Some people talk about projects. Some swap pictures of nifty ideas via the latest social media. Some dream about what might be done with the right motivation and a new box of round-tuits. Others get off the couch and do something. My girls are definitely in the last group and it is a joy to be a recruit in their endeavors.
Michelle is on a gardening phase and I am so happy I could turn compost. We’re planning her next steps and for a townhome owner, that means finding space for plants. She has several ideas and experiments on the list ready to try.
First up is a beat the cost of store bought, do it yourself, winner. We were shopping at Lowes and Michelle was quite upset with the price of some plastic planting boxes. She handed one to me and said, “Dad, we could make something ourselves. You have the truck in the parking lot. What do we need to buy?”
Note her finely honed management skills in action. She recognized the problem, had a general solution in mind but knew to recruit competent help for the design. I love the ownership model and the use of the word “we”. This plastic planting box is not Michelle’s problem. It is our problem and we need to solve it. And she has now transferred responsibility for project success to me. Cool. The 4 year investment I made at Campbell University’s School of Business is paying a return.
But wait a minute. On the fly, in the middle of Lowes, she expects me to design a project and figure the materials? I left my cape and tights at home but I am always up for a challenge. I kicked the brain into ciphering mode.
I had an idea of the size lumber required to build planting boxes and found a stack of knotty 1×8 pressure treated pine. I picked through the pile and found 2 nearly straight boards, tossed them over my shoulder, and walked away wondering where the lumber guys find all the crooked trees. While balancing the 8’ boards on my shoulder with one hand, I whipped out the cell phone with the other and punched in Shawn’s number. That was a major accomplishment and has nothing to do with the story but I wanted to share. I heard Shawn’s lovely voice greeting me with a tender, “Hello.” I responded with “Meet me at the checkout. I am through shopping for the day.”
Material cost for Michelle’s deck rail planting boxes is as follows
- Dad’s design services – free
- Wood – $20 (two 1”x 8”x 8’ boards, one 5/4 x 6”x8’ deck board for the bottom rails)
- Making a memory together – priceless
I recommend starting any shop project with a good breakfast. Michelle is enjoying Shawn’s latest homemade waffle recipe which includes grit, saw dust, and a host of other stuff that revs up your innards. They are delicious, even if they are good for you.
If we fail to plan, we plan to fail. I sketched a plan while watching Magnum re-runs. I put the plan aside and returned to it several times, adding notes as needed.
We had the supplies ready to go and the shop was setup for work. I am not one who enjoys stopping in the middle to run to the hardware store and make an effort to get everything beforehand.
Any sane man knows no plan is acceptable until management approves it. I ran my idea by Michelle and explained what we needed to do. I assure you she is laughing at my jumbo pencil, not my wit and wisdom.
Measure twice and saw once. Good advice for wood working, talking, spending money, and a host of life situations.
The square belonged to my Dad and I think about him when I take it from its place on the wall. It is quickly becoming one of Michelle’s favorite tools and she is adept at using it. I told her I no longer check her measurements before cutting. Her skill level is beyond beginner and she has earned my respect. Her stance is good, she has the right facial expression, and we are ready to make sawdust.
We cut the wood with a circular saw since my chop saw will not handle an 8” board. Michelle used a trim gun to tack the boxes together. It was a little wimpy for the job but it is fun to use. It held the sides in place long enough for the next steps.
Next we add the deck screws. Since these boxes will be filled with dirt and dirt is heavy, I need screws long enough to do the job. The wood is 3/4” and the screws are 2”. By using coarse threaded screws, I can eliminate predrilling if I crank the torque on the drill down and take my time.
We worked together to assemble the boxes. Sometimes a third or fourth hand is handy. Michelle inserted a screw that burrowed its way through the wet wood and disappeared. We stopped for a chuckle break.
I have a cheese grater aka pocket plane that takes the edge off splintery wood. Use of this tool builds a strong grip, works the arm muscles, and skins the knuckles if the user is not alert at all times. It is cheap, it works, and the best part is Stanley still sells the blades.
The mighty belt sander is a better way to smooth the sides.
The boxes will sit on 2×4 deck rails and needs to be anchored in some way. I ripped some 5/4 decking on the table saw and we used a 2×4 as a guide to place the rails on the bottom of the boxes.
Michelle’s layout lines showed us where to predrill through the bottom of the box. We then flipped the box and inserted deck screws through the box into the rails.
We also drilled several 3/8 inch drain holes through one side of the box at the bottom. The box will be oriented on the deck so these holes face the yard and drain excess water away from the deck. This was an innovation I came up with and it may or may not work.
Box 1 is complete. It required 2 hours to build both boxes and clean the shop. We took our time and enjoyed a cookie break in the middle. Michelle will be staining the boxes then planting her garden. Perhaps I will add pictures when she finishes.
Michelle tested the design on my truck. Of course she piped up with this snarky comment, “You might be a redneck if your truck has planter boxes.”
Jeff Foxworthy, feel free to use that one if you like.