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:
Top: (5) 2x6's
Legs: (4) 2x4 , ~38"
Leg cradle: (2) 2x4, ~29"
Center bracket: (1) 2x4, ~29"
Leg brace: (2) 2x4, ~38"
Top: (8) 2x4's
Legs: (12) 2x4, ~23"
Leg cradle: (6) 2x4, ~15"
Leg brace: (4) 2x4, ~13"
Leg brace support: (4) 2x4, ~15"
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.
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.