Friday, March 2, 2012

Mid-Century DIY: Retro Planter

Are you sick of boring, generic plant pots from big box stores?  Tired of trolling Craigslist for mid-century planters and coming up empty-handed?  How about paying over $150 for a reproduction bullet planter?

Finding retro-modern planters can be an arduous and expensive task...

... but no longer!

Today I'm going to show you how to whip one up in a matter of an afternoon and at a cost of about $16.

Bel Air Bamboo Planter (Lowes - Item #293923)
Drill Bits (1/16" and 15/64")
3x Waddell 3" Furniture Legs (Ace Hardware - Item #60536349613)
Fine Sand Paper
Danish Oil
Wood Glue

Step 1: Prep
I've chosen this particular Lowe's planter due to it's modern shape/color and bamboo construction, which should make it fairly easy to drill and work with.  Start by removing any stickers and remaining adhesive.  

Then you will need to draw drill guides onto the underside of the planter using your ruler and pencil.  I planned to attach 3 legs, and so divided the circumference of the bottom (circumference = 3.14 * diameter - Didn't know you'd be getting a math lesson here, did you?) into thirds.  Make these marks at least 1" (the radius of the leg) from the edge of the planter.

Step 2: Drilling
Now you're ready to drill baby, drill!  Using a power drill make small guide holes (I used a 1/16" bit) at the points you've marked.  Given the coiled-bamboo construction of this planter, starting off with a larger bit might result in damage, so don't get hasty and skip this step.  

Once you've made the initial guides, go back and drill out the holes with a bit slightly smaller than the bolt on the legs (I used a 15/64" bit) and clean up the piles of sawdust you've gotten everywhere.

Step 3: Preparing the Legs
Now it's time to get those legs prepped.  Start off by giving them a good sanding, but make sure not to scratch the brass ferrules.  I ended up only using a fine grade, as I'm not too picky about this sort of thing.  If you are looking for a smoother finish, start of with fine and then move on to successively smaller grit sizes until you get them to your satisfaction.

Then clean 'em up, grab a rag, and rub on a coat of Danish Oil (or your finish of choice).  Give the oil 15 minutes to soak in between coats (2 should do it) and let them dry for at least a couple hours.  

Those are some sexy legs, eh?  These things bring all kinds of possibilities to mind.

Step 4: Attaching the Legs
You're almost there!  I'd prefer to use glue in conjunction with a nut and washer to hold this thing together, but the bolt isn't long enough to fit the extra hardware so glue alone will have to do.  Dab a small amount of wood glue around the bolt on each leg, making sure to get it into the threads for extra stability.  Remember, I said a SMALL amount of glue.  We don't want a big sticky mess here.

Next, just screw the legs in and wipe up the excess (because you used too much, didn't you?  I did.).

Another little dab on the inside of the pot where the bolt penetrated should keep everything water-tight.

Step 5: Enjoy
Wait 8 hours for the adhesive to dry and BOOM, you've got yourself a swank retro-modern planter!

If you feel like changing it up, these planters come in a variety of sizes and colors, as do the legs.  I'd recommend 4 legs if you plan on using it for something tall or top-weighted, but 3 should be stable enough for most applications.

So, what'd you think?  It's not a bullet planter or architectural pottery, but pretty cool, no?  I'm considering putting together an arrangement of three in different colors and with different leg lengths to go next to the fireplace.  

Oops, I almost forgot step six...

Step 6: Gimme Some Blog Love
Head on over here, sign in (you can sign in through Facebook or other services if you don't want to make an account), and hit the "vote" button next to Mid-Century Midwest ;)


  1. Very inspirational DIY project! This turned out very nice. I may have to manufacture a couple of these to put around our store. And imagination is the only barrier to other projects these legs can be used for...

    1. Cool! If you do, I'd love to see some pictures.

  2. Now that's just totally cool! Good job!

  3. Totally Rad Idea! Great job on execution as well. Only changes I'd make are slightly longer legs (but the idea of multiples with diff. leg lengths covers that) and as much "splay" in the legs as the feet would allow.

    1. Thanks Mr Mod. That's the plan. I think that the longer legs will splay out a bit more, but I'll have to see if they have them at another Ace. The one by me is all out of legs.

  4. Swank - luv it! I'm heading to Lowe's site right now.