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How to make a picnic table
Free do-it-yourself plans
choose a size

How much wood you will need, what angles to cut, what type of connectors to use, and virtualy everything else you need to know to make a picnic table of the size you choose.
These plans are for a 6' by 5' picnic table, 2'  4" tall.  
There are many picnic table sizes here to choose from. You may select dimensions for the picnic table, then click the Get Plans button:

Length
Width
Height

top view
          
     
front view
 
end view

Parts List

  • 13 table top / seat 2x4 boards 72" long.
  • 2 table support 2x4 boards 25" long. Cut 2" off bottom corners.
  • 2 seat support 2x4 boards 59" long. Cut 2" off bottom corners.
  • 4 legs 2x4's 37 " long. Cut 2 " off opposite corners.
  • 1 table cleat 2x4 board 25" long. Cut 1" off bottom corners on the wide edges.
  • 2 seat cleat 2x4 boards 10" long. Cut 1" off bottom corners of the wide edges.
  • 2 brace 2x4 boards 27 " long. Cut " off opposite corners of the wide edges.

Lumber Needed

Get 18 boards (8' long 2x4's) to cut the pieces for this picnic table.
And maybe a couple extra just in case.

board #1: cut 72", 10", and 10"
board #2: cut 72"
board #3: cut 72"
board #4: cut 72"
board #5: cut 72"
board #6: cut 72"
board #7: cut 72"
board #8: cut 72"
board #9: cut 72"
board #10: cut 72"
board #11: cut 72"
board #12: cut 72"
board #13: cut 72"
board #14: cut 25", 25", and 37 "
board #15: cut 59", and 25"
board #16: cut 59", and 27 "
board #17: cut 37 ", and 37 "
board #18: cut 37 ", and 27 "

Hardware Needed

56 nails 3" long.
42 nails 2 " long.
12 bolts " diameter 3 " long.
12 nuts to fit the bolts.
24 washers to fit the bolts.
or only 12 washers if you use carriage bolts.

All of these connectors should be
Hot-Dip Galvanized or some
other rust-resistant kind.

 

Tools Needed

tape measure
square
pencil
saw
drill
hammer
sander
extension cord
nut drivers
socket set

The saw should be a compound
sliding mitre saw if at all possible.
Building a picnic table is your
perfect reason to buy one.
It is small enough to take outside, and
it can cut through a 2x4 in one second.


Tips for Quality

When choosing lumber for your picnic table you can check for warping, bowing and twisting by holding one end of the board near your eye and looking down the length of the board. Also check for cracks, splits and excessive printing.

 
Pressure treated lumber may not be the best choice for picnic tables, because it allows the toxic chemicals in pressure treated wood to be in contact with people and food.

 
Before marking the angles to be cut for legs, select the nicer looking side of the piece to be showing toward that end of the picnic table, keeping in mind that you need two legs angled left and two right.
 
Also line up the end grain for the cleat pieces this way before marking the angles to cut. This allows better water drainage as the wood ages, because the endgrain tends to straighten with age. So this way the edges of the boards will age downward not up.
 
During assembly when you are selecting which side of the seat boards and table top boards will be up, the cupping of their end-grain should also be this way. However if you have boards with a noticeably bad looking side and you are not going to paint over it, then by all means put the good looking side up.

 
The wood of the picnic table should be given a protective finish, either water sealer, wood oil, varnish, paint, or something to protect it from rain, snow, moisture, rot, mold, bugs, etc. After all the pieces are cut, you can sand the rough edges and give each piece a coat of finish. And apply the second coat after assembly.


Assembly Instructions

The table supports are the two matching 25" pieces, one for each end of the picnic table. The long edge is the top. On the top edge of both table supports draw marks 5" and 9 " from each end, that will help position the legs.
 
Make similar marks on the long top edge of the two matching 59" seat supports 12 " and 17" from each end, where the legs will line up with them.

 
On the patio or floor beside a wall or other straight object, Lay one 59" seat support flat on the floor parallel to the wall 11 " from it, with the short edge toward the wall. The top of the seat support will be 15 " from the wall. Lay one 25" table support flat on the floor parallel to the wall 23" from the wall, with the short edge toward the wall. Center the table support along the length of the seat support. The top edge of the table support is 26 " from the wall.

Position two legs over those two boards guided by the marks. Note that the following alignment is more important than these marks.Once you have the table support centered and the legs in position, measure from corner to corner to verify. From the foot to the end of the table support will be around 44 ". The important part is for the two diagonal measurements to be equal.

 
Likewise the diagonals from foot to seat support ends will be around 66 ", and must match each other. Also the 12 " of seat support extending past each leg is needed to fit the seat boards on later.
 
On each board, draw lines where the other boards cross it. Drill two " holes for bolts, along the long diagonal line of each of the two seat support joints.
 
Drill one " hole for a bolt, in the center of each of the two table support joints.
 
With carriage bolts you just use one washer before the nut. For regular bolts put a washer on the bolt first, then the bolt through the wood, then another washer and the nut. The bolts go through the horizontal boards first then the legs. The nut goes on the leg side of the joint. (That way the nut will be at the inner side of the finished table.) Assemble the end unit with 6 bolts fairly snug but not too tight at this time.
 
Lay the end unit down flat with the legs on the top side this time. Recheck diagonal measurements and make a final adjustment if necessary. When the length of the diagonals match (from each foot to the opposite corner of the table support), tighten down all the nuts and then nail the joints. Put two 2 " nails in each joint. Assemble the other end the same way.
 
See if you can get a couple of helpers for this part to hold the end units up. Stand up the end units. The legs should be facing together. The outer sides are the sides with the table supports & seat supports. Lay the 6 seat boards where they go, 3 for each seat. Line up seat boards with 9" at the end of each board overhanging past the seat supports, and for the outermost seat boards, the back edge goes " past the end of the seat supports. There should be " gaps between the 2x4's of the seat. Nail them on with two 3" nails per joint.
 
Lay the 7 table top boards where they go. Line them up with 9" overhang at each end. Spread them out equally with about " gaps between them. The edge of the two outer 2x4's should be about " past the ends of the table supports. Mark where they go, as the hammering will shake them around. Line up each 2x4 to its mark as you nail it down with two 3" nails per joint.
 
Turn the table upside down. A seat cleat lays flat (not on edge) under the middle of each seat. It ties the 3 long boards together in the middle. Nail the seat cleats to the center of each seat with 2 " nails. Nail the table cleat to the center of the table top with 2 " nails.
 
Nail on the end braces. They go from under the center of the table to the middle of the end units.
 
Check for any exposed nail points, and hammer them over so they will not catch or scratch anyone.
 
Sand the rough edges, and apply the finish as desired.

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