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DIY Tapered Cedar Planter Boxes

This summer I was determined to start the process of adding more function and curb appeal to our front porch.  So in addition to the porch couch I built, I decided I wanted 2 big planter boxes to go on either side of our front door.  I wanted them before fall to use them for seasonal plants or flowers, holiday decor etc.

We have a pretty sizable front porch, but it’s not huge and our front yard is a nice size, so our home sits a little far back from the curb.  So, the planter boxes I had in mind either had to be a medium to medium large sized.  I knew I didn’t want small (meaning short) because I wanted them to make a impact on the front porch from the curb and I wanted the option of displaying tall plants or trees in them if I wanted.  

It was summer, so surely somewhere had what was pictured in my head, right? I searched high and low at Target, The Home Depot, Lowes, HomeGoods, Ikea…nothing looked like my vision. I came across this tutorial by Jen Woodhouse, and it was just what I was looking for!! Not too tall, not too short, just the right height, size and aesthetics that I wanted.  Sometimes I wonder how I get so lucky finding these builds! Don’t ask me why I didn’t think to build one first.  I think I’d started looking for DIY inspiration, but because I had so many unfinished projects in progress at the time, I didn’t want to start a new one, and I wanted the planter boxes, like, NOW (yep, impatient Irma).  Well, I ended up not finishing the other projects anyway and started this one.  

I had a rare few hours to myself.  The girls weren’t home and my husband was napping, so, to The Home Depot I went. 


I got my cedar dog eared picket fence boards. Careful when handling these particular boards.  They are very rough and you don’t want splinters. 

I followed the plans as they were written, but I added a few modifications/enhancements which I’ll point out and explain below.  Luckily it was an easy build, because I didn’t have much time before the girls were back home and demanding my undivided attention.  After about 2 hrs, these were born…

I love them! But, I didn’t like that there wasn’t a bottom.  So, I added one.  I measured the width of the bottom from end to end, and cut two pieces of leftover cedar picket fence to cover the opening (your width may be different than mine, so be sure to measure twice, cut once 😉).  I didn’t want the bottom to be completely closed to allow for easy cleaning/dirt removal if needed and for critters and bugs to easily exit, so I nailed each piece near the ends using my Ryobi Brad nailer as such…


Now it was time to sand and stain (never mind the pictures above with the staining process already started. I remembered at this point that the bottom wasn’t included in the plans and that I needed to get photos).

For sanding, since these boards are really rough, I started with a 140 grit sand paper to kinda “buff it up” and followed up with a 220 grit to smooth it all out. I sanded the inside and outside. Now, this is where you’ll need the patience.  It may take longer than the usual sanding job with pine, whitewood etc.  After about and hour or so of sanding and getting it to the smoothness of my liking, this is how they looked. 


I wanted these to be dark, but I’m all about showing the wood grain pattern, so I knew I didn’t want to paint them.  I went to The Home Depot to see what dark stains they had and came home with Miniwax in ebony.


I bought the mini can because I didn’t know how I’d like it and didn’t want to be stuck with stain I wouldn’t use. I tested it out in a scrap piece and I loved the way it looked on the cedar wood! (Suggestion: if you’re testing on scrap, I’d recommend sanding it first, since these boards are really textured and rough, to see the true color) I stained the inside and outside using two coats, letting the first coat dry at least 4 hrs before applying the next.  I did have to go back to The Home Depot to get another mini can of ebony stain because I ran out of the first can.  But I only used about a quarter of the second can. Then, I let them dry overnight. 

After the stain was completely dried, I added a protective coat since they’ll be outside.  Using a paintbrush, I applied 3 coats of Miniwax Helsman spar urethane to the inside and outside.  


I let each coat dry at least 24hrs before applying the next coat. And this is how they turned out!  


I loved them before adding the protective coating, but I think the spar urethane’s shine made them look 10x better! And look at that wood grain!! The pattern just pops! 😉

These are about 2 ft. tall.  And I wasn’t planting directly into the planter because I wanted the flexibility to be able to change things with a lot of cleanup and work. I was going to be inserted pre-potted plants and using these for outdoor decor like pumpkins for fall and things of that nature. I made them to be versatile.

So, I started thinking of what could I do to raise and adjust the height in the inside for plants that aren’t that tall, and something I could sit decor pieces on.  I came up with an idea to build a removable “shelf”.  I used some leftover scrap wood for this. 

I kind of eyeballed the inside of the planter box, marked where I thought most potted plants would be deep enough into the planter box to not have the actual pot show.  I put a scrap 1×2 in the box and marked my spot on it to cut.  I used that 1×2 as a guide for my next 3 base legs.  I then put all 4 base legs in the planter box and measured the length of space across the top of the legs as they sat against the box with my measuring tape to cut 2 leg connectors.  Make sure that the leg connectors fits completely over the top of each leg.  End to end.  This is important.  I didn’t nail mine to the box because I wanted them to be easily removable. Making sure the leg connectors sits on top of legs end to end helps to keep them from falling. See visual  below. 

I then used scrap tongue and groove boards (but you can use any boards to put on top, more 1x2s or dog eared picket fence if you have some leftover,  1X3s, 2x4s or any scrap you have that would be feasible) to lay on top.  Measure the width of the planters staying close to the top of the leg connectors and cut as many as you need to go across.  Four was good enough for the boards I used. See below. 

You can nail the legs and shelf in place if you’d like.  But, I didn’t because I’m so fickle and wanted to use these planter boxes for a variety of things. 

And you’re done! Adorn them with plants or decor, sit them on your front porch (or wherever) and gawk at your Pharr, pretty work! 

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