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How To Build A Picnic Table

A picnic table is a project that is relatively easy and straight forward to build. You can purchase all of the materials for it and build it in a single day. By following these simple instructions you can build a picnic table that will provide many years of service.

The picnic table detailed in these plans is a fairly large one, 28" wide (table top) and 8' long. It has two benches attached to the table. The entire unit is very stable and strong. Of course
you can modify these plans to meet your individual needs
and desires.

The choice of lumber to be used is up to you. I think pressure treated pine works fine, but if you want you can use redwood (and of course pay a premium price). 

I recommend using eight 2x4 planks for the top. You can use five 2x6's instead, but the smaller width boards will tend to "cup" less. Nail the seat board and top boards with the grain as shown in the picture below. This will ensure they cup with the concave face down, if they cup at all.

end grain orientation


Here is a list of the materials that you will need:
  • Twelve 2x4's, 8 ft long
  • Four 2x6's, 8 ft long (if you can bring home 10ft boards buy
    one 10 footer and two 8's)
  • Two 2x10's, 8 ft long
  • Sixteen 3" x 3/8" galvanized carriage bolts plus a set of
    washers and nuts for each bolt.
  • One box of 16d galvanized twisted nails

Tools required in order to build the table:

  • Tape Measure (12' recommended)
  • Claw Hammer
  • Power Drill with 3/8" bit and 3/4" spade bit
  • Carpenters Hand Saw or Circular Saw

Build the top...

First, cut a 2x4 into three pieces, each being 26" long for the cross
boards. Nail the 8 top boards to the three cross boards. Leave 1"
of overhang on each side. Attach one cross board in the middle
(at the 4 ft mark) and the other two 4" from the ends.

table top

Cut the legs...

All four legs are cut the same way using two of the 2x6's. Each leg should
be 33.5" long on each side and have an angle of 60 degrees cut at the top
and bottom ends. To get a 60 degree angle you can use a combination
square or a protractor.

Next, cut each of the remaining 2x6's to a 5 ft length for the seat stretchers.
(If you bought the 10' plank you can just cut it in half).

Putting the table together...

Place the table top upside down on the ground. Mount the legs to the
outer cross boards. The legs attach to the inside of the cross boards,
3 ? inches in from the outside of the top. Drill holes and bolt the legs
to the cross boards using two bolts for each leg.

Using bolt holesthe ? inch bit, countersink the holes for the
nuts and washers. Then, using the 3/8 inch bit,
drill the rest of the way through. The nuts should go on the inside of the legs. Since the bolts are only as wide as the wood, there will be no bolt sticking out to hit with your knee.

After attaching all four legs to the top, attach the seat stretchers. They should be positioned so that the seat will sit on them 17 inches above the ground. (refer to the photo below). Now bolt the stretchers to the legs, again using 2 bolts for each leg and countersinking the nuts and washers on the inside of the legs.

leg assembly


Diagonal Braces


While the table is still upside down, attach the diagonal braces
which you will cut from a 2x4. They should be cut with approximately
a 17 degree angle and roughly 44 inches per side (cut these to fit).
Square the legs with the top so that the braces will hold them square.
Place the braces offset from each other so you will be able to nail into
each of them from opposite sides of the center cross board. Also nail
them into the seat stretchers so that the length will hold the legs square.

Now turn the table right side up and attach two 2x4's between the
seat stretchers with nails. Nail the two 2x10 seats planks in place
on top of the seat stretchers and the 2x4 seat supports. Before nailing
them in place, measure the distances between the stretchers to ensure
that the table is square.

Finishing Up...

You can leave the table with no finish and it will weather to a light gray,
or you can apply a sealer, stain or paint if you so desire. Your picnic
table is now finished and ready to supply years of beauty and enjoyment
to your lawn and garden! You can place it under a nice shade tree where
you can sit and enjoy watching the butterflies and birds.

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