Suddenly succulents are everywhere, and so are planters that give them a happy home. No surprise, since succulents are so easy to take care of, don’t need much water, and will grow in the tiniest of openings.
If you have a piece of wood hanging around — this one uses a piece of black walnut I had left over from a slab table project — you can make your own planter for nearly nothing.
How to make a succulent planter
Step 1: Start with a hand plane
This piece of walnut happened to be an awkward shape and size — too short to be cut safely on a table saw and too wide to fit on my 6” jointer — so I used a hand plan to flatten it out, then I used my planer to make it parallel.
The look I was going for was the juxtaposition of raw, organic wood with refined shaping. I liked the rough, curved bark on one side and a planed, smooth edge on the other.
Step 2: Define a cavity
I made a hollowed-out rectangle to place the succulent. I started by sketching directly on the wood and using masking tape to define the edges. The opening doesn’t have to be any particular size, so I didn’t fret too much about the dimensions. I used a marking gauge and a marking knife to define the edges. Next, I used a sharp chisel in the knife lines to define them further.
Step 3: Hollow it out
The next task is similar to hollowing out a mortise. I used Forstner bits on the drill press to remove the bulk of the wood, then a mortise chisel to chop the sides.
For the bottom of the mortise, I used a chisel turned bevel down. With a few taps of the mallet, a bevel-down chisel removes wood without cutting deeper. I used paring chisels to remove the last shavings on the sides of the mortise.
Step 4: Treat the wood
Walnut is fairly resistant to water, but it would start to rot if left in contact with wet soil for a long period of time.
To seal the wood, I “painted” it with multiple coats of waterproof glue. I took time to let it soak in, especially on the end grain, and then painted on more until a thick coating formed. Ultimately I put on three coats of glue. Another way to prevent damage to the wood is to place a metal (ideally stainless steel), plastic or glass container within the mortise — which you'd obviously size to the shape of your container.
Step 5: Finish it
I gave all surfaces a good sanding with 220 grit sandpaper, rinsed the grain with water, and then sanded it again at 220.
For finish, I used several coats of a mixture of ⅔ wipe-on polyurethane and ⅓ mineral spirits, avoiding the cavity for the plant. I finished the bark as well, dabbing on the finish to let it soak in.
Finally, I installed rubber feet on the bottom with stainless steel screws so the planter would be raised up a little bit.
Step 6. Get creative
Once the glue is dry and the entire planter is finished, it's time to plant! Welcome home tiny succulent!