Gilles' Outlet

June 22, 2008

Building a Cedar Planter, Raised Panel Style

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gilles @ 4:24 am


A Raised Panel Cedar Planter is built.

Cedar panels are glued and raised on a router table. Posts are cut to length and decorated on a router table. All parts are sealed and assembled.

Skill Level: 3~4 (Intermediate ~ Advanced)

Time Taken: About 6 hours

There are many designs for cedar planters and I have already showcased a simpler version in a previous article. It was meant to hold the soil directly and has served me well. Today, I am going to show a more sophisticated design.

Unlike its older brother, this planter is designed to hold a pot. It is entirely made out of solid clear cedar and features an adjustable shelf. This allows the planter to host various kind of pots.

Pieces of the planter before of the assembly:

  • Four raised panels: these are the sides,
  • Four posts: these act as corners (only 3 visible on the picture)
  • Eight supporting strips: panels rest in groves machined in those (only 7 are visible)

All pieces received a coat of Thompson Water Seal before assembly. This picture was taken immediately after application which explains why the wood looks darker. Thompson Water Seal is a clear product and I decided not to apply any other finish: cedar is beautiful as is.

This is the first time I used that product and while I have been satisfied with it, it did not always goo smoothly.  Suffice it to say that it is critical to read and respect all instructions exactly. More specifically, be sure to respect the temperature, drying time and maintain the wood dry as the product dries or you will ruin your pieces.

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Left: The construction starts by cutting four 18 1/2” long pieces out of 2×2 clear cedar stock. This wood is already surfaced on four sides and is designed to build deck ballusters, among other things. These will ultimately become the posts installed at the four corners of the planter.

Right: I cut eight 14” long segments out of 1×6 clear cedar stock and glued them together to make a wider panels (14” x 11”). You already saw me gluing panels before.

After the panels dried, I sanded all panels smooth and raised them on the router table. You already saw me build raised panels before.

Left: The top of each post gets decorated with a narrow and shallow groove made at the table saw. I have installed a stop block (the piece of scrap wood clamped to the fence on the bottom right). This ensures a consistent location of the groove on all posts.

It is also critical to safety: to prevent kickback when crosscutting on a table saw, the wood must never be in contact with the fence.

Right: The blade was raised about 1/2” above the table and each post was ran through using the miter gauge. It is necessary to groove each post on for faces.

I decided to leave the blade guard for safety. It was mildly awkward to run pieces through.

Left: I moved to the router table and installed a chamfer bit. A chamfer will be cut at the top and bottom of every four posts …

Right: … like that (example at the top of a post). The chamfer is a little less than 1/2”. I just kept moving the fence away from the bit until I was satisfied with the depth of the chamfer.

You can also see the result of the previous grooving operation on the table saw.

Left: A decorative stopped chamfer was added on the external edge of all four posts.

There is a special procedure to make a stopped chamfer. First write marks on the work piece to indicate where the chamfer will star and end.

Right: With the router running, make sure the left side of the post rests on the table and hold the left side above the bit, without touching it. Position the mark on the work piece on the center of the bit.

Now, slowly plunge the work piece into the bit.

Left: When the piece is flat on the table, push it through as you normally would until the center of the bit reaches the end mark.

Pull the right end of the work piece up, making sure the left side is in contact with the table.

It is critical to make sure that at least one side of the work piece is on the table otherwise, the bit could catch  the wood and send it flying in the shop.

Stopped operations on the router are dangerous and you can get hurt badly. Always consult a professional.

Right: I cut eight supporting strips out of 1×2 cedar. One side will require two pieces: one to support the panel at the bottom and one top hold the panel at the top.

Left: Each piece was chamfered on three edges using the same chamfer bit. The last edge is left square because it will not show.

Right: I cut a grove on every single supporting strip. This groove will receive the panel and hold it in place. The groove was cut using a straight 1/4” bit. 1/4” bits are usually more fragile because they are thin so it took three passes to machine the groove.

It needs to be deep enough for the panel to be held and allow for wood movement. I decided that 5/8 was deep enough in this case.

Left: Using the same 1/4” straight bit, I machined two grooves on each post. These will receive the raised panels.


Right: Pocket screws slots were cut on all eight supporting strips. You have already seen me cutting pocket screws before.

Left: All pieces were sanded smooth and paired together so the grain of the wood would match top and bottom supporting strips.

At this point, the wood has not yet received any finish or sealant. However, assembly steps can already be outlined.

Right: A panel slides into two supporting strips: one at the top and one at the bottom.

Left: The right and left sides of the panel slide into a grove on the right and left posts. The supporting strips rest on posts and will be later fastened to them ….


Right: … like that. Each side is completed after driving the four pockets screws home.

Left: After assembling each panel, I drilled a set of holes to hold shelf pins. This allows the mobile shelve to be moved up and down to accommodate various pot sizes.

I drilled free hand and some holes were not exactly at 45 degrees. This is clearly not ideal.

The best tool for this job is a drill press: the work piece can be maintained tight on the table and drilled precisely. Unfortunately, I do not own one.

Right: A shelf pin installed in one of the holes.

The imperfection in the drilling did not have any consequence. I guess I was off but not off enough to have a noticeable impact on the stability of the shelf.

Left: I turned my attention to the shelf itself. It is essentially a few strips of rough saw cedar fencing stock cut to length and screwed onto two pieces of 1×2 cedar. I did not put any glue but it would not hurt.

If you glue this, make you you use a waterproof glue: watering plants will definitely pour water on the shelf.

This design is rather primitive but the shelf is not going to be visible so I can save some labor and materials here.

Right:  I drove a couple of screws to hold the shelf together. I used the same pan head screws (aka screws suitable for pocket screws) because I had them handy and they were of the adequate size.

Left: The shelf face up. It looks reasonable and it is fairly sturdy.


Right: A view of the planter after assembly, looking down at the shelf. The shelf rests on four shelf pins.

Tools Used:

  • Power Miter Saw 
  • Table Saw 
  • Router & Router Table
  • Router Bits: Raised Panel, Chamfer, 1/4” Straight
  • Cordless Drill
  • Pocket Screw Jig
  • Clamps
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • Clear Cedar 2×2 S4S (posts)
  • Clear Cedar 1×2 S2SS2E (supporting strips)
  • Clear Cedar 1×6 S2SS2E (panels)
  • Rough sawn cedar fencing (shelve)
  • Pocket Screws
  • Outdoor Oil Based Water Sealer
  • Shelf ins (4)

1 Comment »

  1. Fantastic job on this article! you really did help to showcase the true beauty of natural clear cedar. I personally think a clear stain is the way to go as well, cedar looks amazing just as is!

    Comment by Errol Clark — October 25, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at