Make your own Concrete Garden Boxes! Build the forms and cast your own concrete panels that join together to make long lasting and durable garden boxes. This is Part 1 of this mini-series and the 4th version of the forms and panels.
I’ve been thinking about the design of the form for the concrete garden box panels I’ve been casting. I want the forms to be easier, and faster to build, especially for those with little or no woodworking experience or tools. And I also want the casting process to be easier. And I think I got it with this new version of the forms.
Background for the SUPER Simple Concrete Garden Box Project – PART 1
(this is a transcript from the video)
The concrete garden panel forms I’ll be making today are about as simple as I can design them. They still create a great panel that is long lasting and rot proof for your raised garden beds. And they still link together and can be be arranged in a number of shapes and sizes.
And these can also be stacked to make taller beds.
You won’t need a lot of tools to make these new simplified forms. Only a few hand tools and a drill. I’m taking things right down to the basics here, to show you the bare minimum you need to do build the forms and cast the concrete panels. You won’t need a table saw, or a drill press, or any other power tools.
I have a new set of plans and have them available for download. These plans will also have a more detailed list of materials and step by step instructions.
This will be a detailed tutorial. So if you are an experienced woodworker then maybe this video is not for you. But, I’ll be trying some new ideas here that can also be applied to the other forms I’ve designed.
So here’s how these new simplified forms go together:
jump down to the Cost Breakdown section below
The base is made from a 2 by 10 and acts as the bottom of the form and the support for the 1 by 4 walls.
Each end is assembled from three pieces with the middle piece having a hole to support a pipe.
The sides have a hole for the other end of the pipe.
The pipe is PVC plastic and forms the holes in the casting.
Once hardened, the pipes are slid out of the casting through the sidewalls.
The form is turned over and the casting removed.
Make the BASE
If you’re at all intimidated by woodworking — don’t worry, I’ll go through everything you need to do.
The lumber for these simplified forms are all standard sizes and can be bought at any big box hardware store or lumberyard. Look for boards that are straight and flat without any twist or any cracks — and few if any knots. Try to select the best ones you can find even if you have to sort through a pile.
Good lumber will make everything easier so it’s worth it to be fussy here. I’ll look at the condition of the end of the 2 by 10 and 1 by 4.
I want to avoid any cracks.
I also want to check the width of the board. It should be 9-1/4″.
And I’ll check if the ends are cut square. If so, then I’ll take advantage of that for one end of the base.
I’ll make a point 4-5/8″ from one side. This marks the center line of the board.
With my square on the end, I’ll draw a line in a couple of inches.
I’ll try to indicate metric equivalents where possible. The plans have dimensions in both inches and millimeters.
I’ll make another mark two inches in from the corner and draw a line with the square.
This is the corner I’ll be removing.
I also trace these lines around each edge to the other side. This will help me check that I’m sawing straight and square.
To make the base I’ll be using two hand saws, a regular saw and a finer tooth stiff-back miter saw, a pencil or a pen, a measuring tape, and a 12-inch combination square.
From an eight foot two by ten, two eight foot one by fours, and a four foot length of three-eighths pipe, you can build two 36 inch forms.
I support the board over sawhorses. You could use some chairs for this as well.
I use the fine miter saw to make the first cut two inches in from the end of the board. Part way through these cuts you can stop and turn the board over to see how you’re doing. And to make some adjustments as you go.
I’ll start the other cut with my miter saw it has a stiffer blade and it’s easier to get off to a good start with.
The 36 inch panel I believe is the most versatile size for a garden bed but, you can make the panel’s any length you like.
With the larger handsaw I finished the cut to remove this corner.
I checked these cuts with my square. And they looked okay.
Next, I’ll measure 36 inches from the end and mark around the board with pen and square.
I marked this side of the board as the “bottom” then cut the board along this line. Then mark the cutout on the opposite corner.
And as before, make these two cuts.I checked these cuts with the square and use some medium grit sandpaper, wrapped around a block of wood, to fix any cuts that were not so straight or square. Don’t over worry much, just try to follow your lines as best you can.
Make the SIDES
Now that we have the base done we’re gonna cut the sidewalls from an 8-foot one by four, and here’s what we need to do that.
A miter box and a miter saw, a drill, and if you have one a driver (but a drill is probably all you need), Phillips screwdriver, three drill bits: 1/2″, 3/16″, 1/8″, some wood glue, and a bit of medium to coarse sandpaper. Two sizes of screws: drywall screws: #6 1-5/8″ and a #7 1-1/2″ pocket, or cabinet screws, flathead. And we’re going to use a tape measure, a square, a drill block, a pen or pencil, and a scrap piece of wood.
From the plans we’re gonna make all the cuts for the side walls and for the end assembly pieces. We’ll need two of each. What I want to do is with my miter saw screwed to the workbench, I’ll check the end of this 1 x 4 to see if it is square.
If it’s square then I can use that end.
I’ll mark the first cuts. Both the side walls are 35 1/2″ and I’m going to mark and cut one at a time.
This particular miter box has these little pegs here to help hold the workpiece while I’m cutting. Which is kind of handy. I know it’s a little bit of a flimsy box but for this type of project it’ll do just fine.
I marked my line 35-1/2″ and I want to cut on the right side of that line. And then what I’ve been doing just a little bit of a little sandpaper you have that on a sanding block that works for you.
That’s the first and then we’ll take another 35-1/2″ and then we’ll have our side walls for our first form.
Cut END ASSEMBLY pieces
Then it’s a matter of taking what’s left from the 1×4 and cutting the parts for making up the end assembly. So there would be six parts altogether.
Drill HOLES in SIDES and ENDS
Now we’re going to drill the holes for the dowels(pipes) in parts D and in the end walls so the first thing to do is lay those out with the measurements.
We know that we’re coming down one inch and then on the D parts one and three-quarters in on the sidewalls. Also one and three quarters from the other end.
This is going to be a half inch hole I’ve got a half inch bit in my drill.
And the little drill block that I have by Milescraft this is really handy. This is basically replacing a drill press for us.
It has holes going from 1/2″ down to 1/8″ which is perfect for us. And also it has these small alignment grooves that’ll help us position our drill block exactly where we need it to drill exactly in the center of that hole.
So I don’t drill into my workbench, I’ve got a scrap piece of lumber for this. I just kind of sight down that and basically just hold it in place and go nice and easy.
Drill assembly PILOT HOLES
Now I’m going to lay out the locations of the pilot holes to make up the end wall assembly as well as where they will attach to the base.
So let’s start with Part D and I know that D I’m going to come in a 3/8 of an inch down the side and 3/4 of an inch from the top and the bottom.
I can set this ahead of time to my 3/8 mark and then I can use this a scrap piece here as a 3/4 inch marker for parts D here so I know I’m going to be coming down on D 3/4 of an inch and 3/4 of an inch up from the bottom and then D’s going to attach on this side 3/8 in.
I have the spots marked for the pilot holes because D is going to go together with Part C and II like to make an end wall assembly like this so I’m going to need to drill pilot holes to go through this direction as well as pilot holes for screws that are coming in this direction here so it’s a matter of just laying out those holes.
And with 1/8 bit just drill in the pilot holes. Now the drill block also has a 1/8 inch guide here but I think for this size a hole and what it’s doing here just free-handing these would be fine.
So that’s going to put the screw right in the center of the other piece.
All right so that’s D and then with let’s say Part E when I look at that one I only have one that I need to worry about and it’s the screw that’s going to hold it through the bottom wall into a piece like this which would be the base and that one is 3/4 inch up from the bottom. And somewhere in the center the pilot hole for each.
Now I’ll do the pilot holes for the sidewalls and 3/8 in from the sides. Okay and we’ll do the same with the other side wall.
Assemble the END WALLS
Here’s where we’re going to assemble the end wall pieces together and we’re going to use some #6 1-5/8″ drywall screws put them together with and a little bit of wood glue.
If you’ve got some exterior wood glue that would probably be preferable but I think any wood glue would probably be fine.
Use our miter box to help hold some of the pieces together. What I like to do is to just visualize how it’s going to go. So I’ve got my Part B here part and D there and then I’ve got my Part C like that and then what I like to do is where D and E meet I’m going to put two double lines like that and then where Part C and D meet I’m just going to put a single line across that so when I’m moving pieces around to put it together then it’s easy for me to figure out okay which piece was from where right so then I know that these two were meant to go together like this.
What I do is I’m going to hold those pieces and I’m going to use the miter box to help hold it square use my 1/8 bit and just go slightly in two part what is it part E you see just two little starter holes there and I can apply a little bit of wood glue.
Again use these alignment marks to help me remember which way it went take a couple of these little drywall screws and just start them in the pilot holes from Part D.
I’m going to snug those and then I’m gonna check with my fingers to see how this is aligned. It looks pretty good so then I’m going to snug them a little bit tighter by hand. Just so they’re flush with the surface.
And then Part C is going to go like that so again to just hold it in place through the pilot holes into Part C and a little bit of wood glue.
Set them back in place start the screws check for alignment here and then finish tightening by hand.
I like to do it by hand so then I can kind of get a feel if I’m starting to split any of the wood.
All the main components are made now it’s time to test fit and assemble the form for the first time. We’re going to start with the ends.
Set them in place basically you want to see how they fit and we want to make sure it doesn’t extend anywhere past here.
Make sure that it fits nicely in the corners as well.
Then we’re going to run screws in through these two sections right there. I’ll use pocket hole or flat head cabinet screws here. These are 1-1/2″. They’re #7 so we can just start those now we’ll go down to the other end to put the other end. Now test fit this other end see how it fits in the corner.
It doesn’t extend past here. This board must be slightly more than nine and a quarter. So we’ve got a little bit we’re gonna have a little bit of gap when this comes together in this corner but that’s no problem.
Ookay I messed up these a little bit. I put D the wrong way around on both of these ends so the glue wasn’t completely set up so I just pulled the screws out, flip this around and put it back together.Now the holes line up properly.
Now let’s just attach the sidewalls, we need to line this edge up to here.
I’ll run in just one screw right now to hold this in place into these ends.
And some screws in here and do the same on this side starting at this edge here because I want these to line up.
We want to see if they can line up. Sometimes they’re a little bit tight and we need to open up this hole a little bit with the half-inch bit.
We’ll just make it a little bit bigger and then we’ll see how this fits.
This lines up pretty well but it’s a little bit snug so I’m going to do the same.
Last thing to do is to label the parts so we can assemble it exactly the same again. This is my second form so it’s going to be labelled “B”.
Apply MINERAL OIL
Now that we know that it fits well together we have all the parts labeled, looks like the holes are aligned properly now we’ll take it apart and coat it with mineral oil.
You can buy “Butcher’s Block” oil for these. Or straight food grade mineral oil a bit cheaper in pharmacies.
It’s very fast to apply. Just smear it on and let it soak in. Two coats will do.
This is a continuation of my series on making these concrete garden box panels.
In the first video I made the forms from plywood. In the second I simplified the design to make the forms easier to build. In third video I cast the panels with lightweight concrete. And in Part 4 I made them thinner using CSA Concrete.
The construction materials total is for making two 36″ forms
(1) 2×10 @ 8 ft = $8.75
(2) 1×4 @ 8 ft = $8.66
(1) 3/8″ water pipe @ 5 ft = $2.25
So for 1 form the total materials to build it is: $9.83
The additional materials to complete the forms
Wood Glue 16oz (473ml) $6.00
Latex Caulking small tube 5.5oz (162ml) $2.47
Mineral oil (Butcher’s Block Oil) 17oz (500ml) $15.00
PAM Cooking Spray 6oz (170g) $3.97
The glue, caulking, mineral oil, and cooking spray are enough for maybe 6 forms so I have estimated the cost for one form to be: $4.57
(1) bag of any ready-mix concrete
I used 66lb (30kg) bags @ $6.08 each
This is more than required so there could be more savings to be had when pouring bigger batches. The Cement Dye I used was optional so not added here.
So, to make one panel the cost is $6.08
Minimum Tools Required
Woodworking Tools I used
DeWalt 20V MAX Compact Drill/Driver set $200.00
Miter Box & Saw Set $19.95
Hand Saw $20.00
Drill Block $13.00
Drill Bit Set $24.00
#2 Phillips Screwdriver $5.00
Sandpaper $5.00 (3 sheets)
12″ Combo Square $20.00
Framing Square $20.00
Small Spirit Level $2.97
Measuring Tape $6.00
Driver Bit Set $20.00
Wood or Rubber Mallet $8.00
Mixing Bin $7.68
There’s some real opportunities to save money on tools if you shop around. Or even to borrow some. And, there are cheaper drill/driver combo sets available that would work just fine.
Drywall Screws #6 1-5/8″ $4.45 (100 pieces)
Pan Head Screws #7 1-1/2″ $8.91 (250)
Galvanized Framing Spikes 12″ $0.99 each
So I hope you have enjoyed this post, and thank you so much for reading. If I make any further improvements or changes I’ll post them here.
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- Dewalt 20V MAX Compact Drill/Driver set
- Dewalt 20V Battery Charger
- Excellent Hammer
- Miter Box & Saw Set
- Hand Saw
- Drill Block
- Screwdriver Set
- Sanding Blocks
- 12″ Combo Square
- Framing Square
- Johnson Speed Square (optional)
- Irwin Tool Quick-Grip Clamp Set (optional)
- Small Spirit Level
- Measuring Tape
- Driver Bit Set
Concrete Tools & Additives
- Flat Margin Trowel (optional)
- Flat Trowel (optional)
- Edger (optional)
- Cement Dye
- Wooden Mallet
- Mixing Bin
- Cooking Spray
- Latex Caulking
- Drywall Screws #6 1-5/8″
- Pan Head Screws #7 1-1/2″
- Galvanized Framing Spikes 12″
Adhesive & Finish