How to Build a Picnic Table
Time Required: Over 1 day
Create a casual dining space with an outdoor picnic table. Learn how to build a traditional picnic table by following the steps in this guide. You’ll need some intermediate wood-working skills and basic tools. Read on to find out what lumber to get and directions on how to build a picnic table with attached benches.
Building this picnic table plan starts with choosing the right wood. Hardwood or pressure-treated boards are a popular choice. Pressure-treated wood is easy to stain, durable and budget-friendly. You’ll also need tools and materials such as a circular saw, miter saw, drill, belt sander, deck screws and wood glue.
Use the following cut list to create the pieces you’ll need for this DIY picnic table. Remember the old carpenter's rule: measure twice, cut once. Here are the pieces and measurements you’ll need:
- 4 tabletop slats: 1 1/2 x 7 1/4 x 72 inches
- 4 bench slats: 1 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 68 inches
- 4 table legs: 1 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 40 1/2 inches
- Center table support: 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 28 3/4 inches
- End table supports: 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 28 3/4 inches
- Bench supports: 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 61 inches
- Braces: 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 30 3/4 inches
- Bench cleats: 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 10 inches
Cut the table legs about an inch longer than needed, so you can level them later. Draw a 60-degree cutting angle at each end of the legs. Position the cut to get the proper length. Cut each leg at the 60-degree marks with a circular saw.
Once you complete your cuts, see steps 3-10 to assemble this traditional picnic table.
- Place spacers between the tabletop slats and clamp the slats together.
- Place the table supports on the slats. Place the end table supports 7 inches from the end of the table. Place the middle table support flat and centered.
- Drill through the supports with a combination countersink bit. Drill deep enough to set the wood screw heads below the surface.
- Using a drill, screw the two outermost slats to one another. You may need to move the support later in the construction.
- 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, 2 1/2-inch deck screws.
Here's how to trim the leg so it is less likely to trip someone after assembly. Use a combination square to measure each cut accurately.
- Mark a point 1-1/2-inches from the outside edge of the bottom of each leg. Cut off the corner.
- Butt a combination square against the end of a leg. Draw a line from the point to the outside edge. Cut off the corner.
Clamp the legs to the outside faces of the end table supports. Butt together their inside edges at the gap between the center slats. After clamping the legs, use two 3-inch carriage bolts to attach them.
- Counter bore a hole for a washer and nut.
- 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 13 1/2-inches on the other arm. Hold a straightedge across the square. Mark the inside face of the legs.
- Miter-cut the ends of the bench supports to 60-degree angles.
- Drill holes on the outside face of each leg to clamp the bench supports to the legs.
- 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. Fasten the bench supports with 3-inch carriage bolts.
- Mark parallel 60-degree angles on each end of the 2 x 4 braces.
- Use the circular saw to cut the angles.
- Lay out a right-angled notch at one end of each brace to fit the center table support.
- Measure 2 1/4-inches on the edge of the brace that has just been cut and mark.
- Measure 1 3/4-inches deep from that mark. Make the notch lines with a combination square. Cut the notch with a saber saw.
- Put the braces in place. Trim off any part that sticks out beyond the bench edge.
- Drill pilot holes on each brace and then drive in the screws.
- Test-fit the braces. Adjust the notch using sandpaper or chisel it until it fits. If necessary, move the leg assembly.
- Drill pilot holes at each end.
- Drive in No. 8, 3-inch deck screws.
- Separate each pair of bench slats with 1/4-inch spacers. Clamp each assembly together.
- Cut the two bench cleats to size. Make a 60-degree bevel at each end. Place the bench cleats at the center of the bench slats. Drill holes on the bench cleats.
- Drill holes into the slats with a combination countersink bit.
- Drive in No. 8, 2 1/2-inch deck screws.
- Drill holes with a combination countersink bit for 4-inch deck screws.
- Screw the bench supports to the benches.
Here’s how to create a curved edge on top of the table:
- Bore a hole for a pencil into a 6-foot 1-inch x 2-inch board.
- Clamp a wood strip across the tabletop 10 inches from one end.
- Nail a 1-inch x 2-inch to the wood strip, loose enough to pivot. Pivot it, marking the arc.
- Repeat these instructions to draw a curved edge on the other end of the table.
- Use a saber saw to cut the curved edges of the tabletop.
- Repeat above to make a similar curve at each end of each bench.
- Use a hand or belt sander to smooth all rough edges. Pay close attention with your sander to the tabletop and the top of the benches.
- Stain your DIY picnic table with a weather-resistant polyurethane.
Fire up the grill and set the table. Using just a few woodworking skills, you can build a great-looking DIY picnic table. Remember to measure carefully and take your time. Whether you need a saw, deck screws or the right color stain, The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.