How To Build A Classic Picnic Table

  • build a classic picnic table
It only takes a day to build a classic outdoor picnic table.
There are good reasons for this being the classic picnic table. It’s sturdy, weather resistant and cheap to build. It easily fits six to eight adults around it. To seat a smaller party of four, cut down the overhang equally at both ends or reduce the length to 1200mm.

Choosing the timber

The materials you choose depend on a couple of factors. If the table will be staying outside in all kinds of weather it’s best to use seasoned hardwood or western red cedar.

With hardwood you need to drill pilot and clearance holes before screwing the pieces together. 

If the table is to be painted or kept undercover, it can be made from pine.

Choose the timber carefully for this project and find pieces free from splits and splinters, twists and bows. Most timber yards will cut it to size for you for an extra cost.

Step 1. Cut the top board
Using a circular saw, cut the seat and top boards to length, cutting away cracks or splits that may be on the ends of the boards. Use a saw guide to cut the ends. TIP When using a circular saw, cut with the underside of the board facing up to avoid rough edges on the finished surface.
Step 2. Cut the leg pieces

Cut templates for the leg braces and legs then cut to shape. Cut tapered angles on cross pieces and cut to length. Use a belt sander and 80-grit sanding belt to smooth. Sand edges by clamping boards upright between the sawhorses and use a belt sander, or sand by hand.

Step 3. Put frames together

Assemble the A-frames, clamping the top support and seat support in place. Drill clearance holes for the cuphead bolts and counterbore for nuts and washers on the inside. TIP Drill holes just large enough to fit the bolts snugly for a rigid frame.

Step 4. Assemble frame bolts

Hammer the cuphead bolts into the holes. Insert them all the way to seat the square part of the bolt shafts securely in the timber. Tighten the nuts with a ratchet and socket. Use nylon-insert locknuts to hold the joint tight and prevent it from loosening in the future.

Step 5. Assemble table top

Clamp the feet to position the A-frame vertically. Set the tabletop boards in place so the outer ones are flush with the ends of the supports. When the ends are flush and the gaps are uniform, screw the boards down. Ensure the tabletop is square by checking all diagonals are equal.

Step 6. Attach the leg braces

From underneath, align and mark the spot where the leg braces land on the centre top board. Pre-drill and screw-fix in place. Position centre brace and screw-fix in place. To finish, position the seat boards flush with the outside edge of the support and screw-fix. Apply chosen finish.

Click the diagram

Follow the labelled diagram to build the picnic table. It has the name of all the parts and the measurements to help you cut the components and assemble the picnic table. 

Click on the cutting list

Follow the cutting list to build the picnic table. It has the name of all the parts and the measurements to help you cut the components and assemble the picnic table. 

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