How to make a miniature planter

I had originally published this tutorial on my old blog back in 2007.

Materials...
4 balusters: I used the traditional balusters, made by Houseworks

1/16th " thick basswood: a small piece

A very thin dowel: I happened to have some wooden old skewers laying around. My skewers are @ 1/8" in diameter.

A square dowel @ ¼” thick

A piece of wood 1/8 to ¼” thick. I used a piece from a bag of assorted craft wood I got at a craft store or Walmart

A piece of decorative wooden trim

Wood glue

Wood putty, in case you drill your holes all the way through the baluster

A drill, I used my Dremel tool.


I began by drilling 2 holes in each of my balusters, you’ll notice one is slightly lower than the center of the block, the other hole is closer to the top of the block. This is important, or your holes will just run into each other.

Be sure your holes are centered and spaced correctly. If your holes are wrong, your dowels will look all crooked.

Try not to go all the way through the baluster when you drill your holes. If you find you’ve gone all the way through, don’t despair, just make sure you have some wood putty to fill the holes up before you paint the finished planter.

Next cut the dowels. You’ll need 2 long and 2 short. I cut the longer ones 3” long, and the shorter ones 1 1/8 “ long.

You need to give the ends of your dowels sharpened points, so that they can fit into the holes you drilled in the balusters.

At this point, some might say, well why can’t I just make the holes in the bottom of the baluster bigger, so I cen just put the whole dowel straight in? The answer to that is, if you make the tiniest mistake in the placement of your drill bit, 2 bigger holes in the bottom of those balusters will eat up the whole piece of wood. Why not use a thinner dowel? If the dowel is too thin, it’ll break more easily, and the proportions of the plant stand won’t be as pleasing.

I used an electric pencil sharpener to sharpen the ends of the 3” long dowels. I had to lift them in and out and turn them a bit, but they came out fine. You can’t stick a 1” long dowel in a pencil sharpener, so I sharpened one end of the dowel before I cut it. I found that a drum sanding attachment on my dremel worked very well to shape the other end of my 1 1/8” long piece.

Dry fit the rods in place in the holes

This shows how the rods go into the baluster block.

Now you are ready to glue the longer rods in place. Be sure you match your holes up correctly. Dab the rod points with a glue and push them into their holes. Press them in firmly, but not too hard. Lay the 2 balusters which are now attached to each other by the rod. Make sure that everything is laying down flat, with no twisting. Readjust the rod before the glue has a chance to set. Make sure everything looks straight.

Repeat this with the other 2 balusters and long rod.

Let the glue dry and set a bit.

Meanwhile, get the piece of 1/16th inch basswood.

I cut 2 pieces, each ¾” x 3 ¼”. When the glue on my balusters was set enough so I could handle them, I glued the basswood pieces to the upper parts of the balusters.

I used some small clamps to keep the basswood in place and let dry. My basswood strips turned out to be almost 1/16th” too long, which was fine. The extra bit can be sanded or cut off so that the ends of the basswood pieces are even with the baluster. Having them a bit too long is better than a bit too short. If they are too short, you have to recut new baswood strips.

Again, when gluing, be sure you keep everything straight. A jig is helpful. I still haven’t gotten around to making or buying one, so I used a carpenter’s square and a square dowel to align my pieces.

Be sure the glue on these pieces is quite dry and firm before you proceed to the next step. Look at the picture below to get a closer look at how the pieces fit together to form the box.

I cut the square dowel into 2 pieces that would fit between the balusters. They were 2 and 13/16th inches long. I glued them to the bottom of the inner side of the basswood. Clamp and let dry. Below you can see the underside of the plant stand
I then cut 2 small pieces of basswood, each ¾” x 1 and 5/16th inches. These will make up the sides of the “box”. I also cut a piece from the thicker wood, the one listed as 1/8 to ¼ inches thick. I could have used some thin basswood, but I felt the thicker wood might make the planter a bit sturdier. This thicker piece was 1 and 3/16th inches by 3 and 1/8”, and was notched in the 4 corners . This piece forms the bottom of the “box”.

Now comes the tricky part, adding the side pieces and gluing it all together.

Take one of the short dowel pieces and glue it into place at the bottom of the baluster, then carefully glue the small basswood piece into place. I held it in place for a few seconds, then gently layed it down on its side .

I slipped a piece of the thin basswood under the lower end of the legs to keep everything aligned,while the piece was laying on its side, and let it dry. I then flipped the planter over and glued the other short dowel and the other basswood piece into place and let dry.

When everything is dry and set, you can pop the thicker bottom piece into place. If it’s a bit big, just trim where needed. If it’s a bit too small it doesn’t matter, it will still hold everything together once it’s glued in place. Just apply a bit of glue everyplace where this piece touches another piece.. Let dry.

If you’ve drilled through the baluster bases, apply some wood putty.

Next you can apply some decorative trim. I had a couple of pieces to choose from, I selected the one I thought looked best.

It’s important to lay out the trim pieces carefully so they are in perfect visual balance. No cutting through a flat part on one end and a curved part on the other end.
Then cut to fit, glue and let dry. Small clamps are helpful.

Sand any rough edges with an emery board.

You are now ready to paint. I chose to use spray paint for this project. I have found, however, that if you apply a bit of acrylic artists paint to the cut edges of the wood, it’ll seal them and the spray paint will come out looking better, faster.

I dabbed a bit of white paint in a few spots and when it was dry I spray painted. I used the fast drying paint, and was able to apply a new coat every 15 minutes or so.

I did sand the flat trim surfaces slightly after the second coat had tried. I continued applying coats of paint til I was satisfied that everything was covered with an even coat of paint.

ADDING THE FLOWERS

You can place potted plants inside the stand. I have those wooden “pots” that I paint to look clay-like, however, they are a bit big. Mine are 1” tall which translated into human sized is a pretty big pot, or 1 foot high.

I decided to just “plant” the flowers into the stand.

I used a piece of the ¼” thick scrap wood I used to form the bottom of the “box”. I cut it the same size, with the notches, and painted it dark brown.

I rummaged through my flower and leaf pieces and made my selections. I had purchased a clump of tiny leaved ivy in the floral department of a craft store to use when I did the exterior of the Nuthouse. I plucked off some of the smallest leaves, then trimmed them somewhat and used them

to form the leaves of the yellow plant. Houseplants are actually tropical native plants, and quite a few, if you’ve noticed have rather large leaves, so the size of these works well for that.

I also found that if you drill holes into the wood for your flower and leaf stems, they will be more likely to stand up just the way you want them to.

When your selection is made, and the proper sized holes are drilled, dab a tiny bit of hot glue in 2 or 3 holes. The glue will melt the plastic stems if you apply it to the flower, but I’ve found that in the moments it takes to put down the glue gun and pick up the flower and place it into the hole, the glue has cooled enough so it is not a problem.
The circled areas show where the stem of the plant is less likely to melt. I had to cut the stem of the longer flower on the left. When gluing it into place, I let the glue cool a couple of seconds longer. You can also tape several fragile flower stems together with floral tape, then drill a hole big enough to hold the taped stems.

Once your plants are glued in the way you want them, you can add tiny pieces of reindeer moss underneath them, to partially obscure the painted wood and the occasional bare stems. I had originally considered using coffee grounds, but saw that the slight fluffiness and texture of the moss would suit better.

Finally I glued the piece of wood holding my completed flower arrangement in place inside the planter using wood glue.

2 comments:

  1. This is way too fancy for a beginner like me!
    What kind of drill do you use? Does a Dremel come with a drill?

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  2. My Dremel set didn't have drill bits. I had to buy a set of them, found them at a hardware store that sold attachments for Dremels and other rotary tools.
    I originally had a Craftsman brand, but my husband later bought me a cordless Dremel for Christmas. All of the little attachments are interchangeable.

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