While the origin of the Versailles planter is not entirely clear, one assumes it would have made its appearance in the elaborate palace gardens of Louis XIV. However, many of the ideas carried out at the palace were first developed by landscape architect André Le Nôtre for Louis XIV's finance minister, Nicholas Fouquet. The minister intended to erect the most splendid château in France, complete with distinguished landscaping; Vaux-le-Vicomte is one of the earliest examples of the flamboyant French baroque style. Unfortunately, Fouquet made the mistake of inviting his boss to the lavish housewarming party. Three weeks later the king had the minister arrested for embezzlement. The château was confiscated and the landscape architect was absorbed into royal service. Le Nôtre went on to design the geometric gardens at the palace and presumably a version of the planter seen here.
I built this Versailles planter out of cedar because of its affordability and weather-resistant qualities. Start by ripping (cutting parallel to the grain) and planing (smoothing) the posts and horizontal pieces to their final thickness of 2 3/4". Your lumber supplier may offer this service, or find a local woodworker to do the job.
|Posts||2 3/4" x 2 3/4" x 21||4|
|Horizontals||2 3/4" x 2 3/4" x 18||8|
|Slats||3 11/16" x 3/4" x 12 3/4"||20|
|Corner blocks||5 3/8"||4|
|Crosspieces||21 1/2" x 1 5/8" x 3/4"||8|
|Floorboards||Total area: 19 15/16" x 19 15/16" x 13/16", built with random width slats|
Cut the posts to 21" and put a 1/4" chamfer on the tops using a mitre saw set at a 45-degree angle. Saw the horizontals to size, then arrange all the 2 3/4" pieces in their proper configuration so biscuit locations can be marked. Use offcuts as spacers to determine the height of the lower horizontals from the ground. The upper horizontals sit 1 5/16" down from the top. Cut two #20 biscuit slots in each post and horizontal piece.
Dry fit the frame together, marking the inside intersections of the horizontal pieces on the posts.
Disassemble and add 1/2" to the marks on the posts; these are the start and stop points of the 3/4" grooves that accept the slats. The top and bottom horizontal pieces also get a 3/4"-wide and 1/2"-deep groove.
Cut the grooves with a 3/4" straight cutter bit in a router with a fence attached.