Garden Pallets

Wednesday 11 July 2018

The garden is one area where we can spend a lot of time trying to create the perfect relaxing atmosphere for that quiet time that we so deserve after a long day doing whatever comes our way.

Well, if you have a day to spare and want to create an ideal garden planter that will cost you nothing but some paint, a few screws and a bit of elbow work and give this project a try?

Making the corner uprights

Four corner uprights are required and since we are working with boards, the best way to crate the uprights is to laminate them.

Take three boards and cut them length 630mm and 70mm width, the reason for 70mm is that the boards are each about 23.6 mm thick so once the three boards were placed together this made a square(ish) upright. Since we need to laminate then, plane the meeting faces (pic 2) to ensure a good fit and glued (using waterproof glue), clamp them together (pic 3), then screw them together – a failsafe device should the glue fail.

I wanted a classical appearance so decided to mark and cut a traditional point on the top of the uprights. Mark 25mm down from the end and square this line around. Then mark the centre of the upright on the top and draw a line to meet the side marking to the centre. This will create the point, then cut it by hand or on a bandsaw. (pic 4)

Once cut, take the sharp corners off each upright with a plane. (pic 5)

Cross rails

Now take 8 boards and cut them to 560mm length and70mm width. These will form the top and bottom rails. At each end mark a bare-faced shouldered tenon. The shoulders are 13mm deep and the tenon is 35mm long. The shoulders will ensure a nice clean fit against the uprights. The end of the tenon needs to be mitred so it fits nicely against the other cross rail which will meet it in the middle of the upright. (pic 6) Once all the tenons are cut you need to mark the uprights for the positions of the mortises – the holes in which the tenons fit. Measure 38mm down from the bottom shoulder of the point you have just cut, then lay the tenon up against this mark and mark the width of the tenon on the upright. This will be the mortise hole size to be cut. The shoulders on the tenon are 13 mm so when the motise is cut and all is clamped tight the top of the rail will sit 25mm below the shoulder of the point on the top of the upright.

Continue this on the other four uprights until all 8 motise hole positions have been mark for the top rails, Now measure 63mm from the bottom of the uprights and mark the motise positions as before for the bottom rails too. This will mean that the bottom of the rail will sit 50mm off the floor. Note since this is a board, it is the same width as the middle lamination of the upright.

Now cut the motises and then dry fit and clamp all the components together to make sure everything fits together. (pic 7 & 8)

Once happy that everything fits snugly and is square etc. glue and clamp all the side rails and uprights together. As a safety aspect, drill a 6mm hole in the side of the upright to pass straight through the tenon and insert a 6mm dowel. This will act as a locking device should the glue fail. (pic 9)

Inside face of the rails & bottom

The next phase is to cut and screw four lengths of timber 30mm x 30mm or so square x 490mm long around the bottom edge of the lower rails so the bottom of the wood is flush with the bottom edge of the lower rails. We found a pallet with a thicker board size in it – but 23mm square is fine. Then cut four pieces 490mm long x 40mm deep and 23 mm thick (or thickness of board) and screw these to the top rails so that the top of these pieces are flush with the top edge of the rails. The cut 11 strips of wood about 30mm x 30mm, or whatever the square is of the pallet boards you are using, and screw these equidistantly along the bottom of the planter (pic 10).


Now measure and fit panels in the sides. These boards are full pallet width sizes and vary in width somewhat: just measure them out and cut what is necessary to make the boards fit. (pic 11) Once cut to size, screw them in place.

Screw these in place. Note the boards are supported so that if you fill the planter with earth (a membrane will have to be placed on the bottom to prevent the soil from falling through the slats) the pressure will not force the boards off the face off the planter. Everything is supported behind the rails.


All that remains is to treat the planter with a preservative, let it dry and paint with an exterior fence or panel paint of your choice. I suppose you could undercoat it and apply a top coat of your choice if you desire but I chose a panel paint which contrasts well with the cordyline planted in it ands the stones on which it was to sit. There you have it: a planter in a day and one that cost about £5 to make.