Canadian Woodworking

Build a hexagonal planter

Author: Merv Krivoshein
Photos: Tracy Munday
Illustration: Len Churchill
Published: April May 2019

Building projects for the great outdoors is always a fun thing to do, and this planter will surely turn heads.

  • COST
Hexagonal planter illo

Most indoor woodworking projects are only seen by a few people. It’s only when you start to create projects for the great outdoors that you can show off your work to lots of other people. This planter is quite unique and can be customized in terms of height and colour quite easily. Even some faux finishing techniques would come in handy with this project, and make for a great look, if that’s the look you are after.

The main tool needed is a mitre saw. It will do a great job at cutting the compound angled cuts to the ends of the workpieces. A pin nailer, cordless drill and band clamp will also come in very handy during assembly. If you don’t have a mitre saw, you could use a mitre gauge in your table saw and tilt your blade to the proper angle.

The First Cut
The first cut has the offcut on the right side of the blade. Also notice the different red marks on the rear fence, which will eventually assist with cutting the workpieces to length.

Clamp it in Place
If holding the workpiece in place with your hand doesn't feel secure enough for you add a clamp to the situation. This extra step may only be needed if the stock is at all cupped or twisted.

Align With Marks
Rather than use physical stops, Krivoshein opted for adding marks to the rear fence that would help him locate the workpieces while cutting the different parts to length.

Band Clamp
A band clamp will bring the parts together with some pressure. Glue can be used at this stage, though not using glue will still result in a fairly strong planter.

Add Screws
Drill countersink holes into the adjoining workpiece, then drive at least a few screws home to secure each joint.

Flush it Up
The joint between the two smallest layers should be fairly even, and not rock at all. A hand plane will flatten the two edges of these layers and ready them for assembly.

Keep it Level
As you assemble the layers, check for level in multiple directions. While doing this be sure to support your planter on a level worksurface.

Caulking Covers Gaps
Some quality exterior caulking goes a long way toward creating a nice, gap-free planter that will look great once it's painted. Ensure it's smooth and even before it dries.

Finished Planter

Hexagonal planter

Get cutting

When cutting the boards to length to form the different levels of this planter, the length of the boards in each level differs by 2″. For instance, the top level includes pieces that are 13″ long overall, while the level below it has pieces with an overall length of 11″.

I used pressure-treated lumber, but any lumber that fares well in the outdoors would do just fine. Starting with rough lumber, dressing it to a thickness between 1″ and 1-1/2″, then ripping it to a width of around 6″ is also a great approach, as you’ll be sure to have straight stock to work with. The exact stock thickness and width isn’t crucial, but variations will provide slightly different looks.

Angle your mitre saw’s blade to 22.5 degrees off that of the fence, then tilt the blade to 22.5 degrees. You can see in the photo which way I tilted and angled the blade, and where the finished workpiece was positioned during the cut, but it can be done other ways too.

With my setup, the board on the left side of the blade is clamped down so my hands are not close to the saw blade. The offcut is on the right side of the blade, at least for the first cut in each board. The remaining cuts all have the finished workpiece on the right side of the blade. Make your first cut to the end of one of the boards.

To make repeatable cuts easier, using some sort of a stop often works well. I didn’t want to trap one of the workpieces between the blade and a stop and have it either get damaged, or worse yet, damage the saw or myself. Instead, I added a few marks on the back fence of the mitre saw so I could visually align the board with the line when cutting multiple parts. I was able to be accurate enough for this specific project, and I didn’t have anything go wrong while making any of these cuts.

With the first cut made on one end of the board, the board is flipped over, and the angle cut is moved to the desired measurement on the fence. Cut six 13″ sections from one of the 8′ boards. Cut your 11″ sections from the second board. If you’re using standard 2×6 stock it might not be perfectly straight, nor be exactly the same width as another board. With this in mind, the workpieces for each layer tend to fit together better if cut from the same board. Cut your 9″ sections from the third board. With the leftover material, you can cut 12 sections 7″ long, which will make up the remaining two smallest layers. If you’re at all unsure about cutting short pieces from the offcuts, it might be safer to have an additional board on hand so you don’t have to cut the short pieces from the offcuts.

Assemble the layers

I used a sheet of styrofoam to work on top of during assembly. The styrofoam sheet prevents the blocks from slipping during assembly, because they will all be resting on their edges. Set up six mating blocks to form your first layer. Glue will increase the overall strength of the assembly, but even without glue the planter finishes up quite solidly. Wrap the strap of the web clamp around the base (pointed ends of the hexagonal layer) and tighten the strap snug. Make sure the outer edges are flush. If they’re moving around on you, it might be a good time to use a pin nailer to keep the edges steady and properly located.

Once all six pieces are aligned and the band clamps are snugged up, drill countersink holes parallel to the edge of the adjoining board so screws don’t split the boards. I opted for two screws per joint. Drive in 2″ Robertson deck screws into the predrilled hole. Rotate the hexagonal layer, and repeat this procedure until all six sections are screwed together. Turn the layer over, and check your mitres to make sure they are as tight as possible, making any adjustments where necessary. Remove the strap once all twelve screws have been installed. Repeat the previous process until all five layers are complete.

Bring it all together

Hand plane the smaller sections so they fit together flush, with no wobbling and minimal  gaps.

Set up the two smaller sections on a level surface, with their smaller diameters facing each other. Once you’re sure the upper edge of the top layer is level, pre-drill from the inside on a slight slant (toward outside), 1″ from the edge. Use a 2-1/2″ screw to secure the parts together. Repeat this on every other board. This holds each layer together. Set up the next 9″ layer on top of the smaller layer and place a level across the top edge, then screw it down. Repeat this process until all layers are level and assembled. The layers don’t need to be as level as a kitchen countertop, but they should be close enough that nobody can see any discrepancies between them.

Fill the gaps and finish

Using a caulking gun, apply paintable caulking to fill the screw holes and crevices where each layer fits into the other. Take a bit of time here, as any gaps will only become more visible as time goes on. Once the caulking has thoroughly dried you can paint the planter the desired colour. At this point it’s a matter of filling it with soil, planting some flowers, putting the planter where your neighbours can see it, and enjoying the spring.

Merv Krivoshein - [email protected]

Merv's first love is fine woodworking, his passion is bronze casting his wood carvings, his addiction is making bent willow home and garden furniture, his hobby is woodturning, his glory is hiking in the Rocky Mountains once a week.

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