What’s the point of creating an outdoor living space unless you look forward to spending time there? Even the most wellbuilt deck can seem stark and uninviting if it lacks accessories that add visual interest and character. Building a matching bench and planter can make a deck seem more coordinated, comfortable and appealing.
This bench and planter can be completed in an afternoon and require only basic woodworking skills. We used dimensional cedar for both projects, but any rotresistant lumber (such as redwood, mahogany, teak or even pressuretreated pine) would work, and the only tools necessary are a circular saw, a jigsaw, a drill/driver and a sander.
Building the bench
To start the bench, first cut the 2x4 legs
(A) and 1x4 spacers (B) to length as indicated in the cutting list. Assemble the sides by alternating 2x4 legs and 1x4 spacers. Start with one leg piece, apply waterproof glue (such as polyurethane glue) to one face, and use three 2in. exteriorrated screws to fasten it to one of the 1x4 spacers. Use 3in. screws for subsequent pieces.
For best results, drill pilot holes before driving screws into the cedar. Set the drill clutch so that you won’t drive the screws too deep into the soft wood. Carefully brace the workpiece so it doesn’t spin as you work.
Repeat these steps, alternating legs and spacers, until you’ve attached all of the pieces for each side (photo 1); then clamp the assembled bench sides until the glue cures.
To build the seat, cut the slats (C)
to length; then use a jigsaw to cut a decorative profile on the ends (photo 2). To keep the board ends uniform, use the cutoff from the first decorative end as a pattern, and trace the design onto the other board ends.
Next, apply glue to the pockets created by the alternating legs and spacers of the side panels, and drop the seat slats into place (photo 3). Clamp the assembly and let the glue cure (photo 4). Don’t try to wipe away glue squeezeout; instead, let the excess adhesive cure and then shave it off with a sharp chisel. Finally, use a belt sander (or other power sander) equipped with 120grit paper to sand the sides and top smooth.
Making the planter
Unlike traditional planters designed to hold soil, this one is made to accommodate plastic containers as large as 101/4 in. dia. x 13in. high. Besides preventing the wood from rotting as a result of constant contact with soil and water, this design makes gardening easier — instead of one large trough of soil, it holds pots that can be lifted out separately.
To build the planter, first cut all of the 2x4 parts to length as indicated in the cutting list, and cut the decorative profiles for the top rails (A) as you did for the bench. Use polyurethane glue and 3in. exterior-rated screws to fasten the side rails (E) to the legs (C). Use glue and 3in. screws to attach the top rails to the upper side rails (photo 1). Then from beneath, drive 31/2in. screws to toe-screw through the legs and into the top rails.
Using 3-1/2in. screws and glue, toes-crew the bottom rails (B) to the legs; then use 3in. screws to face-screw the bottom cross-brace
(G) between the bottom rails. Cut the 1x12 cedar side inner panels (F) to length, and use 2in. screws to fasten them in place (photo 2). Cedar boards can split easily, so be sure to drill pilot holes before sinking the screws. Use three screws at the top and bottom of each side panel and six screws each at the top and bottom of the front and back panels (D).
Cut the cedar lattice panel (H) to size (photo 3), and fasten it to the back of the planter box (photo 4) with glue and 2in. screws (six driven into the bottom rail and six into the top rail). Firmly clamp the lattice in place until the glue cures; then fill the planter with your favorite climbing plants.