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Build a Copper Planter Box


The absence of copper elbows and “T’s” prevents the look of a “plumbing project.”  Its design reveals the classic look of clay pots, with their rims visible above the upper rails.  The measurements can be altered to accommodate the number and size of the pots.  Keep in mind that smaller pots will require more watering.  Use ½ inch dowel in the bottom plant supports to give more strength to the floor of the planter, especially if you decide to extend its length over 24 inches.  Mount the planter on a vertical surface using 90° brackets, or place ¾ inch spacers under the back rails to set on a flat area.  The copper will weather naturally over time, but household bleach will hasten the process.  The two brass pulls are only one of the many decorative ways you can finish the post tops.  Other options are available in metal, wood or glass.


 

Supplies

  • ½” copper pipe
    • A (2) 22 ¾“ pot supports
    • B (2) 4 ½” rail supports
  • ¾” copper pipe
    • C (2) 22 ½” front rails
    • D (2) 21 ¾” back rails
    • E (4) 6 ¼” side rails
  • 1” copper pipe
    • F (2) 6 ¾” corner posts
    • G (4) ¾” copper 90° elbows
  • ½” dowel (4 ft. length)
  • ¾” dowel (1 ft. length)
  • 1” dowel (1 ft. length)
  • flux
  • solder brush
  • solder
  • fine steel wool
  • brass knobs or finals of your choice
  • brackets
 

Toolbox

  • 8” drill press, ½” chuck
  • drill
  • hack saw
  • miter box
  • clamps
  • ¼” metal drill bit
  • 5/8”  metal drill bit
  • 7/8” metal drill bit
  • propane torch
  • pipe (tube) cutter
  • metal center punch
  • masking tape
  • measuring tape
  • square
  • metal file, half round

  1. Cut to length the pieces of copper pipe using a pipe or “tube” cutter.  Due to the thickness or heavier gauge of the 1” pipe, it may be necessary to cut the lengths using a hacksaw.  Use a miter box for square cuts, and remove any burrs with a metal file.
  2. The upper and lower front and side rails of the planter need to be partially mitered at 45° at one end.  This will allow the front and side rails to come together inside the 1” front legs, leaving not cuts visible on the exterior.  Secure the lengths of pipe in a miter box, and use a hacksaw to cut the 45° pieces off; smooth rough edges with a metal files if necessary.
  3. Due to the size of the holes in the various lengths of copper, and the need to drill the rounded surface, it is important to clamp the work securely for drilling.  After marking the hold locations, use a punch to dent the copper, and drill the first hole with a ¼” drill bit.  A handheld drill may be used for this stage, but drilling the 5/8” and 7/8” holes should be done using a drill press.  After drilling the ¼” holes, locate the pieces in a drilling jig, and securely clamp and center the jig and pipe on the drill press table.  (The drilling jig is a simple channel for ¾” and 1” pipe, made with three strips of wood screwed to a wood base.  Use pieces of pipe to create the proper spacing.)  Slowly enlarge the pre-drilled ¼” holes using the 5/8” or 7/8” bit.  The 7/8” holes drilled into the 1” legs will overlap.  Remove burrs with a metal files and test the completed hole with either ½” or ¾” pipe.

Tip:  A piece of ¾” or 1” dowel, placed within the pipe to be drilled, will add some stability for the drill bit.  Using masking tape on the pipe mark the measurements.

  1. After drilling all the required holes, first clean the areas to be soldered with fine steel wool, and assemble the entire project on a flat surface protected with a piece of sheet metal.  Begin with the lower rails using masking tape to hold the project together temporally as you progress.  Use a square to ensure 90° corners, and measure to check that the top and bottom rails are parallel to each other.  Pieces of ¾” wood will lift the back rails of the planter to make soldering easier.

Tip:  Inserting lengths of ½” dowel into the two ½” copper floor support pieces will further strengthen the floor.  This is more critical if you construct a planter than 24” long.

  1. Begin soldering the project together beginning with the lower pieces.  Apply flux to the areas to be soldered with a solder brush, and remove any masking tape in the area.
  2. When the copper has cooled, you may give your project an antique appearance by wrapping it loosely with strips of rags soaked in household bleach for one or two days.  Do this outside on a protected surface.
  3. For a finishing touch, place decorative knobs or finals of your choice on top of the two front corner posts.
  4. Mount the planter to a vertical surface using brackets that suit the materials used in the application.
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