ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Build or Make Your Own Custom Picnic Table

Updated on April 9, 2015

End View

Classic end frame.
Classic end frame. | Source

Building a picnic table for your family can be a relatively inexpensive way for a weekend builder to exercise and showcase their amateur carpentry skills. I resisted the urge to build one for a long time, but finally someone asked me to make one.

I shopped around for the costs of kits, alternative materials and lumber and decided to make mine from scratch, from traditional lumber. Total costs were under $40, and the project took me less than six hours. The planning, preparation, shopping, a lunch break and even the time spent waiting for each coat of polyurethane to dry was included in that six hours.

Standard plan.
Standard plan.

First I looked at standard plans and was about to go with those, but I wanted to customize the picnic table to better suit the person who would use it. I took measurements of that person’s lower leg to set the scale for the table’s seat and table heights. I measured from the crease in the back of the knee to the ground and came up with fifteen inches for the height of the seat. Then I took two thirds of that amount to determine that the table’s top needed to be ten inches above the seat. From there I was able to adjust the dimensions of standard picnic table plans to better suit the person who would be using it.


Revised Plans.
Revised Plans.

I then revised the sketch of the plan I would use. The most noticeable change from a standard plan was to make the table eight feet long instead of six, partly because the price of eight foot lumber was actually cheaper than six foot lumber, and partly because the lower height added stability, which meant a longer table would still be sturdy.

Tools and materials.
Tools and materials.

Next I used my carefully drawn sketch to make templates for the angles of the braces and the frame, extending the lines from the sketch onto cereal box cardboard, cut them out, and wrote the measurements right on the templates. Next I brought out the wood and the tools and set up a boom box so I could listen to the radio while I worked. I measured and marked all the lines I wanted to cut, prudently trying to minimize the amount of scrap. After careful consideration I realized I’d have two pieces of 2”x4”x8’ lumber left over. Oh well, something for the next project…

Measure and screw.
Measure and screw.

I used a circular saw to cut all the pieces for the frames and braces and laid them one on top the other to make sure the ones that had to be the same, were the same. Then I measured and laid out the frames and re-measured to make sure they were right before screwing them together. I used 3” decking screws, ignoring the standard plan’s requirement for carriage bolts. Attaching the braces to the frames and the frame’s ends to their center support was a challenge, one I met by pre-drilling the holes for the 3” decking screws with an 1/8” drill bit. This ensured the screws would go in straight. For this step, an assistant or a set of clamps would have been helpful, but I had neither and made do without.


Standing frame and braces.
Standing frame and braces.

Finally, the frames and braces stood on their own. I re-measured everything to ensure it was right, and it was, so I proceeded with attaching the benches. I attached them using 3” deck screws, sinking their heads just below the surface. At the center of the bench seats I added a block underneath to keep the gap between the bench boards constant, to prevent the boards from pinching someone’s behind when they stood up. I chose to do this based on a story I heard about an unfortunate picnic table accident. During a summer barbeque at a lake, a person’s swimsuit bottom was pulled down when they stood up.

Stubborn board.
Stubborn board.

I used drywall screws to attach the table’s top, because I could drive them in just below the surface to make the later job of sanding easier. Attaching the table’s top was confounded by one board that wasn’t straight or flat. I put that board toward the center, and attached it last, using guile and strength to wedge it into its proper place. With the screws holding it down and the other boards pressing its sides, the board should gradually conform. I’ll wait a week and if it’s still not cooperating I’ll replace it.

Iced Tea.
Iced Tea.

The final step was sanding and sealing. I started with 80 grit paper wrapped around a block of wood, going over every top and side surface of the benches and table tops twice, then again with 80 grit sandpaper. For the final sanding with 120 grit sandpaper I didn't use the wood block, choosing to press the paper with my hand, to get into the low spots, corners, nooks and crannies. Then I brushed away the dust and wiped all the sanded surfaces with a cloth that was lightly dampened with mineral spirits. Finally I used a full spray can of polyurethane to put on three coats, waiting thirty minutes between each coat.

The last thing I did was sit at the table and drink a glass of iced tea.


Materials:

Eight, 8 foot long 2"x4" boards

Four, 8 foot long 1"x6" boards

3" decking screws

1&1/4" drywall screws.

Done.
Done.
Artist at work.
Artist at work.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      next day hamper delivery uk 

      10 years ago

      Great table, you make it looks easy. I am going to give it a go although will probably end up at ikea.

    • lyjo profile image

      lyjo 

      10 years ago

      My husband only uses screws, great hub, nice table...take care!

    • profile image

      L a d y f a c e 

      10 years ago

      Indeed. I never go with nails, only screws. The only nails I ever use are brads in my nail gun. Get this - the house we just bought has a deck on the back, no bolts, and they used a whole bunch on nails. It's coming down.

      Wood prices here are usually the same. Depending on what you're using it can get really pricey. I usually stick to pine for most things.

      Glad to hear the drywall screws haven't rusted. That's very good to know :)

    • Jed Fisher profile imageAUTHOR

      Jed Fisher 

      10 years ago from Oklahoma

      Ladyface, glad you enjoyed the article. I Just used dimensional lumber. Wood prices fluctuate, almost as much as gas prices. The drywall screws I used on my privacy fence 10 years ago haven't rusted yet, but I suppose galvanized screws would not be much more expensive. I do know, nails tend to work themselves out over time, that's why I like screws.

    • profile image

      L a d y f a c e 

      10 years ago

      This was great. I just recently made a very nice bookcase and am so proud of it, I'm working on a bed frame. I actually just watched a re-run of The New This Old House where he built a picnic table, and I like some of the things you did better. Awesome idea, measuring the customer's legs. Most people wouldn't think of it. And 6 hours start to finish, shopping and all?? I bow to you, fellow carpenter. Amazing.

      I have to ask.. won't drywall screws rust? I was under the impression that galvanized was the way to go.

      Is that pine you used? And the 'under $40' has me, along with jealous, wondering if you used dimensional lumber, or bought stock and used a planer.

      Sorry for all the questions, I love this stuff.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      10 years ago from UK

      Good stuff, thanks :-)

    • Jed Fisher profile imageAUTHOR

      Jed Fisher 

      10 years ago from Oklahoma

      I hope you all enjoy your tables, I encourage building one as soon as possible. I'm really enjoying the table, more than I thought I ever would. Even on those days I don't use it, just seeing it cheers me up.

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 

      11 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      This is just what we need next at Les Trois Chenes. Will save and pass onto my Husband, hoping for some great action. We are lucky enough to be in an oak forest area so would hope to turn out a chunky version. Many thanks.

    • SognoPiccolo profile image

      SognoPiccolo 

      11 years ago from Wilmington, Ohio

      this is awesome... I think I want to go make one now. =)

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 

      11 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Well written and informative. I keep thinking I need to make a picnic table, but just haven't gotten around to it. Perhaps a winter project this year.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://corp.maven.io/privacy-policy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)