Woodworking Made Simple with Decking Offcuts
Seven Useful and Simple DIY Projects with Decking offcuts
Do you find the idea of woodworking daunting, if so then perhaps these simple ideas with just a few basic tools and nothing but offcuts leftover from decking may help to give you some inspiration and confidence to try something similar.
In these seven simple to make woodworking projects below I've used decking but any bits of scrap wood or offcuts would do and with a bit of imagination be turned into something creative, artistic and functional.
Why Decking and What Tools You Need
One Step at a Time
The only tools and material you need for the simple woodworking projects are:-
- Tape Measure
- Saw (suitable hand saw e.g. tenon saw, crosscut or rip saw, or a suitable electric saw)
- Screws and Nails
- Wood Glue
- Wooden planking e.g. decking or floorboards etc.
- Optionally a bradle and drill may also be handy
The reason I chose decking for these projects is because they were spare decking and offcuts (from a couple of decking projects), decking that most people would normally throw in the skip or burn; but with a bit of imagination they can be a valuable source material for many simple and easy to do projects other than decking.
The bonus of working with decking for simple woodworking projects is that it's easy to work with, durable, strong and weather resistant (softwood being pressure treated) so will last for years outside when exposed to the elements. I could just as easily have used floorboards for these projects except it wouldn't be pressure treated and therefore for outside projects would be prone to rot quickly.
The Seven Easy to Make Woodworking Projects Illustrated in This Article
Using Decking Offcuts
- Compost Bin
- BBQ Table Tops
- Recycle Bin
- Raised Bed Planters
- Greenhouse Shelving
- Cat Scratching Post
I hope these simple projects give confidence and stimulate ideas for others to follow and try. I'm sure with some thought there are other simple projects you can think of that would put odd bits of spare leftover decking to good use rather than just wasting it in the skip or on the bonfire.
For the Wheelbarrow
Steps and wheelbarrows don't mix, if you have raised elevations in your garden and decking where there are steps rather than slopes and you occasionally need to traverse them with the wheelbarrow then some form of temporary removable ramp can be invaluable. If it's a series of steps then a plank of wood with battens screwed to the back at regular intervals to match the spacing of the steps (lining up with the leading edge of each step) to act as a step grip and stop the board from slipping is the simplest safe solution. And as it would be a temporary structure that's only used occasional it's not going to be outside long enough to rot and could be made from old floorboards; and stored in your shed when not in use.
However, for this project I just needed a couple of simple removable ramps for wheelbarrow access to the decking around the side of the house to gain access with the wheelbarrow between the front and back gardens. And using a few bits of decking offcuts was ideal, very fitting for the job; and being so small can easily sit in one corner of my shed out of the way without taking up any real space.
Making these ramps is the simplest of all jobs that requires few tools and doesn't require any real woodworking skills; and they can be knocked up within the hour.
As can be seen from the image below all that's required for each ramp is:-
- Cut two identical right-angle triangles where the shortest side is equal to the height of the decking above the ground less the thickness of the wood you're using to make the ramp. To cut the two triangles in one go cut your wood to length and then cut it diagonally across from corner to corner. Alternatively, if you cut them individually you should use the first right-angle triangle you cut as a template to cut the second one.
- Cut two lengths of timber equal to the length of the longest side of your triangles.
- Cut a piece of timber that's less than the width of your ramp deducting twice the thickness of the timber you're using and any overhang you may want e.g. if using decking offcuts of 5 inches by 1 inch (125mm x 25mm) then the width of your ramp will be 10 inches (250mm). So the piece you want to cut is 7 inches (175mm); 10 inches less 3 inches e.g. double the thickness of the decking and allowing inch overhang either side.
- Cut this 7 inch (175mm) piece of timber in half lengthways to use as support battens at the back and underside near the front; as shown in the image below.
- Screw and glue the pieces together (or nail and glue) using the picture below as a guide; and once the glue is set your ramps are ready for use.
Making Ramps From Decking - Step by Step GuideClick thumbnail to view full-size
2. Corner Compost Bin
Front Slats for Garden Compost Bin
This may be the simplest of all the projects here, using decking offcuts as slats for the front of a garden compost bin.
If you have an odd corner in your garden that you would like to use for composting some of your garden waste then quite often all that's needed are a few slats in the front to create a triangular space behind which you can put your garden waste during the summer months and then the following spring you can lift the slats to reveal freshly made compost for your garden.
Making a compost bin of this type requires slats because as the compost builds up its weight presses against the front and if you used one piece of wood, such as a sheet of exterior plywood, you wouldn't be able to lift it out to gain access to your compost. Previously I did use exterior plywood, but I cut it into strips specifically so that I could remove one slat at a time, working from top to bottom, when accessing the compost. However, following a decking project I had some bits of decking leftover which when cut to length served the same purpose but aesthetically looked at lot better. And decking is ideal for this type of project because it's pressure treated and will last for years.
In a corner construction like this all that's required to hold the slats in place are a couple of posts or battens (if fixing to a wall) on either side with a gap between the posts (or battens) slightly wider than the thickness of the wooden slats to act channel to slide the slats in. The width of the channels should be quite generous allowing up to an extra inch (12mm) leeway for expansion as the wood expands otherwise as the wood swells it may become lodged in the channels and difficult to shift when you come to remove the slats to gain access to your compost.
Once you've devised some channels either side just cut the required number of decking to the same length and place in the channels as illustrated in the picture below.
3. BBQ Table Top
Jazzed up Brick BBQ
This is a fun one, transforming your Brick BBQ side table top quickly and easily with just a few decking offcuts all cut to the same length and fixed together with a couple of battens on the underside.
No skills, and few tools, are required to make this, and it can be made in less than an hour. The side BBQ table in this example is a patio slab on bricks and support against the wall on the BBQ side with a couple of metal supports. To face it, and jazz it up, with a bit of decking just requires cutting the required number of decking to the same length, slightly bigger than the patio slab (or area you wish to cover) and screw a couple of battens on the underside at either end using a few screws and some glue; a final piece of decking can be screwed to the front as a facing. The two battens acts not only holds the whole lot together but they also act as legs so if you keep the decking table in place permanently it allows for ventilation and drainage underneath thus preventing rot; although the top demonstrated here is removable so you can if you wish remove it and store it in your shed when not in use, to keep it in pristine condition.
For the battens you could use a couple of bits of decking, either full width or as shown here cut lengthways into strips.
Decking for BBQ TablesClick thumbnail to view full-size
4. Recycle Bin Made Simply
Recycled Decking to Make a Recycle Bin
As is the case in most places these days we are required to recycle most household waste, with one of the main problems being storage e.g. lack of space in the kitchen for all the recycle bins; therefore when I decked out our side passageway I bought an extra length of decking to ensure I had enough leftover specifically to knock together a simple box and lid just outside the kitchen door where all the recycle bins could be housed, as shown in the picture below.
Originally when I built this recycle bin (in the early days of recycling) all the local council gave us was a brown bin for kitchen waste, which I didn't use because we compost our own waste, and a black box for paper and card; with everything else e.g. tins, plastics, glass etc. having to be separated and put out in separate plastic carrier bags for collection. Therefore for ease of operation I made the recycle bin big enough to house my own odd assortment of plastic containers I found in my shed, and just transferred the rubbish from the containers to plastic bags on collection day.
However, after running a series of trials the council eventually issued a green box everything except glass, paper and kitchen waste (the old black box being for glass and paper) and the brown bin for kitchen waste.
When I removed my assortment of containers and put the three bins side by side in the recycle bin I'd previously made it was a perfect fit; as if I'd designed my recycle bin specifically for the bins we are now using. If I had made my recycle bin just an inch smaller in any direction then the assortment of new recycle bins issued by the local council would not have fitted.
The Making of the Recycle Bin with Lid
Anyway, this is the most ambitious of all the woodworking projects here as it's a box, and boxes need to be square. However, as a recycle bin outside its not critical if it's a little off square and is a good project as a starter to practice making boxes from wood.
Again, Decking is an ideal material to use for a project like this because the wood has already been pressure treated so even though its soft wood it's not going to rot for many years to come; and decking being a softwood is easy to work with, it's strong, durable and with groves on both sides is decorative making the box aesthetic rather than an eyesore. And because its decking, when the lid is closed, it's strong enough to stand on and therefore also double up as a convenient seat.
The construction is simple enough; in this case just a front and one side with a top plate around the other side and the back, and a hinged lid. Normally you might expect a full box with front, back and two sides, but in this case I took advantage of the recycle bin resting against the boundary wall and on one side the 'gossip step'.
You might be asking yourself what a 'gossip step' is, well because the houses in the street are built on a slight slope each property is up to three feet (900mm) lower than the next going down the street, so the boundary wall (depicted in one of the photos below) also acts as a retaining wall, with a fence on top. Therefore (as we get on with our neighbours well) in order for us to speak with our neighbours over the garden fence I built the 'gossip steps' (as you may just make out in one of the photos below).
Getting back to the recycle bin, the front is simply four pieces of decking of equal lengths fixed together with a couple pieces of decking fixed on the inside, acting as battens, in the same way as the lid is made (see images below). Five shorter pieces are all cut to the same length for the sides, the top piece cut at an angle to create a slope for better water drainage. The backing top piece is firmly screwed to the boundary wall as is the top side panel fixed to the gossip step. The front and side panel are then fixed in place using a batten (a piece of pressure treated timber) in each corner to act as corner butt joints.
If you can make something like this in your garden then you are well on the way to tackling more ambitious DIY woodworking projects.
Recycle Bins Made From DeckingClick thumbnail to view full-size
5. Raised Bed Planters
Making and Adapting Raised Beds with Decking
Making simple boxes for raised flower, vegetable beds, flower borders and patio planters with decking; the raised flower and vegetable beds and patio planters could be as simple as four sides butt jointed together with a few nails to make a rectangle or box, and raised flower border being no more than firmly screwing a few sturdy pegs to the inside of a longer piece of decking at regular intervals and knocking them deep into the ground to hold the decking firmly upright in position. Although if using decking for a flower border in this way I would recommend using thick timber for the pegs e.g. 2 inches (50mm) square minimum and that the pegs go at least 1 foot (30cm) into the ground.
I recently helped a friend to landscape his back garden for organic vegetable growing. Previously, apart from his impressive fish pond with filter bed and water feature he hadn't done much with his back garden other than cut the lawn, plant a few wild flowers and let the weeds rule between plants in his flower beds. This year, having seen the success in my garden in growing wholesome vegetables for healthy cooking and the money it saves on the shopping bill he was keen to follow suit and grow a few vegetables of his own. We started by making a small raised vegetable bed using brick blocks, then when shopping in Belgium and seeing a couple of wooden raised beds at a bargain price he caught the gardening bug and wanted to do more to grow his own vegetables. So with my help we tidied up his garden a bit and seated one of the wooden raised beds in a flower border at the end of his lawn where he could grow a selection of plants from the marrow family, including pumpkin, courgettes and marrows. The other raised bed he bought fancied having raised on legs on the lawn near his house so he wouldn't have to bend to attend to it and more importantly it would be near his kitchen so that he could just nip out and pick herbs and fresh vegetables as he was cooking.
This second wooden raised bed was quality made from pressure treated wood but as is normal with this type of bed it had no base, and of course no legs. Therefore he designed his own modifications which included adding an outer ring to the bed itself (using decking) giving small planting troughs for herbs around the outside, using decking for the base and standing it on pressure treated wood for the legs. His design left an area around the base that naturally leads itself to anther raised bed at ground level, so as shown in the photos, I suggested he completed the job by using some more decking to make an addition planter underneath.
Having completed this project he then went on and made another raised bed on legs to his own design, completely from scratch using decking for the bed and pressure treated timber for the legs.
Using Decking in the Garden - The Ideal Wood for Raised BedsClick thumbnail to view full-size
6. Greenhouse Shelving
And Staging from Decking
Although I have aluminium staging in my greenhouse with removable aluminium shelving there is space at the back of the greenhouse for a shelf, which is always useful. Previously I used just ordinary wood for the shelf but overtime with the heat and humidity it naturally warped and needed replacing so this time I replaced it with a spare bit of decking offcut I had in my shed; later if I get a longer spare piece I’ll replace it with the longer piece. Any spare decking you may have laying around in your shed would also make great shelving in your garden shed or DIY workshop.
Although I already have staging in my greenhouse if you don’t then decking would certainly be an ideal material to make one; obviously well-spaced as slats to allow good drainage but the spaces between the slats shouldn’t be so big as to allow pots to sit properly with no danger of tilting down the cracks e.g. a one inch space between slats should be about right.
7. Cat Scratching Post
For Our Maine Coon Cats
When we had our kittens a couple of years ago, brother (Greebo) and sister (Dippy) we also bought a scratching post with platform for them; which they broke last year, simply because they are half-breed Maine Coon cats (their father being a Maine Coon) and the scratching post is designed for normal size cats.
Anyone who has Maine Coon cats will know they are large and heavy, so much so that we even had to replace the cat flap last year (when Greebo started to get stuck in it) with a small dog flap; and even now Greebo only just fits through it.
Anyway, rather than throw the broken scratching post away, there was nothing wrong with it except for the broken platform, I unbolted the old platform and replaced it with a couple bits of spare decking.
To hold the decking together and firmly secure to the post I screwed and glued two battens underneath the decking one each side of the post.
The cats love it, they love having their own bit of decking which they can sit on; and most evenings they sit on it to look out through the French doors onto the garden.
What People do With Their Wood Offcuts
Do you or would you dispose of your offcuts or keep them for other DIY Projects?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Arthur Russ