How to Build a Wooden Picnic Table

Create useful, long-lasting outdoor seating with this easy DIY project.

Finished picnic table

Picnic tables can be made for the beach, dock, backyard, or anywhere that is likely to host a barbeque or fun time.

Illustration by Roger Marshall

Content Tools

In Garden Projects: 25 Easy-to-Build Wood Structures and Ornaments (The Countryman Press, 2015), Roger Marshall provides step-by-step instructions on how to create a variety of simple DIY additions to any outdoor space. Use these project ideas to add a practical, aesthetic element to your backyard or to improve your garden production. Marshall has years of construction experience, and has developed projects that can easily be completed using materials from any local hardware store.

You can buy this book from the Capper's Farmer store: Garden Projects.

How to Build a Wooden Picnic Table 

Picnic tables are easy to make and, for the cost of the wood, give you a useful outdoor table that will last for years. The only thing I would caution with these tables is that you should not sit four or five people on one side without a similar group to balance them on the other side! I recommend using pressure-treated wood for the legs, which are in direct contact with the ground. The rest of the table can be made of regular, untreated wood. 

Time:

• 4 to 5 hours

Tools:

• Screwdriver or hammer
• Rotary or hand saw
• Large hole saw or hand keyhole saw
• Measuring tape
• Optional tools
• Table saw
• Router or dado saw

Materials:

• Nine 2 x 6-inch x 8-foot boards for tabletop and seats (Round off the outermost table top corners with a 3-inch radius saw.)
• Two 2 x 4 x 27-inch cross braces to secure the tabletop
• Four 2 x 6 x 36-inch boards for legs (You will need to cut angles at top and bottom.)
• Two 2 x 6 x 60-inch boards for seat supports (Round off the bottom outer corners with a 3-inch radius saw.)
• Two 2 x 4 x 24-inch boards for longitudinal braces
• Four 3-1/2 x 3/8-inch bolts with washers and nuts to bolt seat supports to table legs
• 2-1/2-inch #10 or #8 galvanized or ceramic-coated screws to assemble the table

Method:

1. Assemble the top. The tabletop will be 30 inches wide (actually 27-1/2 inches wide because of dimensional lumber sizes) by 8 feet long. Lay out and align five 2 x 6-inch pieces of lumber side-by-side on a flat surface and screw the 27-inch long cross braces to them. Locate the cross braces exactly 9 inches from the each end of the underside and screw them in place, as shown in Figure 11-1. (The legs will also be screwed to the inside face of these cross braces.) If you screw through the underside of the cross braces to the table top, you will not have any screw heads showing on the table top. 

2. Attach the legs. Position the legs so that the width across the top outside edges of the legs is 18 inches and the bottom outside edges is 56 inches. Make sure they’re centered. Figure 11-2 shows the table to this stage. 

3. Screw and bolt the seat supports to the legs with the top of the support exactly 14-1/2 inches from the bottom of the leg, as shown in Figure 11-3. This gives a seat height of 16 inches. Use two screws to hold each seat support to the legs and then drill and bolt the seat supports to each leg using the four 3/8-inch bolts. 

4. Install the 2 x 4-inch longitudinal braces to increase the rigidity of the legs. These are 24 inches long with a 45-degree angle on each end. They are screwed to the underside of the table and the seat support. Figure 11-4 shows the center brace from the table end.

5. Turn the table upright and screw the seats into place. Use two 2 x 6-inch x 8-foot seat pieces for each seat and position them at the outer ends of the seat supports. If you wish, you can round off the outer corners of the seats with a 3-inch radius. Figure 11-5 shows the finished table, and Figure 11-6 shows an exploded view.

Options:

You can build a mini picnic table for children as well. The table is also made of 2 x 4-inch lumber. In this case, the dimensions are: table width, 18 inches; length, 30 inches; height, 19 or 20 inches; seat height, 10 inches; length of seat support, 37 inches; tabletop cleat location, 8 inches from end of table.


Excerpted with permission from Garden Projects: 25 Easy-to-Build Wood Structures and Ornaments by Roger Marshall and published by The Countryman Press, 2015. Buy this book from our store: Garden Projects.