Building a plant stand

Back in January, I planted some herb seeds in a seed starting greenhouse, figuring it was about time I actually used the seeds I had, and I wanted more fresh herbs for cooking. By March, I was really glad I’d done that; I’ve had some greenery and useful culinary herbs all summer. However, I felt like just having these pots, and a little container of succulents I’d picked up, sitting on the floor was a little silly.

Pots of herbs and succulents sitting on the floor by the window.

By midsummer, I’d been thinking for a while that I wanted a plant stand that would accomodate the herbs I’ve been growing under it, and have space for my more ornamental plants up top. This meant being roughly a meter long, roughly a quarter of a meter deep, and probably being about a meter tall–and I was looking for a relatively simple construction. A design from IKEA stuck in my mind as almost what I wanted, but lacked a certain panache and shape that I was looking for; I decided instead to assemble my own–admittedly, partially out of a desire to play around with materials and learn something new.

Tabletop getting varnished.

For my frame, I settled on black aluminum 80/20-style extrusion (actually 20/20), and found a kit of 10 1m segments, along with brackets, screws, and T-nuts for roughly $110 on ebay. Ultimately, I found that the extrusions were all slightly over 1m in length, so since the kerf on the chop saw I had access to was just long enough, I was able to cut one piece into four 24.8cm pieces (roughly); these gave me short-side top rails and stretchers for the bottom. Then, I used four segments for uprights, two for defining the top rails of the table, and one for a stretcher at the bottom. I opted to leave one side open so there’s room for plants on the floor and easy access to their pots, which left me two segments of extrusion for whatever purpose. I’ve decided on adding a light-duty shelf–I’ve considered using some expanded aluminum sheet which I think will be suitable once it’s been cut down appropriately and I’ve filed the edges. The shelf will assist with rigidity as well, since the overall structure is fairly open and has little resistance to torque.

A secondary benefit of the lower shelf design is being able to suspend lights from it, giving some of the plants a much-needed source of additional energy. The basil and rosemary both need more than even our long PNW summers have–and they’ll need way more in the winter!

For the top I considered several materials; I had considered getting some prefinished plywood, but those are almost always pale wood, and I did have an aesthetic to maintain here. I landed on a slab of softwood from Home Depot. They had half-inch by 10” by 6’ pieces for hobby projects like this, and after applying a few rounds of stain and about five coatings of polyurethane, it’s done, and looks quite fine. I opted to only fully finish the top and sides of the table, since the bottom wasn’t going to be seen anyways. The end result is fantastic, and with some L brackets holding the top up above the frame, it’s got an industrial aesthetic that matches the look I’ve gone for with my apartment overall.

The stand, in situ.