The planter that started it all

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Project by Llarian posted 08-10-2008 12:56 AM 2265 views 10 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Despite having been finally finished yesterday, this is actually my first woodworking project (well, for a good 10-15 years). I wanted a planter box or two for my back deck, so I grabbed this plan off, grabbed some cheapish cedar from my local big box store, and start resawing it down with my radial arm saw…

And that was where the problems began. You see, all I had in the way of tools at the time was this 1972 radial arm saw perched on a rickety old wood stand my dad built a good 20 years ago, which means it was perenially out of alignment. After a week or two of work I managed to get the stand tightened a bit, get the blade 90 degrees from the table again, and get a more or less square post out of the 4×4 I was trying to resaw.

Somewhere in there I bought a router so I could do some chamfers and such, which I’d been meaning to buy anyways. My fiance shook her head but said nothing. Oh, and a cheap router table, since what good is a router without a table?

Legs finished, I resawed some cedar 2×4 down into the rails to be more or less square, then bought a spiral up-cut bit to cut mortises into the legs. Firing up my trusty old RAS once again, and armed with a dado, I measure several times, and cut the tenons on the end of the rails, then dry fit everything together…

And it was terrible. Half the tenons were way too loose to the point of falling out, half of them had to be driven in with a hammer. I checked the alignment of my RAS, and lo and behold, it was way out of alignment. Again.

I was very frustrated at this point, having spent more time trying to get my tools into alignment than actually building something (did I mention I replaced the table and fence on the RAS during all this? And pulled apart most of the arm assembly to clear and realign it). I was so frustrated I decided to set this project aside for a bit.

In fact, I was so frustrated I went out and bought a Rigid TS 3650, a power planer, some higher quality blades, and a few other odds and ends. I looked at my poor planter sitting in the corner, and decided instead to make some cutting boards on my new tablesaw. And still my planter sat in the corner. My fiance was less than pleased about this whole turn of events.

So, out of money for exotic cutting board wood, and being asked by my fiance where her planter box was, I finally took the time to cut some tenon “patches” from my offcut cedar, glue them to the tenon faces, and then painstakingly number each mortise and tenon joint and cut them down slowly on the tablesaw, creeping up on the fit of each joint until they fit the way I was told a mortise and tenon joint should fit.

Invigorated, I cut the slats, cut some chafers and tongue and groove in them, and in some 48 hours after I’d picked it up again, had a planter box glued up and on the deck waiting for flowers.

It only took me some $1500, 3 months, an annoyed fiance, far too much time now wasted on woodworking sites, and apparently another very expensive hobby to finish it. I never expected this would be the most expensive planter box I’ve ever seen when I started, but here I am. =)

Hope you enjoyed my rambling narrative. As for the planter box? Eh, its ok. But at least it can take credit for a new enjoyable pastime.

-- Dylan Vanderhoof - General hobbiest and reluctant penmaker.

10 comments so far

View jeanmarc's profile


1899 posts in 3717 days

#1 posted 08-10-2008 01:06 AM


-- jeanmarc manosque france

View Napaman's profile


5526 posts in 4078 days

#2 posted 08-10-2008 02:00 AM

great story!!! I saw the planters…and thought—-”Those would look great on my new deck!”

Then I read your story and chuckled because I had a loooong layoff from wood working and when i restarted 2 yrs ago had very few tools…and it all started when my wife was looking at expensive outdoor furniture and I said…let me buy that much in tools and I will build it…and then still have the tools to build more…

She hasnt gotten her dining set yet…but over time…she is gaining confidence—-AND WE ARE STILL MARRIED!

Great planters…welcome to LJs!

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View Dominic Vanacora's profile

Dominic Vanacora

508 posts in 3870 days

#3 posted 08-10-2008 02:20 AM

We all start some where, I, like you and most, started with a router I purchased from Sears with the winnings from bowling. $50.00 and I use it once than 25 years later I still have it in the case it came in and a lot more tools. Not so much I can talk about. I will say that when ever you tell someone what it cost to built something you only tell the cost of the wood. Not the glue, screws, wear and tear on tool, the thosands of dollars of tools needed to make a $6.45 stool or the hours of time it takes to make the first stool, in your case a planter. The first stool I made took 30-40 hours. It starts with a drawing, the kind of lumber, painted or stained, how many, do I need special tools just for this, should I make them for gifts, it never stops. If I did this for a living that would be different. Do you know a roofer that would give away free roofs for Christmas. No, or a painter that would paint your house for Christmas. NO, OK something small, the plumger NO, It never stops. But we love it.

-- Dominic, Trinity, Florida...Lets be safe out there.

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3768 days

#4 posted 08-10-2008 02:47 AM

It’s all downhill from here. Make her some nice furniture and the next thing you know, she’ll be taking you shopping for new tools and materials. Especially when she sees how happy you are and you have a hobby that keeps you home. Thanks for sharing the story and the project. I look forward to your next.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Callum Kendall's profile

Callum Kendall

1918 posts in 3704 days

#5 posted 08-10-2008 03:20 AM

Great job!

Thanks for the post


-- For wood working podcasts with a twist check out

View EduWood's profile


57 posts in 3629 days

#6 posted 08-10-2008 07:25 AM

Your RAS reminds me of my last table saw. Before I replaced it I think I was spending more time keeping it aligned than actually using it. But, I’m fortunate to be married to a wonderful lady who encourages my woodworking. In fact, on my most recent project (garage cabinets) she got involved in cutting cabinet parts, drilling adjustable shelf holes, and helping assemble. I’ve been fortunate enough, with her encouragement, to purchase a lot of upgraded tools over the last year. Without the new tools my recent jobs would have been difficult at best. Your planter looks great! Well done!

-- David, O.C., California

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3816 days

#7 posted 08-10-2008 07:33 AM


A RAS has its place in the world but re-sawing isn’t one of them (believe me I tried it. Can you spell missiles?).

Still have all my digits though.

I once cut all of my tenons with mine and that worked out pretty well.

Nice planters. i think I need some of those.

-- Scott - Chico California

View Lip's profile


158 posts in 4050 days

#8 posted 08-10-2008 08:33 AM

If she’s only annoyed by a $1,500 planter that took 3 months to make … she’s a keeper! lol

Thanks for sharing!

-- Lip's Dysfuncational Firewood Farm, South Bend, IN

View TroutGuy's profile


224 posts in 3712 days

#9 posted 08-10-2008 04:59 PM

Nice job on the planter! I like the fluting on the posts.

We’ve all had our tooling issues over the years, and it looks like you’ve overcome yours nicely.

I also like the rosewood flowers. Were they hard to make? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) ;-)

-- There is nothing in the world more dangerous, than a woodworker who knows how to read a micrometer...

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3674 days

#10 posted 11-23-2009 05:09 AM

Nice looking planters!

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