Classic Wood Planter
Hide ugly duckling pots inside this handpainted mute swan.
By Eric Smith, St. Paul, Minnesota
Potted plants can live happily ever after in plastic pots, but they look much prettier when the plastic is hidden. This wooden swan planter—modeled on the distinctively-colored mute swan that ranges through the east and midwest—holds two 6-inch diameter pots and works well on a deck or porch. The bottom has openings for water to drain through, and the neck is made from two pieces laminated together for extra strength.
Don't worry if you can't draw—just enlarge the swan outline and trace or iron it onto the 1x10.
1-1x10x8' pine or cedar
1-1x4x4' pine or cedar
Exterior wood glue
1lb. 4d galvanized casing nails
6-1 5/8" exterior screws
Medium and fine grit sandpaper
White exterior stain
Exterior acrylic paints for beak (available from craft stores)
Neck: 2—3/4" x 9-1/4" x 24" (glued together and cut to shape)
Body: 2—3/4" x 9-1/4" x 24" (cut to shape)
Base: 6—3/4" x3-1/2" x 6-1/2"
Jig saw (with coping blade or smooth wood cutting blade)
Electric and/or hand sander
Cut and Assemble the Body
Cut the 1x10 into four 2' lengths. Trace or iron (ink side down, with a medium-hot iron) two body templates and one neck template onto the pieces, avoiding knots at the edges if possible. To get a flat base use the edge of the board for the bottom of the body.
To make the head, glue and clamp together two lengths of 1x10 at an angle, lining up the outline of the neck just inside the edges of the bottom 1x10. Offsetting the two pieces makes the grain pattern run in different directions, making the slender neck stronger—like plywood (a trick I remembered after I dropped my first completed planter and the head cracked off). After the glue has dried, cut the neck out. Cut slowly with a sharp jig saw blade, checking the cut at curves to make sure the blade doesn't wander off at an angle on the lower piece.
After finishing the cuts, sand all the edges so the curves are smooth and even. Use a wood rasp or belt sander if necessary for rough spots.
Cut the 1x4 crosspieces. Use a miter saw if possible, and cut all the pieces exactly the same length. Mark and cut a 1-1/4" radius on the front edges of the 1x4 that forms the base of the swan's neck, then glue and screw it to the 1x4 that holds the swan neck upright.
Mark locations for the 1x4s along the bottom edge of each body piece. Lay one side on the work table, set the 1x4s in position, then lay the other side on top. Predrill and nail the pieces together.
If the crosspieces are uneven and tippy, turn the swan upright and clamp the two sides together with a long clamp, then predrill.
Attach the Head
Check that the bottom 2-3/4" of the back of the swan's neck is flat and square, then predrill, glue and screw it to the 1x4 cradle it sits in.
Fill the nail holes on the sides with wood putty. Mask off the face if you want to paint it, then apply two coats of white exterior stain to the rest of the neck and the body, including the bottom. After the stain has completely dried, mark the different-colored areas of the face and paint the face details in with a small paint brush and acrylic hobby paint.
Now find a good spot on the deck or porch and put the swan to work.