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Build It | Cedar Deck Box Planter

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva and host Kevin O’Connor build a deck box planter using western red cedar.

Steps for Building a Cedar Deck Box Planter

  1. Cut the 4x4 cedar legs to rough length on the miter saw.
  2. At the table saw, cut the 4x4 legs down to 2 ¼” x 2 ¼”.
  3. Create a jig that will allow a taper about 8-9” from the bottom, taking off about ½” at the widest point. Run the leg through the table saw to cut the taper on one side, then turn the leg a quarter turn and run a second pass to cut the taper on two sides.
  4. Run the outside of the leg through a router with a 1”roundover bit installed (a router table is recommended for this step).
  5. Cut the 5/4 stock to rough length on the miter saw, then rip them down on the table saw. The bottom rails will be 5” wide, while the top rail will be 2 ¾” wide.
  6. Use a stacked dado blade on the table saw to cut a 3/8” dado on the rails and a 3/8” rabbet on each end of the 1x4 pieces that will serve as the panels.
  7. Use a pocket hole jig to cut pocket holes in the rails.
  8. Use a spacer on the workbench to recess the rails about ¾” from the edge of the leg, then use pocket screws to attach the top rail to one leg.
  9. Space the bottom rail by using a panel piece and allowing an additional 1/8” for expansion, then secure the bottom rail to the leg with pocket screws.
  10. Slide the panel pieces between the top and bottom rails, then use a spacer to attach the rails to the second leg. Repeat this process around all four sides.
  11. For the top of the planter, use 5/4” stock and cut 45º miters in each corner. Secure with wood glue and pocket screws.
  12. With the top piece upside down, bring the planter base in, center it, and then secure it to the top using pocket screws.
  13. Build a bottom spacer piece using extra 5/4 stock and attach it to the bottom of the planter at a height that will allow the milk crates to sit flush with the top piece.
  14. Add the milk crates to the top, fill with top soil, and plant as desired. The cedar doesn’t require any additional finish—it can be left out to weather.