Sleek Picnic Table With Detached Benches




About: Location sound mixer by day, amateur everything by night.

We finally got our back patio built and all that was missing was a table.  Rather than spending a boat-load of money on one that kinda worked for us, I decided to just build one.  So here we are.  I actually used two picnic table Instructables as my sources and just modified them to fit my needs.  The first one had the idea of detached benches that I really liked.  The second one added a couple simple design elements that were real sleek.  With elements from both of these, I set out to create a combination of the two. I intend to show you the process of how I constructed mine rather than the precise measurements of each cut. I am an amateur woodworker with only common sense and some basic tools.  I will also show you some things that I learned from. You should take this template and make your own creation.  For even more detailed pics, just click the i in the upper left hand corner of any photo.  Feel free to comment, and if you have any questions I'll try my best to answer them.  A big thanks to the Instructables community for this project.  Below is a video of how much wobble this table has.  I really think there should be more of these demos for people to see how to improve others' designs.  Good Luck!!

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

My table is 8ft. long.  Feel free to adjust to your preference.  Also of note, the material list below is what I used, not necessarily what I would recommend.  For example, my table legs are 2x4s, but I recommend you use 2x6s to prevent some wobbling.  I'll let you know if I recommend something over what I used.

-tape measure
-small spacer (about 1/4" - 1/2" wide)
-skil saw (miter saw recommended, but I already had a skil saw)
-5/16" drill bit (at least 6" long)
-7/8" drill bit
-wood chisel
-wood glue
-clamps (helpful if working alone)
-sandpaper (belt sander recommended) 40-50 grit and 120 grit
-1/2" wrench and 1/2" ratchet
-small pressurized sprayer (for the sealer/stain)
-wide (2") foam brush
-damp cloth

-22 Cedar 2x4x8
-2 Cedar 2x6x8
-2 lbs. 2" tan deck screws
-16 Fully threaded  5/16-18 bolts (5 1/2" long)
-16 Fully threaded 5/16-18 bolts (1 1/2" long)
-64 5/16" washers
-stain/sealer (optional, but recommended)

Step 2: Create Table Underside

I went with 7 2x4s as my table top.  Lay them out with your coloring and good sides as the top in mind.  Turn them upside down so you install the legs and supports easily.  I found it easier to drill them in from underneath so I could align the supports properly.  Use the spacer to space out your's waaaay easier than trying to measure everything.  Plus it's more consistent.  Each support for the legs consists of two 2x4s cut off at a 45° angle on each side.  One screw is placed through the topside of each 2x4.  On the table, there will be 5 of these identical supports that need to be cut...two for each set of legs and one in the middle for the brace that will go there.  My 2x4s didn't come out to the exact same length, as seen in second photo.  Just be aware of where you are measuring from.  I also would recommend making your miter cuts before assembling the table.  I used my skil saw once everything was screwed together and it was just a pain in the ass.

Step 3: Create & Install Table Legs

The length of the table legs will depend on the height you want the table.  We know how wide the table is and you just need to decide how high you want it.  Once you know how high you want it, use the Pythagorean Theorem to figure out how long you need to cut the legs.

This next part is kinda tricky, but it's a lot easier than I thought it would be.  In order to make the legs of the benches and table look like they run into each other, here's what ya do.  Each leg will essentially have a chunk cut out that is halfway through, that way when they are put in the "X" pattern, they are seamless.  It takes some precise cutting, so be patient with this part. Measure where your legs will cross over each other. Using a hacksaw, cut out that section of each leg.  I used 2x4s even though I got 2x6s strictly for this purpose.  I got caught up in the process and forgot I had them.. I would highly recommend you use the 2x6s for the table legs to decrease the side-to-side wobble.  Drill your holes.  2 in the "X" part of the legs and 1 on each part that connects to the underside of the table supports we just created.  You'll want to sink the nuts and bolts in the wood, so drill your smaller 5/16" bit all the way through and use your larger 7/8" bit to carve out just enough space beneath the surface to fit a nut or the face of a bolt.  Put a washer on each side and tighten it all together.

Step 4: Insert Braces and Center Beam

For added stabilization, I used these braces to prevent dramatic side wobble.  It worked pretty well.  The only wobble I get is from the section that runs from the ground to the brace as a result of the small 2x4s as the legs, which is why I recommend the 2x6s instead.  For my braces, It measured out to be a 19° and 71° cut.  Two screws into the outside of the cross section of the legs and then two into the center support should do the trick.

Step 5: Create Benches

This step is actually going to be nearly the exact same as the table.  The supports and legs are the same design as the table, so just use the plans Steps 2 & 3 to create the benches.  I used the 2x6 as the center of the bench and two 2x4s to go around the outside.  Use the same method for the miter cuts to create the sleek border look before you screw the supports and legs on.  It will actually be easier because you don't need to create the center brace.  You'll just use 3 pairs of legs on each bench instead.  This adds support for sitting on the bench that isn't needed on the table, which just needs the leg room (the reason for the brace underneath rather than an extra set of legs).

Step 6: Sand & Stain

Lastly you'll need to take a belt sander, or just straight up sandpaper if you're man enough, and sand down everything with some coarse 40-50 grit paper and then go back with some fine 120 grit paper.  This worked well for me, even with my rough cedar wood.  Once you wipe the dust clean with a damp cloth, get your stain or sealer and have at it.  After you spray it down, spread the stain with a wide foam brush so it doesn't puddle up.  A general purpose deck sealer will suffice.  I chose to only sand down the top surface and edges of the table and benches and leave the rest with a rough, natural look.

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21 Discussions


2 years ago

Hi Brassmnkys, which type of stain of sealant did you use, do you remember the Brand and color? Having a hard time figuring out which one to buy and I really like the color yours turned out (is it western red cedar?)


3 years ago

i want to build a table for my parents, but im completely imexperienced with saws, i usually use the manual ones, any pointers? i really dont want to lose a finger or anything.


3 years ago on Introduction

I just started this project. We began by measuring the cuts for he outer 2 x 4s for the tabletop. I can't tell if you're using the 2 x 6s for the central beams in the bench or for the main outer legs of the table


7 years ago on Step 3

Since you have a circular saw, you could also simplify your hacksawing and chiseling a bit. Set the circular saw to the depth of the notch, and make careful pass at the edges of the slot. Then make several cuts between these outer cuts. For your 2x4, you would make about 6-10 passes between the outer slits. somewhere around 1/4" apart. When you are done it will look like a comb (see picture) Just knock out these small parts with a hammer, and then clean up the bottom with our chisel.

It'll save you some heavy chiseling.

Otherwise great instructable.

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago

Totally used this method. Learned something new , thanks !


4 years ago on Step 1

Thanks for the plans. I really like your table and will be copying your design, maybe with some tweaks. As far as table legs... What about 4x4 vs your suggestion of 2x6? Looks like a lot of your wobble is lengthwise side to side, i.e. a thicker leg vs a wider leg would give you more side to side stabiliy. It don't think 2x6s wouldn't help as much as going with 4x4s... Just my $0.02. Thanks again.


4 years ago on Introduction

I really like this design, and am going to try something like it. I'm also wondering about your dimensions. If you have 7 2x4's as the top, then is it just over 26" wide? Or are some of those 2x6's? If it's narrower than it is tall, does it feel unstable? Thanks for a great looking design.


6 years ago on Step 2

Love this table! Although, I wished you had included measurements for your cuts. Being that the center 5 2X4s are shorter than the border and all.

Great project other wise!!


6 years ago on Introduction

I know it has almost a year since you posted this but I was wondering if you would change anything about the table if you did it again. I was thinking about making the benches wider, what do you think from your experience of yours? Also side note I had picked out the two projects that you drew from and was going to make a combination of the two when I stumbled across yours. Thanks for the work you did I am positive it is really going to help me.

2 replies

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

I find the bench width to be just fine. I didn't get my angles quite perfect for the legs, so they extend out past the bench width a bit, which makes It more stable, but people seem to trip on the extended legs sometimes because it isn't normal. Hope that helps.


6 years ago on Step 6

I am planning on building one soon. Great resource!!!


7 years ago on Step 3

Nice Instruct!

What COULD minimize the damage to some extent, is to try and steam the dents out. Put a WET rag over the dents and, with an electric cloths-iron, "steam" the damage. Unless you have some broken fibers due to the hammering, quite a lot (if not all) of the dents will be ironed out. If not, at least they should be less visible.


7 years ago on Introduction

That is just what I would like to have built if I hadn't bought a big table and two benches last year. Excellent job.


7 years ago on Introduction

The end boards was the part i was most interested in, I was disappointed to find that was the only part that wasn't covered... I would love to know more about how to do that.

2 replies

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Check out the photos (esp 3 and 4) in Step 2. I found it waaaay easier to make the 45° cuts before you install the support beams underneath the table/bench. Measuring is super critical at this stage. I basically just pre-set two screws in each side of the end board and put wood glue on both sides. One screw in each side did the trick for me. I was concerned that it might not be strong enough, but I'm happy to report that it's very strong. The wood glue far exceeded my expectations. Hooray for glue! Some additional pics attached here.


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Excellent. Thanks for the extra photos, and I DID miss the two photos you pointed out. I would be worried that that wouldn't work, but then I know how darn strong wood glue is, so I am glad it did.

I love this table. You did a great job.


7 years ago on Step 3

A rubber mallet will avoid those dent too. Always good to see someone pointing out their own 'mistakes' - those are what we learn from;-)

Nice photographic progression, with excellent notes. Thanks.


7 years ago on Introduction

NICE JOB!!!!!!!!
couple comments. because of the inherent strength of a lap joint in the table x brace it's really not necessary to lag bolt the x. couple screws and some glue will work just fine (glue does all the work, the screws just hold the wood together till the glue dries). all the stress of the joint is in the screws going into the braces.
how did you attach the end boards? it looks like the middle boards are cut short so the end board is only attached at the miters? You may need to add a support board underneath. the end boards typically take a lot of abuse from kids climbing on it and from moving the table around.


7 years ago on Step 6

Very nice result! If you've got one, a thickness planer would make quick work of smoothing out those rough boards, before they're put together.