Introduction: Flat Pack for Storage Plywood Picnic Table

Picture of Flat Pack for Storage Plywood Picnic Table

These picnic tables are each made from a single sheet of plywood, take about 30 minutes to mark out, and about 1 hour to cut out. The sanding and painting is down to the individual, so I'll not quote any times for these two processes, but I have finished mine with a combination of wood preserver on the undersides and gloss paint on the topsides .

A short video of me assembling and disassembling one of my picnic tables:

You will need a copy of the plans, which you can download and save from here:

To mark out the plywood, you'll need: a rule or tape measure, a pencil, a square, and a straight edge of about 4 feet long, or slightly longer; a planed 4 X 1 piece of timber just over 4 feet long, or a length of steel are ideal.

I have used a cordless jigsaw for the rounded cuts, and cordless circular saw for the long straight cuts, but a jigsaw will be more than adequate for all the cutting requirements.

Pay close attention to the plans, as they follow both a Centre Line set of dimensions, and Accumulated dimensions from the bottom edge of the sheet of plywood. The only really tricky part of the plans and the dimensioning is ensuring that you follow the accumulated dimensions correctly and mark out accurately.

Note: I have used 18 mm thick shuttering plywood rather than the recommended 1" thick plywood: so if you follow my lead here, you'll need to reduce the joint let ins from 1" to 18 mm.

Step 1:

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As previously mentioned, I used a cordless circular saw for the long straight cuts, and a cordless Jigsaw for the detailing cuts.

You will obtain a good quality of cut if you use a jigsaw blade that cuts on both the up stroke and the down stroke.

Step 2: The Cutting Order.

Picture of The Cutting Order.

Start by cutting in this order; if you begin with the long straight cuts, it will reduce the sections of plywood to a more manageable size:

1) Cut out the table top.

2) Cut out  the seat supports

3) Cut out the seat tops

Step 3: Cutting the Detailling

Picture of Cutting the Detailling

I found that it was a lot easier to start the detail cutting at this stage, as the table top, seat supports and seat tops were now separated from the main sheet.

When these are done you can begin cutting all the curved detailing  for the table ends and centre support on the remainder of the sheet; it is easier to do this now before you cut these components from the sheet. 

Step 4:

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Then cut the main central support from the sheet, followed by the table ends.

Step 5: This Step Is Optional:

Picture of This Step Is Optional:

Cutting out additional hand grip points is optional; only 2 of my 6 picnic tables have these additional hand grips in the table ends.

In my opinion they are not necessary near the top of the table end, but would be better placed lower down the panel.

I have used a 2 inch diameter holesaw and a jigsaw to cut out the hand grips.

Step 6: Time to Cut Out the Slip Joints

Picture of Time to Cut Out the Slip Joints

Now it is time to cut out the assembly slip joints. As previously mentioned I have used a sheet of 18 mm thick plywood to make my picnic tables, so I have to cut the joints to suit.

Step 7:

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I have not shown the carrying bracket that is on the original plans; I found this awkward and cumbersome to use, so I now use a couple of webbing straps with a clam action clasp to keep the table components together when they are being handled and stored.

Here is a link to the additional instructable on how to make the additional feet for the picnic tables shown in the photo:

I painted two of my six  tables bright yellow to use at the many shows and festivals that we attend, but that was a mistake as it attracts many flying insects. We now have them painted a more subdued  gloss Yellow (Ral 1028) which does not attract the insects. The Cargo Cycles logo and contact details have been applied to the table top, which has turned out to be a rather good way of making the public aware of my business .All six flat pack plywood picnic tables and two 25 X 10 marquees fit into the back of one of our electric assist Pedi-vans with room to spare .... a great way to haul stuff around the on the show grounds and festival sites.


Trisha65 made it! (author)2016-04-04

I made this for when my grandchildren visit. I made the mistake of using pressure treated wood since I was going to have it outside year round. Being in Georgia, even though the wood was cured, sealed and stained there were problems with warping and cracking of the table top and bench tops. I do love it but will be making some alterations for the next build.

JohnG253 (author)2016-03-25

I made half a dozen of these tables for my local Scout group about 13 years ago. I found that, no matter how careful I was, I always had some breakout with the ply so I ended up chewing the cutting of the main parts & finishing off with a router to put a nice smooth, rounded edge on everything. I also scaled everything up slightly. The base I constructed from 18mm ply (for strength) and the top/seats came from sheets of 12mm ply to cut down the weight. Since the top is the only piece carried separately, I added a handy waste bin holder - cutting 2 holes with a large hole saw, just touching each other. These were then made into 1 large hole with the jigsaw. A couple of small scraps of wood were then screwed to the underside to hold the handles of a carrier bag. All waste spilled on the table was then easily pushed into the opening. I also made some of these to use in the camp kitchen since they are VERY portable / sturdy / stable. Finishing them off with plenty of varnish to make them long lasting & easy to clean.

The table used for the hot water urn had to be easy to level. This was accomplished by making 4 squares (feet), attaching them to 12" uprights with hinges (so they would take up less room when transporting) and utilising some simple pegs through holes drilled in the legs & uprights.

These tables went with us on dozens of camps and survived far, far longer than any of the professional kit they bought - and the beauty of this design - if you break it, it's easy to perform an emergency mend (wood glue is very strong) and easy to cut a new piece.

Gareth0123 (author)JohnG2532016-03-25

Yes, the plans for these plywood picnic tables have been around for a very long time. We even had these tables when I was in the 4th Melton Mowbray Darwin cub scout pack some 45 years ago, and the plans probably pre-date me at 54 years old by at least another 10 years:

Using the the fine "double cut" jig-saw blades that cut on both the up and down strokes as shown in the main Instructable does considerably reduce the chance of breakout

pneumatist made it! (author)2015-08-30

Thanks for the plans. We are having fun, aren't we?

Gareth0123 (author)pneumatist 2016-02-26

I love that! and you even made the feet to go with your table.

MarkSindone (author)2016-02-26

I have always loved DIY furniture pieces which are low cost and easy or convenient enough to make. This is because when I need to move out to a new location, I can just simply leave my current furniture pieces behind or dispose them off as they are not expensive and I can just build new ones upon arriving at the new house. This concept really helps me in making house move easier and saves time and effort.

BartholomewH (author)2015-05-27

Lovely flat pack project!
Among my favorite knock down fittings here!
Cheers mate!

PasadenaMom (author)2015-03-30

So my neighbor gave me this for my sons.. I plan to sand and paint.. But, what is the little base thingy made of? I don't have that...

Gareth0123 (author)PasadenaMom2015-03-30

I assume that you mean the additional feet mentioned in step number 7. There is a link to a separate instrcutables for them included in step number 7.

Here is that same link;

woodbox (author)2014-11-02

Hello, Gareth!

Using your idea, I made a drawing of such a table to cut it on the CNC

Download drawing can be here

Gareth0123 (author)2014-09-20

Plan download to print off.

davidags (author)2014-04-18

hi do you have actual size on cad (dxf file ) very nice plans

orindentonhiggins (author)2014-04-14

Lol...the new link wasn't it is....I love the internet!! Problem solved!

orindentonhiggins (author)2014-04-14

I cannot find the plans on the link provided. Can anyone assist?

Gareth0123 made it! (author)2014-04-10

Here is new working (April 2014) link to the PDF plans for this project:

vandykee (author)2014-02-02

Long time DIYer; first time commenting here. I knocked this project out in two weekends: one to (go to the hardware store and) mark out and cut, one to rout the edges and paint.

They say that you can pick two out of these three: better/faster/cheaper. I chose faster and cheaper, without caring much about looks. I predrilled 3/8" wherever I had to change the jigsaw direction, then hacked some pretty unstraight lines. >_<

I used a roundover bit in a handheld router on all the edges and a quick run of the palm sander just so it would take paint. Going for speed, I slapped 3/4 of a quart of primer on the pieces, then 8 oz of clear polyurethane (1 coat) and called it done.

When assembled it's got an obvious wobble due to my rough/wide jigsaw work. I knocked a wood shim in the worst gap (where the three base pieces overlap), and it's good enough for a camp kitchen. It's white and far from perfect but it should last me through a couple camping trips.

EcoExpatMike made it! (author)2014-02-02

My god daughter posing on the unpainted table. And then the completed version painted blue and green...

EcoExpatMike (author)2014-01-20

A pic of the one I built here in the Philippines with my niece testing it out...

EcoExpatMike (author)2013-12-11

I just built one of these and am planning on starting the painting of it this afternoon.

SUGGESTION, make the channel slots for the plywood 7/8ths inch so it isn't so tight. I had to sand the HECK out of it to get it to go together easily...

Enjoying our little house in the Philippines but tools here are SO expensive...

The kids love it. And the local carpenters, once I was done, said I could get 3000 pesos for it! With just 1250 pesos for the 3/4" marine grade plywood. So 1750 peso profit makes me around $40 richer if I sell out!

psidat (author)2013-11-18

try this link

EcoExpatMike (author)2013-07-30

The links are broken to the prints/ plans...


kevinhannan (author)2013-05-16

Very nice indeed.
However I cannot find the plans and have trawled through the website link. If I get to see the plans I shall certainly have a go at this fine 'ible.

Gareth0123 (author)kevinhannan2013-05-18

Hi Kevin,

If you scroll down to the bottom of this web page, you will find a (free) downloadable PDF version of the plans

allen.curry83 (author)2013-02-02

The link to the blueprints does not load properly does anyone have a copy I NEED THEM ... PLEASE! thanks

DeanAshby (author)2013-01-21

Pure genius! A full plywood picnic table that can take so little space in storage! Just a question, is it possible for me to use MDF board for this? Reason I ask is because I have loads of them in storage (after a workshop closed down near my house) and I would love to use them for something good.

mganpate (author)2012-08-09

super idea iwill make ...

matt.nupen (author)2012-05-19

The pdf link is broken, here's the url of the new address

Gareth0123 (author)matt.nupen2012-05-21

Thank you for your comment about the broken link Matt.

I have now up dated the link on the main page of this instructable.



Gareth0123 (author)2012-01-17

Thank you to all for the nice comments, and especially to Skirmishmonkey for the photograph.

As mentioned in the original Instructable I now have six of these tables for use at the various shows and festivals we attend, and I replace two of the tables with new ones each year.The old tables are donated to my church's scout group for their use at camps, fetes and fund raisers, etc.

I have now slightly modified how I build the tables, using an off cut of ply wood and a 4 inch diameter hole saw to make a plywood plug which I quarter.This is glued and pinned in place under the table tops, and the seat tops. If you use this method under the seat tops the long cut out, and tenon are not required in the seat supports, and it prevents clothing being trapped in the slip joint gaps.

You are welcome.

Here is the finished item using yacht varnish (UV resistant, hard wearing and weatherproof).

I like the circular finishing and using the same for the bench seats. It is a simpler finish than the cut outs.

This was my first 'big' project and I am pleased with how well it turned out. Which is a testament to the extremely clear 'ible and great tips included.

TO others, if you haven't started yours yet, do it today.

skirmishmonkey (author)2012-01-17

Oops pic didn't upload last time. Here it is.

Thanks again.

BTW, I have had loads of excellent feedback on my build. I point everyone this way.

skirmishmonkey (author)2012-01-17

Great Instructable! I bought myself a circular saw and wondered what I could make with it. Saw this and was inspired. Here is a pic of my effort.

Now all that is left is the fine finishing and varnishing. I was thinking of painting but have been convinced to varnish it.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Tinkerteem (author)2012-01-14

beautiful design :)

wiglaf (author)2012-01-14

Great instructable! I'm seriously thinking of making one of these for my kids, and to use when camping. Would be cool if there were a way to make the feet height adjustable, in order to prevent the inevitable wobbling that occurs when it's placed on uneven ground.

Also, that "cargo cycle" is AWESOME!!! Do you have a link to the web site for it?

skiedra (author)2012-01-10

That is a very fine table!

snoyes (author)2010-11-24

Neat! Do you have a picture of one torn down and strapped together, and how you carry it?

Gareth0123 (author)snoyes2010-11-24

Good point;

Alas I do not, but I will take a photo of one of the tables flat packed and strapped tomorrow and then add it to the end of the instructable.

About This Instructable



Bio: I live in the UK, and own a small business designing and building: Cargo Carrying Bicycles, Bike Trailers, Pedal Powered Utility Trucks & Vans, Pedal Racing ... More »
More by Gareth0123:Sideways GrowBag Boxes.Making Fruit Vinegars; Alternative Method.Home Blended Wood Preserver.
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