Build Your Own Picnic Table! – On the House

Build Your Own Picnic Table!

By on June 26, 2016

`Building your own tabletop CD rack can be challenging and fun, but a picnic table is almost as easy to construct and will get you rave reviews from family and friends for years to come. And anyway, you can serve a much bigger meal on a picnic table than you can on a CD rack if you learn how to make table legs along with the top of the table and then fix them together. Here’s how to do it.

You will need just a few tools:

  • An electric drill with a set of wood bits.
  • A hand saw designed for finish cutting.
  • A hammer & chisel
  • A medium size wood clamp
  • A measuring tape
  • A carpenter’s square
  • A pencil

Keep in mind that the job will be a bit easier if you have an electric saw, however since only a few cuts will be required, a hand saw will do just fine. Get the lumber yard to do as much cutting as possible. For example: purchase six foot lengths for the table top slats and have each piece cut at both ends. This squares the ends, eliminates end-splits and you go home with the entire top “pre-cut” and ready to assemble.

And, although our design is for a five-foot long table yours can be six-, seven- or even eight-feet. Use a little common sense here. Adding to the length of the table will require additional cleats and longer leg braces. Everything else remains the same. As for the benches, just keep in mind that each one is absolutely nothing more than a lower, narrower version of our picnic table.

If you should decide to widen the top by adding another slat or two you will want to increase the length of the cleats and, for added stability, you may want to lengthen and slightly increase the angle (and therefore the spread) of the legs.

Barring the changes just mentioned you will end up with a 60” long x 30” wide table – plenty of room for a family of six.

Select wood that will last. Redwood and Cedar are best. Stay away from treated lumber. It doesn’t make sense to place food on a table soaked in some factory’s pest poison. With redwood you will want as little white wood as possible and with Cedar you will want the knots to be small and tight. Clear, dry redwood is the best with vertical grain material at the top of that list. Clear Cedar is hard to find, but is the very best. “Select-Tight-Knot” Western Red Cedar is cool. Although most any grade of Redwood or Cedar will work there are some grades that will definitely “look better” when the job is done. Ask your local lumber person for advice. Or, visit the California Redwood Association’s website at What ever you do, stay away from Pine and Fir. These species don’t hold up well for outdoor projects.

As we mentioned earlier you’ll want to get as many pieces as possible pre-cut while at the lumber yard. Most yards only charge a few cents for cutting – some will do the cutting just to get your business. Don’t expect them to make any angled cuts, but ask anyway – the worst thing that can happen is that they will say no.


Cutting the pieces you will need is easy. Here’s your material/cut list and how to fabricate the parts:

Item Qty Size Details
Top Slats 5 2×6 x 72” Cut each tabletop slat to 60 inches in length with squared ends.
Cleats 2 2×4 x 30” Cut each cleat to 27 inches in length. Starting down 2-inches from the top cut a 45 degree angle at each end of each piece.
Legs 4 2×4 x 40” Cut each leg to 39 inches in length. Cut each end of each leg @ a 38 degree angle – angle cuts should be parallel to each other.
Braces 2 2×4 x 30” Cut each brace to 29” with opposing 45 degree angles at each end. The final length of these pieces may have to be slightly shortened.
Machine Bolts 6 ¼” x 3 ½” Don’t forget the Nuts & Washers. Here, a galvanized coating is recommended, however stainless or solid brass is better – you pick.
4” Deck Screws 1 Pound Ceramic Coated Grabbers are our choice here.

For lasting quality pre-finish your table parts with a high grade oil-stain. Don’t paint – that is, unless you don’t mind chipping, cracking and peeling down the road.


Assembly is easy:

  • First, lay the top slats out on a flat surface and create the tabletop by attaching the slats centered on the table width and approximately 7-inches in from each end. The cleats run perpendicular to the top slats and hold them together as one unit. Use 2 Grabbers through the cleat into each slat (10 screws total through each cleat into the top slats).
  • Next, assemble the legs. Place one leg over the other to create an ‘X’. Then compress the X shape into an I shape and drill a quarter-inch hole dead center. Insert one of the machine bolts into the hole you just drilled. Using it as a swivel again spread the legs into an X position. Use all of the washers and one of the nuts to clamp the X shape loosely in place. Adjust the width of the X to 28 ½ inches and tighten down on the nut. With the X shape held tightly in position use a pencil to mark the pieces where they cross. This is done in preparation for notching the legs so that they can be interlocked.
  • Notch the legs and temporarily both them together again. While the legs are tightly held together center them on the cleat and drill 2 holes through each leg and the cleat. Bolt the legs loosely to the cleat.
  • Next, align the legs, table and brace and mark the brace for drilling. Drilling a countersink into the brace will conceal the end of the bolt, the nut and the washer and provide a much cleaner look.
  • Next, using one of the ¼” bolts, attach the legs loosely to the brace.
  • Finally, holding the brace and legs in a square and tight position, use a Grabber to attach the brace to the underside of the tabletop and snug up the four bolts that hold the legs to the cleat as wells as the bolt that holds the legs to the brace.

Repeat the final step for the other pair of legs and fire up the barbie! And, that’s all there is to it. 

For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.


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