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We were planning next steps for Michelle’s garden and for one living in a townhouse that meant finding outdoor planting space. As we shopped the home center she was quite put out with the cost of plastic planting boxes. She handed one to me and said, “Dad, we could DIY something better. What would we need to buy?”

The investment I made in her at Campbell University’s School of Business was paying a return as her management skills kicked into gear. She understood the problem and had a general solution in mind but knew to recruit competent help for the design and construction. The planting box was no longer Michelle’s problem. It was now our problem, and we needed to solve it.

But, on the fly, in the middle of the store, she expected me to design a project and figure the materials? 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 toward the checkout register wondering where the lumber guys find so many crooked trees.

The material cost for Michelle’s deck rail planting boxes turned out to be:

  • Wood – $20 (two 1”x 8”x 8’ boards, one 5/4 x 6”x8’ deck board for the bottom rails)
  • Deck screws (in stock in Dad’s shop)

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I recommend starting any shop project with a good breakfast. On building day Shawn whipped up a batch of homemade waffles constructed with an aggregate of stuff that’s good for you. Michelle approved, and especially liked Dad’s private stash of pure maple syrup.

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I had sketched a project plan so we had a starting point. Planning is critical for a team build. Someone needs to have an idea of the steps and the final objective.

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By the time the crew finished breakfast I had the shop set up.

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No plan is acceptable until management approves it. I ran my ideas by Michelle and explained what we needed to do. I assure you she was laughing at my jumbo pencil, not carpentry skills.

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Measure twice and saw once. Good advice for wood working, talking, spending money, and a host of other life situations.

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The square belonged to my Dad, and Michelle has become skilled at using it. I no longer check her measurements before cutting. Her skill level is beyond beginner, and she has earned my respect.

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We did the cutting with a circular saw since my chop saw will not cut an 8” board. Michelle tacked the boxes together with the trim gun.

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We added 2” deck screws. The coarse threads of these screws allow me to eliminate pilot holes if I crank the drill’s torque down and install slowly.

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The belt sander makes quick work of smoothing rough edges. The random orbital sander is a good choice here also.

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The boxes will sit on 2×4 deck rails and need to be anchored. I ripped 5/4 decking on the table saw to make the support rails  and used a scrap 2×4 as a guide to get the spacing correct.

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Michelle’s layout lines showed us where to drill through the bottom of the box to mount these 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 away from the house and allow excess water to drain away from the deck.

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At a leisurely pace we required 2 hours to build 2 boxes and cleanup the shop.

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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.

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Michelle personalized the boxes with stencils and Titebond wood glue. After the glue dried she applied a dark stain to make her designs really pop.

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I added a couple of 2” deck screws through the bottom supports of the boxes into the deck rail for safety.

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Doesn’t that look like a great place to sit and talk?