Just try to get through a summer of barbecues without at least one picnic
table. Now, here's a building project that is guaranteed to give you years and
years of use - if you do it right.
Construction of this picnic table is straightforward, but you'll need to take the time to make the cuts accurately - especially the angled cuts for the table legs and braces. Remember the old carpenter's rule: Measure twice, cut once.
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Experienced: 4 hrs
Handy: 5 hrs; Novice: 6 hrs
To build this picnic table, cut and assemble the table slats and supports, then screw on the legs. Braces provide lateral support, while supports screwed to the legs hold the bench slats in place.
|4 Table slats 1-1/2"D x 7-1/4"W x 72"L|
|4 Bench slats 1/1/2" x 5-1/2" x 68"|
|4 Table legs 1-1/2" x 5-1/2" x 40-1/2"|
|1 Center table support 1-1/2" x 3-1/2" x 28-3/4"|
|2 End table supports 1-1/2" x 3-1/2" x 28-3/4"|
|2 Bench supports 1-1/2" x 3-1/2" x 61"|
|2 Braces 1-1/2" x 3-1/2" x 30-3/4"|
|2 Bench cleats 1-1/2" x 3-1/2" x 10"|
Assembling the Top
Cut the 2x8 table slats to length with a circular saw. You'll cut the curved edge of the slats later. Then cut the three table supports. Cut a 60-degree angle on each end of the two end table supports and a 60-degree bevel on the end of the center table support, as shown in picnic table image above.
Clamp the table slats together, separated by spacers. Place the table supports on the slats: the two end ones on edge 7 inches from the end, and the middle one flat and centered. Drill holes with a combination countersink bit, drilling deep enough to set the screw heads below the surface.
Drive screws in the two outermost slats only, so that the support can be moved later in the construction, if necessary. Screw the two end table supports to the slats with No. 8 4-inch deck screws. Attach the center table support to the slats with No. 8 21/2-inch deck screws.
Adding the Legs & Supports
Cut the table legs about an inch longer than needed. Draw a 60-degree cutting angle at each end of the legs, positioned to give you the proper length. Cut the legs at the marks with a circular saw.
Mark a point 11/2 inches from the outside edge of the bottom of each leg. Butt a combination square against the end and draw a line from the point to the outside edge. Cut off the corner. This trims the leg so it is less likely to trip someone once the table is assembled.
Clamp the legs to the outside faces of the end table supports. Butt together their inside edges at the gap between the center slats.
The legs are attached with two 3-inch carriage bolts. Counterbore for a washer and nut and drill clearance holes the same diameter as the bolt shanks. Slide each bolt into its hole, add a washer, and tighten the nut.
Mark the position of the bench supports on the legs by laying one arm of a framing square on the tabletop. Measure up 131/2 inches on the other arm. Then hold a straightedge across the square and mark the inside face of the legs.
Miter-cut the end of the bench supports to 60-degree angles. Clamp the bench supports to the inside of the legs, align them with the mark on each leg, and center them across the table's width. Drill four holes on the outside face of each leg and fasten the bench supports with 3-inch carriage bolts.
Mark parallel 60-degree angles on each end of the 2x4 braces. Cut the braces with a circular saw.
Lay out a right-angled notch at one end of each brace to fit the center table support. Measure 21/4 inches on the edge of the brace that has just been cut and mark. Measure 13/4 inches deep from that mark and make the notch lines with a combination square. Cut the notch with a saber saw.
Position each brace and mark the part that sticks out beyond the lower edge of the bench supports to trim it off. Test-fit the braces. If they don't fit, adjust the notch with sandpaper or a chisel. In some cases, you may have to move the leg assembly. Drill pilot holes at each end for No. 8 3-inch deck screws. Then drive in the screws.
Attaching the Bench Slats
Cut the bench slats to length and put them in pairs upside down on a flat work surface. Cut the two bench cleats to size, making a 60-degree bevel at each end.
Separate each pair of bench slats with 1/4-inch spacers and clamp each assembly together. Place the bench cleats at the center of the bench slats. Drill holes with a combination countersink bit and drive in No. 8 21/2-inch deck screws.
Clamp the benches to the bench supports. Drill holes with a combination countersink bit for 4-inch deck screws and screw the bench supports to the benches.
Applying the Final Touches
Build a jig to draw a curved edge on each end of the table top. Begin by boring a hole for a pencil into a 6-foot 1x2. Then clamp a wood strip across the tabletop 10 inches from one end. Nail the 1x2 to the strip so it pivots, then scribe an arc. Repeat to mark the other end.
Cut the curved edges of the tabletop with a saber saw. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 to make a similar curve at each end of the benches.
Sand all rough edges, especially on the top of the benches and table. Apply a waterproof finish.
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Drill screw holes with a combination countersink bit. It's a stepped drill bit, and in one pass you'll be able to drill a perfect screw hole. Section 1 of the bit drills a pilot holes for the screw threads. Part 2 drills a slightly larger hole for the unthreaded shank. Section 3 counterbores a hole below the surface, so you can cover the screw head with a wood plug.
Wear safety goggles whenever you are operating power tools.