Picnic Table With Detached Benches

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Introduction: Picnic Table With Detached Benches

Entertain thoughts of backyard barbecues and cookouts, having the neighbors over and eating outside with the family? A solid picnic table can be a central part of all of those events, and it doesn't have to be expensive or intricate. This design costs around $100 to build and just 4-6 hours of your time.

Step 1: Table Dimensions and Design

This particular table is very sturdy and probably a bit overbuilt. The benches can easily acommodate four adults, and if one person sits on the end, it won't tip the bench (within reason).

For the purposes of this instructable, the directions given will work if you use a different size or length table due to the absence of exact dimensions. For the curious, here are the approximate cut lengths for each member as this table was built:

Table
Top: (5) 2x6's
Legs: (4) 2x4 , ~38"
Leg cradle: (2) 2x4, ~29"
Center bracket: (1) 2x4, ~29"
Leg brace: (2) 2x4, ~38"

Two Benches
Top: (8) 2x4's
Legs: (12) 2x4, ~23"
Leg cradle: (6) 2x4, ~15"
Leg brace: (4) 2x4, ~13"
Leg brace support: (4) 2x4, ~15"

Notes:
Table legs were inset 18"
Bench outer legs were inset 12"

- The benches are very wide and comfortable. A more standard bench would probably use only three 2x4's for the top. You could also use 2x6's if you wish.

- The table itself at 30" across may be narrow if you plan on having a lot of guests and food all at the table at once. You may want to consider using an additional 2x6 for a 36" width. As we typically have less than 8 total at the table, food is located at the table ends and the table settings are in the center.

Step 2: Gather Tools and Materials

Exact bill of materials depends on desired table dimensions.
This is based on 30"x30"x96" table and two 16"x20"x96" benches

(17) 2x4 #2 pine ~2.70 ea
(5) 2x6 #2 pine ~3.95 ea
(2) 1lb box 2.5" deck screws ~8.00 ea
(1) 1qt deck stain/sealant ~11.40
(2) 3pk foam brushes ~0.99 ea
(1) 14"x3.5"x1/2" 'scrap' hardwood board (for spacers)

The quality of the dimensional lumber is going to vary quite a bit even on the same pallete. Take your time and pick the best looking pieces, it will save you time and hassle later. Avoid curl, checks and rough edges. For this build, we had decent luck with the selection but eventually returned to replace two of the five 2x6's.

Tools:
Saw
Drill
Screwdriver
Sandpaper or Belt sander
Clamps (a few, up to 30" length)
Sawhorses, or a level piece of ground

Tool cost is not included in the estimate - if you don't have power tools of your own or to borrow, you'll be off on the time estimate. Alternatively, you can buy the tools you don't have, but you will be off on the cost estimate.

Step 3: Lay It All Out

Start by choosing your best 2x4's and lay them on the sawhorses face down. Position the sawhorses at the same place you would like to place the bench legs.

Cut any 1/4" plywood or board to use as spacer material - we're not going to leave the spacers in, so you can use the ones that are meant for the table top.

Next, add the spacers and clamp the whole bench top together at both ends.

Step 4: Create the Legs

Now it is time to make the legs for your benches.

On the bench surface, mark, square and clamp two sections of 2x4 to create a 'leg angle jig'. This is much easier than using math and calculating angles!

Place the first leg to be marked over the jig so that it crosses each jig 2x4 about a half an inch inside the bench top. Carefully mark the underside with a pencil in at least two places, and use a straight edge to complete the line. Err on the long side when you make your cut.

Refine the first leg until it fits neatly inside the jig, then clone it! In our case, we had 6 sets of legs, or 12 identical leg pieces.

Assemble the legs in the jig.

Step 5: Create the Leg Cradle

-Take a set of finished legs and stand it up on the bench
-Set a 2x4" next to it and mark it's length with a pencil
-Mark the locations of where the leg intercepts the 2x4" carefully
-Err on the side of removing more material when cutting the leg cradle

The finished piece will be about 1/2" shorter than the width of the bench, just like the legs.

Optionally, you can cut an angle off the outside edge.

Step 6: Attach Legs to Benches

Position the leg cradles on the benches - we places ours only 12" from the ends to make the bench less 'tippable' if one person sat alone on the end of the bench. Because this is a 96" piece, we opted to use a third set of legs in the middle of the bench.

Make sure to predrill the holes to avoid splitting the wood, especially where the lag cradle attaches to the leg.

Step 7: Lay Out the Table Top

This is exactly the same process as the benches, except we wanted to keep the spacers because it was a nice scrap of redwood we had. So we tacked the spacers into the sides of the boards using 1" brads.

Follow the same steps from the benches to assemble the legs and cradles.

Step 8: Add Leg Bracing

The bracing is done differently on the benches and the table.

On the benches, the outside legs have a single brace that runs a 45 degree angle, supported by an additional crosspiece that connects to all the pieces of the top bench.

On the table, we wanted to have a single meeting point for the braces, so a single support was places at the midpoint between the legs and the angles were individually marked and cut to get the best fit. In theory, it should be close to a 30/60 degree angle for the cuts, but it is best to mark and measure.

Step 9: Wrapping It Up

Once the table is assembled, you have the choice of how to finish the table. The #2 lumber can be rough in patches and it may or may not be worth it to you to spend a lot of time sanding or planing.

Another option is to use a round router bit around the edges of the table and benches to add to comfort.

Now you have your own sturdy solid picnic table! Enjoy.

5 People Made This Project!

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20 Comments

One thing that might help in building the bench legs. The boards that you clamp in place should be thicker than the actual leg boards. That way when you set the second leg board on top of the first leg you have something to reference it to. Easiest way would be to just put a piece of plywood under the reference boards before you clamp them in place. Hope this makes sense and helps.

sure would like pics of the underneath side :)

Awesome design I've got some marine hardwood (iroko I think). Can't wait to make my own!

I made one of these tables on a Saturday with some friends. I love how I could fudge the dimensions a little bit here and there. I built with another gentlemen who 6 foot 4+ man like me and we got done and were proud of it and thought it was a perfect then my lady came out and gave me a funny look cause we made it rather taller then we probably should but meh its great for me hahaha!! Thanks for putting this up, i was thrilled to get the plans and sense of direction to go with!

forgot to post picture (no varnish or finishing work done on it yet)

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Thank you for posting these instructions, I made one and it came out beautiful. Check it out.

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Thanks for the instructable!

A friend and I started this little project this weekend using your design as a starting point. I liked the idea of detached benches, and your "measure twice, cut the first time, measure again, then make the final cut" way of building things.

I had to tear up a frame from who knows what off a slab in my back yard, and to my surprise found several good treated 2x4's that were perfect for this. I had enough to make the two benches, but I'll have to find another weekend to go to the Depot and get lumber for the table.

The first bench took about 2hrs, but the second one was done in less than an hour.

I found it helped to make a template for the legs out of cardboard the night before... although, the last leg attached was a little short (measure twice, cut the first time...) it was easily fixed with a little shimmy.

I also opted to only use two sets of legs on ea. bench instead of three (my benches are 6' x 1') and they feel quite sturdy.

Now I have two sturdy benches for the price of 50-75 wood screws!
Thanks!

This is the only thing that's confusing me. Are these pieces cut to any specific specifications?

The way I have written this, it may be adapted to any table size. The key is the choice of table and bench width - once you have the top width determined, all sizing is based on that. For example, take a look at the picture in step 4. Two guide 2x4's are clamped about 18 inches apart (the legs will be 18" tall). By placing the 2x4 to be cut on top, you can trace out the exact cut angle using the guide 2x4's. So all you need to measure is the height, which is equal or less than the width you selected.