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The patterns in most old metal ceilings were stamped in a tic-tac-toe formation, but instead of Xs and Os, the same floral or geometric design was repeated in each quadrant. To sheath a wooden planter box, I used salvaged tiles in just such a grid with four 6-by 6-inch squares stacked one on top of the other and 12 across. Working from those dimensions, I cut the box's wooden sides so the metal would fold neatly around its four corners. I left a 6-inch reveal at the top so I could tuck and nail the last layer of metal squares inside the box for a finished look. To guard against rot and insect damage, I built the planter out of ½-inch pressure-treated plywood and inserted a plastic liner. Read on for the step-by-step.

Step 1

Clean the metal panel

Photo by Kristine Larsen

Brush off loose rust and cracked paint. To protect against toxic lead, which can be released in paint dust, work outdoors and wear a respirator approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Also, pull on a pair of thick gloves so you don't cut your hands on the sharp metal.

Step 2

Build the box

Photo by Kristine Larsen

Fasten together precut 18-by-18-inch panels to form the sides of the plywood planter. I used a pneumatic nailer, but a hammer and 1 ½-inch finish nails will also do the trick.

Step 3

Add bottom panels

Photo by Kristine Larsen

Secure the bottom (this is a 16-by-16-inch panel, sliced in two), leaving 2 inches of space in the middle for water to drain through. Then, nail a pair of scrap lumber “feet” perpendicular to the bottom boards. This will help reinforce the box and elevate it off the ground.

Step 4

Wrap the box

Photo by Kristine Larsen

Fold the metal sheeting around the sides of the planter, and use a rubber mallet to tap it flush against the wood.

Step 5

Secure the metal

Photo by Kristine Larsen

Fasten the metal to the planter box by driving in steel tacks along it's bottom seam.

Step 6

Cut metal corners

Photo by Kristine Larsen

Use snips to cut the corners where the metal overlaps the top of the planter.

Step 7

Cover the edges

Photo by Kristine Larsen

Fold the metal over the planter's top edge, tap flush against the inner walls, and secure with nails. To preserve the patina and prevent more rust, apply an exterior-grade polyurethane sealant such as Rust-Oleum American Accents Clear Top Coat Spray.

Step 8

Drop in the insert

Photo by Kristine Larsen

Insert the plastic liner, and fill your new planter with flowers. —A.R.H.