How I Built A Picnic Table

I am not the handiest person by any means. But I was determined to have a great picnic table in my backyard, was on a budget, and the neighbor was getting rid of good quality pine lumber “scraps” after adding onto his house. The only thing I had to buy was the carriage bolts and nuts, and nails. I had leftover paint from painting the porch, so I had no excuses. The whole thing cost a bit more than a meal at a fast food restaurant.

I shocked myself. In one day I built a classic A frame picnic table with built in benches. You can see the plans here:


This is what I used to build it:

  • A tape measure
  • A drill with a 3/8” bit and a 3/4” spade bit
  • A simple carpenter’s hand saw
  • A carpenter’s square
  • A hammer
  • 12 eight foot 2 x 4’s
  • 4 eight foot 2 x 6’s
  • 2 eight foot 2 x 10’s
  • 16 3” x 3/8” galvanized carriage bolts plus washers and nuts to fit.
  • 2 one pound boxes of 16d galvanized twist nails

I started with the top. My table top is 8 feet long by 28 inches wide, and is made out of seven 2 x 4’s cut 8 feet long, braced across the bottom with three 2 x 4’s cut 26 inches long. Braces are 4” in from the long ends on either side, and one is across the center, with the center of the middle crossbrace right on the 4’ line bisecting the bottom of that tabletop. The top boards are nailed into the short side of those braces.

Next I cut the legs from two of the 2 x 6’s. These have a 60 degree angle at top and bottom to create the A frame, and the length measured from either edge of that board is 33.5”. To get the 60 degree angle I used a square and marked a 2:1 rise to run. Alternatively you can use an adjustable miter box, or protractor. The crossbar of the A, which braces the legs, also supports the benches on either side. These are cut from the remaining 2 x 6’s and cut to 5 feet long.

The last thing I did was put it together.

I flipped the top upside down and mounted the legs to the outer crossbraces on the bottom of the table top. I mounted these to the inside of those crossbraces, for stability. I drilled two holes for each leg to brace, and created the countersink for the nuts and washers on the inside of the legs, then bolted all four legs on. If I had set the table on its legs at this point, the table top height would have been 31.5”. But I still had to add the crossbars that would support the benches, and add the bracing that would keep the table from being wobbly.

I measured so that the top of the bench supports would be exactly 17” off the ground, and so that the crossbars of the A would be centered, and drilled my holes and countersinks, two to each leg. I put the A crossbars against the outer side of the table legs, and put my countersinks for the washers and nuts on the inside. I bolted these together. Now I cut the inside braces from the 2 x 4’s. There are two of these that run from either side of the center crossbrace on the bottom of the table top at a diagonal angle to the middle of the crossbars attached to the legs. Each edge measures 44 inches, and it’s roughly a 17 degree angle. I made sure the legs were square with the top, then nailed those braces in.

Now the seats. I set the table on its legs. I cut two 2 x 4’s to fit in under the seats as extra bracing and nailed them to fit inside the crossbars, then cut the 2 x 10’s for the seats to 8’ long and nailed them down. I gave the whole thing two coats of paint. Took only a day to do it, and I’m pretty slow at this stuff.