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How To Build A
Classic Eight-Foot Picnic Table

By Jim Shutes

Saturday, October 9, 2004

Picnic tables are a staple of good times all over the country. It seems like most of the time you have a get-together, whether at a park or at your home, a picnic table is always involved. Picnic tables have become a symbol for a good time. You can’t help but feel good when you sit down at a picnic table with your friends or family, look out across the lawn, park or lake, and life seems to slow down for a little while.

There are a lot of picnic table designs. You can use 2 x 4’s, logs, landscape timber, metal frames, all wooden, and so on. They can be really long and narrow (easy to tip over), short and fat, octagon-shaped, etc. For this article, we will focus on the all-wooden, classic eight-foot picnic table.

For this project, you will need 3 - 2 x 4’s, 14 - 2 x 6’s, 20 – 3/8” x 3¼” Galvanized Steel Carriage Bolts, 88 - 3/8” Galvanized Steel Washers, 20 – 3/8” Galvanized Steel Acorn Nuts, 16 – 3/8” x 2½“ Lag Screws, 36 – 3/8” x 4” Galvanized Steel Lag Screws, 8 - #8 x 2¼“ Galvanized Steel Drywall Screws, 16 – 3/8” x 6” Galvanized Steel Lag Screws, 1 small can of Wood Putty (if needed), 1 - 2-pint can of Exterior Paint, Stain, and/or Clear Finish.

Now that you have all of the materials, let’s start cutting all of the pieces you will need. Be sure to mark each board with the names that I will give you for each, as we will be referencing them later in the article for assembly. Using 2 of the 2 x 6’s, cut out the 4 legs, at 32-15/16” long, and cut the ends at 70 ° angles. Also, out of one of these 2 x 6’s, cut 2 joining ties at 11-3/16” long. Out of 2 more 2 x 6’s, cut 2 support joists at 66” long. Using 1 of the 2 x 4’s, cut 2 braces at 42-3/8” long, and cut the ends at 60 ° angles. Using 2 of the 2 x 6’s, cut 3 rails at 34-1/4” long. The seat and top 2 x 6’s will be used at full length. Sand all boards smooth.

Let’s begin the construction. Position a joist on two legs so that the joist is centered and the tops of the legs are straight. Drill two 3/8” dia. holes through each of the legs. Insert a 3/8” x 3¼“ carriage bolt through from the outside face, and put a washer and acorn nut on the end, and tighten. Do the same to build the other leg assembly.

Take 2 seat boards, even up the ends, and create a ¼” gap between them. Place one of the joining ties in the middle of these 2 boards. The ends of the ties should be even with both of the outside, long edges of the seat boards. Screw in four 3/8” x 2½“ lag screws, using a washer, into each seat board. Do the same to build the second seat.

Now on to the table top. Take 6 table top boards and place the good side down. Place the rails on top of them, with one in the middle, and the other two 6 inches from each end. The rails will run across the table top boards and will be what the table top sits on. Lay the braces on their sides, one on each side of the middle rail. Make sure the “flats” of each end are butt up to the middle rail and the end rail. This will help ensure proper placement of the rails. Move the table top boards to create ¼” gaps between them, while making them flush with the ends of the rails. You will need to drill holes for the 3/8” x 4” lag screws to go through the rails and into the table top boards. Using a 25/64” dia. drill bit, drill down through the top of the rails. You will need to evenly space 2 drill holes inside each of the table top boards, so each rail will require 12 drill holes (2 per board) and 12 washers. Do not drill into the table top boards. After you have drilled each hole, counter bore a 1” dia. hole into each of these previously-drilled holes (using a forstner bit), and go ¼” deep. This will allow the lag screw head to be recessed into the underside of the rail. Now just screw in each lag screw (using a washer) through the rail and into the table top boards. Do this for all three rails. When you are done with this step, you will have a complete and solid table top.

Let’s add the legs. Position one of the leg assemblies on the outside of one of the outside rails, so that the joist is on the inside. Clamp the assembly into position. Drill two 25/64” holes through each of the legs and the rail. Insert four 3/8” x 3¼“ carriage bolts through from the outside, using a washer and acorn nut, and tighten. Do this for both leg assemblies.

The braces should still be laying on their sides, spaced between the 3 rails. Rotate them so that one end rests on the center rail, and the other end is against the joist. If your angles were cut right, the ends should rest flush against the other boards. Make sure that the legs are square with the top and that the braces are not pushing out the legs. If they are a little long, trim the braces to fit correctly. The braces should be offset from each other at the center rail, so that you can screw in the 8 drywall screws, through the center rail, to secure the braces and the leg assembly. So screw in 2 drywall screws through the joists and into the ends of the braces, as well as through the center rails and into the other ends of the braces. Now the main assembly is done. Let’s move on to the seats and we will be finished.

Now we need to counter bore some holes (like we did with the table top boards) through the joists. Again, Using a 25/64” dia. drill bit, drill down through the top of the joists (which will actually be the underside of the joists, once we flip the table over onto its legs). You will need to evenly space 2 drill holes for each seat board. After you have drilled each hole, counter bore a 1” dia. hole into each of these previously-drilled holes, and go ¼” deep. Do this for all 16 holes required to mount the seat assembly to the joists.

Have someone help you flip the picnic table over. Place one of the seat assemblies, which we previously made, on the joists. Position them evenly from end to end, as well as flush with the ends of the joists. Insert 3/8” x 6” lag screws and washers up through the joists and into the seat assembly, and tighten. Do this for all 16 holes, in order to secure the seats to the joists. Now it’s assembled!

You can go over the entire picnic table with sand paper, making sure that your guests won’t get splinters. Either stain or paint your new picnic table your favorite color. It is also a wise idea to use a good sealer to protect the wood from the weather and from spills.

Well, I hope you enjoy your new picnic table as much as I do. A good, solid picnic table can be in the family for many years. Enjoy!

If you would like detailed instructions and a full-size pattern for this project (Classic Picnic Table 8 ft. #445), send a copy of this article and $9.95 (plus $3.95 S&H), check or money order, to Dept. 101, Sherwood Creations, Inc., 1459 N. Leroy St., Fenton, MI 48430. If you would like to pay by credit card, please call toll-free (800) 843-2571 or go to www.SherwoodOnline.com.

Click HERE if you would like to download this article as a Microsoft Word Document, including the photos.


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