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How to Build a Picnic Table

One of life's pleasures is eating a simple outdoor meal when the weather is pleasant, whether you cook on a grill, or just prepare sandwiches and a salad for a light lunch. Here are the steps to build your own sturdy, functional picnic table on which to enjoy your meal.


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    Obtain a durable lumber suitable for the project. The project in the photos uses pressure treated southern yellow pine, recycled from an old deck. Choosing premium lumber, or even a synthetic material made from recycled plastics will afford a higher quality finished project. The table built for this article is 72 inches (183 cm) long, 32 inches (81,3 cm) wide, and 32 inches (81,3 cm) tall, and required the following materials:
    • 14 - 2x6 72 inches (183 cm) long.
    • 5 - 2X4 30 inches (76,2 cm) long.
    • 3 lbs. 12d (3 1/2 inch) hot dipped galvanized nails. (Substitute 3 1/2 inch exterior (deck) screws for greater strength)
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    Cut the following boards, using a rafter or speed square to scribe the correct angles:
    • Cut 12 2X6 boards 72 inches (183 cm) long. 6 til boardplate. 2 til seat rails. 4 til sitteplate.
    • Cut 3 2X4 boards, 30 inches (76,2 cm) from long point to long point, with 45 degree angles on each end.
    • Cut 4 2X6 boards 35 inches (88,9 cm) long from long point to short point, with a 25 degree angle on each end. Til bein.
    • Note that you will also have to cut the diagonal bracing underneath the table top, but it is best to scribe this board to fit after the rest of the top is fastened together.
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    Lay out the top boards on sawhorses, setting them so the best side (least knots, cracks, etc) is down, since this will be the bottom of the table top.
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    Nail the 2X4 boards with the 45 degree angle cuts to the bottom of the table top, spaced 4 inches (10 cm) from either end and the third centered between the ends. Toenail these to hold them in position until the table is flipped over, when you can finish nailing the top.
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    Position the 35 inch (88,9 cm) 2X6s so they are centered over the short point of the table top end rails as shown in the photo, and nail them securely to the rails.
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    Measure up (down from the top when the table is flipped) 17 inches (43,2 cm). Drive a nail into the leg at this mark, halfway to the head. This will support the seat rails, which you will install next.
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    Center the seat rails (also 2X6 72 inches - 183 cm - long), centered between the inverted table legs, resting on the nails you have driven in at 17 inches. Nail these through into the legs.
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    Mark the centers of both the table top middle rail and the seat rails. Scribe a 2X4 to fit diagonally between these marks, as shown in the photo. Cut these, and nail them securely into place.
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    Invert your table so it is now standing on its legs. Lay your seat boards (again, 2X6s, 72 inches - 183 cm - long, on the seat rails that should be sticking out from beneath the table on each side. You will want to try them out for size, shifting them in or out along the rail until they are comfortable for you. When you have these rails in a desirable position, mark the location of the outer seat board, remove them, and saw a 45 degree angle on the rail so none of it will protrude from beneath the seats.
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    Reposition the seat boards and nail them off. Drive nails through the table top boards into their rails to finish securing them.
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    Cut the corners of the table top at a 45 degree angle about 2 inches (5 cm) from the corners so they are rounded, to make it less likely anyone will bump into them.
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    Sand and finish the table as you want. You can use a silicone waterproofing sealer, an exterior polyurethane (many so-called polyurethane products actually degrade in ultraviolet light), or a semitransparent exterior wood stain for this purpose.
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    Set your table up in a shady spot and enjoy it.


  • Use a weather and rot resistant lumber, or even a synthetic decking material for a long lasting table.
  • Using bolts and wood screws for the described connections will offer a stronger finished product.


  • Avoid breathing sawdust from pressure treated lumber.
  • Wear safety glasses when using a circular saw and hammer.
  • Do not build anything that a child can touch out of wood pressure-treated with chromated copper arsenate, or CCA. Most pressure-treated wood produced before 2003 contains CCA.

Things You'll Need

  • Lumber
  • Nails/screws
  • Circular saw
  • Hand tools including measuring tape, hammer, and square

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Categories: Featured Articles | Making Tables | Landscaping and Outdoor Building