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How to Build a Wood Picnic Table

A hand-built cedar picnic table will outlast the elements and stay in your family for years to come.

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  • Time

    Two Days

  • Price Range

    $250 - $500

  • Difficulty

    Moderate

Highlights:

Step 1: Cut the Wood Pieces

Begin by cutting the table legs. Use a combination square (Image 1) to measure and mark a 22-degree angle on one end of a 2" x 6" cedar board. Once you've drawn the first angle, you can use a sliding square to transfer the angle to the board’s opposite end. At their longest point the leg boards should be 33". Measure, mark and cut all four table legs with a circular saw.

The horizontal top braces will be 26 1/2" in length--long enough to support five 2" by 6" boards butted together to form the top (Image 2). To create the braces, measure, mark and cut two 2" x 4" cedar boards to 26 1/2" in length. Bevel cut what will become the bottom corner of each brace to add a smooth edge and prevent snagging people’s legs. For the seat braces, measure, mark and cut two 2" x 4" cedar boards to a length of 53”.

The tabletop is comprised of five 2" x 6" boards. Each seat is comprised of two 2" x 6" boards. All nine boards are 60" long. Lay out the nine boards, making sure to select the best faces for the tabletop. Square and remove the rough ends of the boards with a circular saw then cut each board to a length of 60".

Step 2: Assemble the Tabletop and Ends

Lay out a tabletop brace and a seat brace, along with two of the angled legs. Set the legs 5" in from the end of the tabletop brace, making sure the tops are flush with the brace. Set the seat brace 15 1/2" up from the bottom of the legs, keeping it parallel with the tabletop brace. Secure all components with 3 1/2"-long 1/4" galvanized carriage bolts. Repeat for other table end.

To assemble the tabletop, place the five 2" x 6" boards face down, leaving 1/4" to 1/2" gaps between boards. Using a framing square, make certain the tabletop is square. Place two 26" x 2" x 6" braces approximately 12" from the tabletop ends. Attach braces to the top boards with galvanized decking screws.

Step 3: Assemble the Table

Prop up both assembled table ends in an upright position perpendicular to the ground. Place the first seat board on top of one seat brace, making sure it's flush with the outside of each brace and that the overhangs are the same on both ends (Image 1). The seat ends should extend past the braces by about 5”. Secure the seat board to the seat brace with two 2 1/2" decking screws. Leaving a 1/4" to 1/2" gap, attach second seat board alongside the first with two 2 1/2" decking screws. Repeat for the other seat.

Place the assembled tabletop on tabletop braces, making sure to align tabletop ends with seat ends (Image 2). Attach top to tabletop braces with 2 1/2" decking screws.

Step 4: Sand and Finish

Use a belt or palm sander with medium-grit sandpaper to smooth out rough spots and bring out the wood's grain. Keep the sander flat on the wood and work in the same direction as the grain.

Rather than applying a stain, which would quickly fade, apply a spar varnish; using a paint brush, work spar varnish into the wood. To remove any bubbles that may form, smooth surface with brush held at a 45-degree angle. Let the varnish dry overnight and then apply second coat.

sand out rough spots to bring out wood grain

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