished” from recycled pallet wood. It’s the worn look we are going for, right?
After sorting through the dismantled pallet wood, I realised I had a range of different lengths, widths and, most importantly, thicknesses.
Thickness is the hardest property to change. You can always adjust the length and width of your pallet wood with a chop saw, a table saw or even a handsaw. If you want to adjust the thickness, you’re going to need an expensive planer.
As usual, I watched a few YouTube videos for ideas and reference points. After that, I decided on a basic design and this bit is important… I let the size/thickness of the wood determine the size of the planters.
This means that I had a basic form in my head for the planter. I then gathered lengths of pallet wood that were the same thicknesses until I knew I had enough to build four sides. The dimensions of the pallet wood then determined the overall size of the planter
This turned out to be a decent approach because it was using up the wood I had but also meant that I came out with a range of different sized planters. That means I can assess them in terms of their aesthetic and functional values. For example, which ones look the best in the garden and which ones work the best for the plants.
Assembling the pallet wood planters
The assembly is pretty easy once you have the design figured out. If you are using pallet wood rather than planed-all-over timber (PAO) from a supplier you have to accept that there will be imperfections. You could go to the bother of using expensive power tools to get your pallet wood perfect but who has the time and the tools? Speaking of tools:
Tools and Materials I Used
Sketchup helped me to figure out how to put the parts together. This was nothing more than a general guide and everything depending on what pallet wood I had to hand. I made adjustments on the fly as I built.
I made two front and back panels with base runners
I lined up four planks of pallet wood on top of two square-ish corner supports. Note that I screwed in from the front of the panel because I wanted a secure hold and I knew I was going to cover up the screw heads with some trim at the end.
For the corner pieces, I had some lengths of square wood in my shed but also ended up ripping some 2x4s in half on the table saw when that ran out. You can just use pallet planks for this bit too if they are thick enough – whatever works. I made sure to leave a gap on each end equal to the thickness of the side panels.
Another optional bit here is the legs, if you want them just make your square corner pieces longer. It’s personal taste I guess.
I made two of these and then attached two horizontal runners to support the base (shown here in purple)
Make the base
The floor bit is the most complicated because of two things.
Firstly, those corner pieces mean that you have to measure and cut two of your base pieces to fit in. These are marked in blue below. It’s a straight forward process, use a hand saw or a sharp tenon saw/jigsaw makes the job easier.
Secondly, you are most likely going to have to do a rip cut (along the length) of one of your base pieces to make it fit into the inevitable gap. This is highlighted in yellow below. The risk here is if the piece you have to cut is too thin – when you screw it into the runner it might split.
Once, I got lucky and everything just fit. That was literally the best thing that happened to me during Covid-19. The best.
Add the trim
The front of my box now has lots of ugly screw heads. One of the pallets I broke up had fairly thin planks so I decided to use these for trim to cover up the screw heads (shown in pink below). I attached them using small brad nails and a hammer so they would be fairly secure but the attachment method would reasonably invisible.
This is the point where the pallet wood imperfections became more apparent. Some of the wood I was using was slight warped or bowed so the edges were certainly not as perfect as the Sketchup model. The trim was a little wonky in places but it covered up a lot of these inconsistencies so worth adding.
And no, I was not bothering cutting 45 degree angles into all of these – I’m bored but not insane.
Top it all off
I am still undecided about this part. It’s nice but not necessary. Plus, trying to get a perfect 45 degree cut and join with wonky pallet wood is a big ask. I never got this perfect but, that was not my goal. “feck it, it looks grand” is good enough.
Another thought I had was, this part won’t really be visible if I am filling these things with trailing or bushy plants.
Pallet Wood Planter Build Gallery
Free Sketchup Plans for Pallet Wood Planters
Want to give it a go or improve the design? Download the free sketchup plan and play around with them. Just remember that I’m a total sketchup newbie so set your expectations to low. I am using Sketchup 2018 but you can upload the file to the free web-based sketchup and fiddle.
Pallet Wood Planter Lining
I had some spare mypex after another job I was doing in the garden. I needed a new staple gun because my one has finally died. But because all the DIY shops were closed, I had to order it on amazon. I saw a terrifying article in the Guardian about how Amazon could be earning $10,000 per second as a result of the covid-19 crisis. Jaysus. That level of income would make you financially independent in less than 3 minutes.
I’m going to say that this step is optional. It certainly makes them look more professional and will help with soil and water reinvention. However, you would get away with not lining them. An alternative to mypex would be a heavy duty plastic bag (like the one your compost came in – upcycle!) but just make sure you create holes in the bottom to allow for drainage.
A Slightly Sexier Painted Pallet Wood Planter
For the last one I made, I specifically measured it to fit a space. Then I bothered to sand and treat it with a coloured stain I had left over from that time I built a wheelie bin enclosure from (mostly) pallet wood.
Cost of Building a Pallet Wood Planter
- Pallet wood – Free
- Screws – €4.50
- Nails – €3.50
- 1 bag of compost – €2 (€6 for 3 bags bags in Lidl – 45 litres)
- Plants – free from last years strawberries!
You will get one email a month with a summary of posts from that month so you can keep up-to-date with my progress and failures. Grand job!