Dovetailed Planter Boxes

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Project by jamsomito posted 12-18-2017 02:49 AM 490 views 2 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Made these two matching planter boxes as a Christmas gift for my mom. They’re made out of 2 8ft pressure treated 2×12’s. I would have loved to do this out of cedar, but budget didn’t allow, and it was my first ever time making dovetails so I didn’t want to ruin a bunch of good wood. In the end, I’m happy to say that wasn’t a concern. Next time.

I started by cutting the boards into proper lengths.

Then it was endless dovetails. Made a trial run in some scrap 2×4’s.

Not perfect, but I honestly expected worse. Feeling good enough, it was time for chop chop.

My dovetail process was:
1. Mark out tails, cut out on the band saw. Easy.

2. At this point, all my pieces were slightly different, so identify location of each piece, mark, and trace the tails onto the pin pieces.
3. On my 2×4 trial, I tipped my bandsaw table to the same angle as my dovetail gauge/jig, but I found that since my tails weren’t as precise, it really required a custom cut for each one. So, handsaw it was.

4. Once the pin faces were cut with the hand saw, I took it over to the bandsaw, big side of the waste wedge down, and cut along the line again at a 90 degree angle. Removed as much waste as possible here, only leaving a small wedge on either side of the pins.

5. Chisel out the remainder of the waste. I found chiseling on this pine to be tough without crushing the end grain. A slicing motion worked much better than chopping. I’d chop a bit, then split it from the endgrain down to my chop and repeat until most of it was gone, then I “sliced” what was left until it was flush with the bottom of the cut.

6. Test fit. This pine was pretty soft and wet so with some persuasion it would more or less squish together regardless, but there were a few joints I had to go back and cut down a bit more with the chisel.

In the end, all but one joint turned out really great. The one was a little messed up because the boards had a bit of a twist to them that I have no tools to be able to get out. Overall I’m really happy with the dovetails, and it was a great learning experience.

I cut some 1/4” deep dadoes along the length of the tail pieces and resawed a spare treated 2×6 I had laying around into roughly 1/4” thick slices, then ripped them in half down the length. These became the bottom of the boxes.

After all the sides were fit together, I cut out 8 small square feet from the remainder of the 2×12’s. I also chamfered all the edges for the beefy, rustic, chunky look I was going for. Then I glued everything together. I used polyurethane glue since these will be outside, first time with that too. Ended up not bad, and the foamy squeeze-out was pretty easy to clean up after. Nothing needed clamps after pounding it all together except for the feet, so I just screwed those in with a countersink to hold it in place until the glue dried.

I was going to stain everything an opaque gray to match my mom’s deck where I think she’s going to put these, but alas it was too cold in the shop for that so it will have to wait until the spring.

Comments and critiques welcome! Lots of firsts for me here.

6 comments so far

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

1709 posts in 511 days

#1 posted 12-18-2017 01:01 PM

Nice job on the boxes. They should last for years.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View sawmillman's profile


24 posts in 1396 days

#2 posted 12-18-2017 02:33 PM

Nice job! Now I am getting the itch to build some as well. I do hope the 12 degree temp on your thermometer is Celsius and not Fahrenheit. I had to deal with a cold shop at one time but now I have a wood stove that keeps me toasty – and helps me get rid of those “mistakes” that come with working wood.

-- I thought you said there was no metal in this log !!!!!!!!!!!!

View jamsomito's profile


94 posts in 355 days

#3 posted 12-18-2017 02:43 PM

Nope, Fahrenheit. I envy you guys with heated shops, lol. I have a heat dish electric radiant heater that when combined with a couple layers on top and a hat it’s ok. With all the hand sawing on this one, I kept my body temp up and my hands weren’t even cold. If it gets cold to where I can’t feel my fingers, I stop.

View majuvla's profile


11861 posts in 2797 days

#4 posted 12-19-2017 08:01 AM

Definately look more than ordinary with those dovetails.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View rbrjr1's profile


169 posts in 135 days

#5 posted 12-19-2017 02:00 PM


put a heater in that place.. (not only for your sake, but to help protect the thousands of dollars of equipment and boardstock you have in there.. )

-- only an idiot dismisses an intelligent statement because they dont know anything about the person delivering it.

View jamsomito's profile


94 posts in 355 days

#6 posted 12-19-2017 02:09 PM

I would love a conditioned space… I can’t remember the last time I did a project where the wood didn’t move on me over the extended time it usually takes me to wrap a project up. Just a beginning hobbyist here though so I’m building things up as I go. Just got the band saw a few weeks ago. The wood is about 90% treated pine and plywood. The pine is for an outdoor table and benches I was going to make in the fall but the wood was too wet to work with so it went up on stickers till next year. I usually don’t have much more than scraps to put up there. But these are just excuses… in time :)

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