Imagine it's a warm summer evening, and you're sitting on your porch swing, lazily sipping on a tasty little beverage. Everything feels perfect, except for one small thing; you feel like your drink could use a sprig of fresh mint. Instead of walking inside and breaking the spell, you reach down and pluck some growing right in front of you. You throw some in your drink without missing a beat, and night continues on. This doesn't have to be a dream; it can really happen! For around 75 bucks, you can build this herb garden coffee table.
This project was/is one my favorites!
–hardwood plywood (4' x 4' sheet will be enough)
-sheet metal (24" x 48" sheet)
-self-drilling sheet metal screws (1/2")
-trowelStep One: There are a couple of different ways to start this project. I'd never worked with sheet metal and was excited to give it a try, so I started out by building the sheet metal planter part. You could just build the planter part out of wood (there is actually a post coming up that deals with that!), but at the time I thought metal would last longer. Follow the diagram, and measure and mark with a Sharpie onto the sheet metal. I used tin snips to cut. I think the sheet metal I used was an 18 gauge, so I made sure the snips I got could handle that. Leather gloves will save your hands, as the cut edges tend to be pretty sharp. I didn't think of this at the time, but you can cut sheet metal with a jigsaw. Just use a metal blade and take it slow; don't force the saw. After you have the entire pattern cut out, you're ready for the real fun part, folding it all up!
Step Two: Folding sheet metal takes patience, a bit of finesse, and technique. I had never done anything like this before, so I just made it up as I went (so you have no excuse if you've never done it before ;)). I later learned that I had actually used something pros use when bending sheet metal, called a brake. A brake is the hard edge that you bend the metal against to get a good edge. What I did was get a piece of scrap piece of hardwood plywood and screw it down over the edge I wanted to bend. Then, wearing gloves, I gently bent the piece up. See the diagram above to see the sequence I used; you sort of work your way from the inside out. I ended up having to stack a couple of pieces of scrap wood and setting the box on them so I could bend some pieces, late in the sequence. After I would bend a piece by hand, I would bang on the edges with hammer to make the bends a little more sharp. This box is going to be hidden after you install it and fill it with dirt, so it doesn't have to look perfect. The self-tapping metal screws went in easy as pie. I could have used a little shorter ones, so keep that in mind, but since they were going to be covered with dirt, it didn't matter too much that they stuck out so much. Now that I think about it, I could have screwed from the inside out; then I wouldn't have to worry about the pointy ends at all!
Step Three: Build the tabletop (see diagram above for measurements.) I painted the legs (which are 2x4s ripped in half and sanded) before installing them. As you can see above, I screwed them to a scrap piece of plywood so I could easily move them outdoors, spray paint them, then move them wherever I wanted. While the legs dried, I installed the metal box by lining it up with the hole and screwing metal screws all around the edge. I didn't worry about drilling holes in the bottom of the metal box, because I thought any excess water could drain out the seams. I painted the black lip of the garden opening with spray paint, then once that dried, I hit everything else with a semi-gloss white and three coats of poly.
Step Four: The reason I loved this project so much is because each step seemed more fun than the last. At this point you're ready to plant your herbs! I chose herbs that would go well with drinks or summery porch dinners (that leaves it bit wide open, doesn't it?). Here's what we have happening here:
-mint (chocolate and peppermint)
I put the stones in first for drainage; I'm not sure it was absolutely necessary (any horticulturalists out there?). Then I poured in some planting soil, stopping two or three inches from the edge. Then I planted the little guys. The aroma itself was worth it! I love the marriage of wood, steel, dirt, and plant life in this project. It makes this coffee table just a little more special than your average one. The fact you can make it yourself for less than a 100 bucks makes it even better! What's not to like?
I feel like the process can't always be conveyed into words and images perfectly. If you have any questions or think I left anything out, leave it the comments section, and I'll get back to you.
Credits // Author: Joshua Rhodes. Photography: Joshua Rhodes and Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with Piper from The Signature Collection