Life Is A Picnic – Eat It Up With These Easy DIY Picnic Table Bench Plans

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DIY picnic table project

The best season for outdoor fun depends on where you live. In the “sunshine state” (my neck of the woods), our seasons go as follows: 3 weeks of winter > 2 weeks of bliss > 1st love bug season > raging inferno / rainy season > 2nd love bug season / hurricane season > 13 really nice days > then mild to cold again. In Florida, picnic season isn’t a time of year, it’s a time of day. It’s that 5-minute window between getting drenched with rain and soaked with sweat. But wet or not, you can’t stand up all the time; sometimes you need to sit down. This DIY picnic table project is a great family gathering place for a little outdoor fun and collaborative love bug shooing, just about any season of the year!

Build Your Own Picnic Table – An Easy Weekend Project

Full sized 6-foot picnic table.
Full sized 6-foot picnic table.

There are two important numbers to remember while building your picnic table: 60 and 1,000. And to be honest, I’m trying hard to forget the second one. 60 is the number of degrees for the angled cuts and 1,000 is the number of degrees it was outside during most of this build.

Between multiple daily rains, a hurricane scare and the unbearable tropical heat, I stretched this project out over about two and a half weeks (after the weather allowed me to even start). But given a good forecast (and maybe help from a friend), it’s actually a fairly quick 1-2 day project.

Getting Started On Your DIY Picnic Table Project

Pressure treated lumber
Here’s the lumber I started with.

Enough small talk. Let’s get this thing built so we can enjoy it when the nice weather does come along, for those 2 brief weeks. Start by gathering materials. All of the wood is pressure treated and all hardware is rated for outdoor use and contact with treated wood.

Galvanized carriage bolts
Money saving tip: At the home center, I was able to save a nice bit of cashola by buying these packs of 10 galvanized carriage bolts w/nuts from the chain link fence section of the home center’s garden dept. They were cheaper than the bolts alone in the hardware dept.

Materials List

Pressure treated lumber (8′ long):

* (4 pc) 2×8
* (4 pc) 2×4
* (6 pc) 2×6


* (16 pc) 3/8” x 3” carriage bolts
* (16 pc) 3/8” flat washers
* (16 pc) 3/8” lock washers
* (16 pc) 3/8” nuts
* (34 pc) 4” x 10 deck screws
* (16 pc) 2-1/2” x 9 deck screws
* (4 pc) 3” x 9 deck screws

The deck screws are all self drilling, to avoid the need for pilot holes. The carriage bolts, washers and nuts are all galvanized.

Laying It All Out On The Table – The DIY Picnic Table

DIY Picnic table
Start by cutting each of the 2×8’s to a length of 72”.

I based this project on traditional picnic table designs. It’s plenty sturdy and should last for many years. With each piece of lumber, first trim away one of the factory ends, past any splits. Then take your measurement from that end. That way, every piece has two clean, freshly cut ends.

We’ll start with the table top, then the legs and bench supports. Next we’ll brace the legs so the picnic table doesn’t get all weak at the knees. And finally we’ll add the bench seating.

The Table Slats – DIY Picnic Table

1/4" spacers
I made six of these 1/4” spacer doo-dads to help align my table and bench slats.

The picnic table build starts with the top. Go ahead and cut all four 2×8’s down to 72” (6 feet). Evaluate each piece and mark their best face with painter’s tape. These will be the top side (show side) of the table.

Table slats with spacers
To accommodate an umbrella, first align two of the table slats side by side. Space them 1/4” apart.

My wife and I want the option to use a large patio umbrella with this table. I googled and found that patio table umbrellas typically have a 1-1/2” diameter pole, so I decided I need a hole approx 1-3/4”. If you don’t want the umbrella hole, skip to the next section.

Laid out for umbrella pole cutout.
Put both good faces either up or down then draw a 1-3/4” circle at the halfway point. I traced around a glue bottle that happens to be 1-11/16” in diameter (1/16” smaller, but still large enough to slide the pole in and out with no problem).
Relief cuts
This would be difficult to cut with a hole saw. Instead, use a jigsaw and make a series of straight relief cuts.
Cutting the umbrella hole.
Then follow the curve to remove the waste.
1-3/4" hole for umbrella.
My curve tracing wasn’t perfect, but it’s close enough.

Table Supports – A Tip Top Tabletop Support Team

Table supports
The two outer supports have 60° miters. The middle support is beveled at 60°.

There are three table supports (two outer and one middle), all of which are cut from 2×4’s. Both ends of each are cut at 60° and angle towards each other.

Lay out a 60° miter.
For the first of two outer supports, start by cutting a 60° miter at one end of a 2×4.

I used a T-bevel (aka “sliding bevel”, “false square” or “bevel gauge”) set to 60° to lay out the miter cuts. Alternatively, you could use a 30-60-90 triangle or miter saw.

Laying out table support.
Measure 28” from the point and lay out for another 60° cut. The two bevels should be in opposite directions, angling towards each other.
Cutting outer table support.
You can’t see in this image, but the board is clamped to two work tables. Make sure yours is secured before cutting.
Outer table supports.
Here are the outer table supports. The long side measures 28”.

No One Wants A Saggy Middle – Not Even Your DIY Picnic Table

Cutting a 30° bevel.
The first bevel will trim away the angle left behind from cutting the outer supports.

I was able to get all three table supports out of a single 2×4. After you cut the two outer supports, set them aside and cut the middle support. This piece also has 60° angles at each end. But this time we’re cutting bevels*, not miters. Mark a square cut line a little past the angle on the remaining section of the 2×4.

* TIP: To cut a 60° bevel, tilt the sole plate of your circular saw to 30°.

First cut on middle table support.
Here is the first 60° bevel. Now turn the piece around and bevel the other end.

Just like with the two outer supports, the cuts should angle in towards each other and the long edge should measure 28”.

If you want the umbrella hole in your picnic table, cut it with a 1-3/4” hole saw, Forstner or spade bit. This is best done with a drill press. If you don’t want it, fine… no shade for you!

Drilling 1-3/4" hole.
Make a 1-3/4” hole in the center of the middle table support. With a hole saw, drill halfway from one side, turn the piece over and complete the cut. Be sure to clamp your workpiece to the drill press table.

Assembling The Table Top – DIY Picnic Table Project

DIY picnic table project.
Lay your table slats face down. Put 1/4” spacers between them and lightly clamp everything together so that nothing slides around. Level the boards to each other the best you can.

Lay the boards with the best faces down (and best edges on the outsides). If you made an umbrella hole, make sure those cutouts are positioned in the middle. Now you can attach the three supports. The long dimension of each support goes against the table slats.

Attach The Outer Table Supports

Attaching outer table supports.
Center the outer supports and position them 7” from the end of the table slats. Make sure they’re square to the table slats.

Use 4” long #10 deck screws to attach the outer table supports 7″ from the ends of the tabletop. Drive two screws per board. You’ll need to first drill countersinks for the screw heads. Also, even though I used self drilling screws, on this step I decided to drill a counterbore (just large enough for the screw shaft to fit into) all the way through the outer supports. I didn’t want to risk splitting the support pieces. I then let the screws drill their own way into the table slats.

Optimal screw depth.
Countersink the screws deep enough that they thread about this far (see exposed point of the screw) into the table slats. Once you figure out the optimal depth, mark it on your drill bit with masking tape – or use a stop collar – so you won’t drill too deeply.

Rather than counter-boring for the screw shafts (because it does take a long drill bit that you might not have on hand), you may instead want to drive the screw a little ways, back it out to clear the shavings, drive it a little deeper, and so on until you’re all the way through the outer supports. THEN attach them to the table top slats.

Attach The Middle Table Support

Attaching the middle table support.
Attaching the middle table support.

Finally, position the middle table support. Check that it’s square to the table and the hole (if you opted for one) is centered over the one in the table slats. Clamp the support in place then fasten it to the table top with eight 2-1/2” long #9 deck screws, two per slat. Do not countersink, but do drive the screw heads flush (or slightly below the surface).

It’s Got Legs – It Knows How To Use Them

Leg layout.
Past any cracks or splitting, mark and cut a 60° miter at one end of a 2×6.

The four legs are cut from 2×6’s. Unlike the table supports, the ends of the legs are cut parallel to each other (leaning in the same direction). Start by cutting a 60° angle on one end of a 2×6. Then cut the other end, mitered in the same direction, 40” from the first.

Leg layout.
Measure 40” from the point of that cut and lay out another 60° miter parallel to the first (they should both lean in the same direction).

Next, we’ll cut the point off of one end of each leg.

Measuring for toe clipping.
On one end of each leg, measure 1-1/2” in from the point of the miter, as shown.
Marking cut line.
Using a square, mark a line perpendicular to the mitered end.
Trim that toenail.
Cut on that line to remove the point.
Picnic table foot.
This is the foot end of the leg that will rest on the ground. It should now look like this.
1 of 4 legs.
When you’re done, all four legs should look like this.

Spread Eagle – Those Legs Go All The Way Up And Make A Table Of Themselves

Where the legs meet.
The legs bolt to the outer table supports with the points together like this.

The next step is to attach the legs to the outer table supports. In the previous step, we cut the point off of the foot end. The end goes up in the air during this step.

Leg hardware.
Each leg attaches with two 3/8” x 3” galvanized carriage bolts with flat washers, split washers and nuts.
First leg in place.
Clamp the first leg in place. Make sure the miter sits flat on the table with the point at the center of the gap between the middle table slats.

Hardware The Legs Go – Glamorous Gams For Your Picnic Table

Prepping for the leg bolts.
First, countersink with a spade or Forstner bit. Then drill a 13/32” hole for the shaft of the bolt.

Install the hardware with the heads of the carriage bolts facing the outside of the table and the washers and nuts countersunk on the inside. The bolts are 3” long so they’ll hide completely within the wood, never giving unsuspecting knees the old “howdy-do”.

Countersunk and counterbored.
Counter-bore all the way through the table support and the leg with a 13/32” drill bit.

Drill to countersink the nuts and washers. The holes should be large enough in diameter for the flat washer and just deep enough to accommodate the two washers and nut, no deeper. I used a 1-1/8” Forstner bit but your size may vary (depending on the outside diameter of your washers).

Cinching up the leg bolts.
Push the carriage bolt in from the outside (the leg side) and tap with a hammer to seat the head. Then, into the countersink hole, place the flat washer followed by the split washer. Finally, thread on the nut and tighten.

Counter-sink first, then counter-bore for the bolt shafts. Be sure to dodge the screws already running through the table supports. It’s OK to stagger the holes if you need to.

Picnic table leg bolts.
Repeat until all four legs are fastened in place.

Bench Supports – The Picnic Table Legs Support You So Yours Don’t Have To

Bench supports in place.
The bench supports bolt to the legs and prevent them from spreading.

Next up: the bench supports. Two, to be exact. Each bench support is cut from a 2×4. The ends are 60° miters angled in the opposite direction (in towards each other) and the long edge measures 60”.

Measuring for bench support position.
To determine where the bench supports go, mark the inside face of the legs 14” from the table top. If you use a framing square like this, make sure you’re reading the ruler on the outside!
Marking parallel to tabletop.
Hold a smaller square up against your framing square and draw a line across the legs at the 14” mark.

Mark the legs 14” from the table top and attach temporary support blocks.

Temporary supports.
Use some of the scraps as temporary support blocks. Line them up under the lines you just drew and clamp them in place.
Bench support in position.
Now rest a bench support on the temporary blocks. Orient it as shown (with the long edge down, towards the table top) and use a framing square to align the halfway point with the middle of the table.

With the bench supports mounted to the legs, each leg should have a total of four carriage bolts: two at the table support and two at the bench support. After everything’s bolted together, un-clamp and discard the temporary support blocks.

Fasten bench supports in place.
Clamp the bench support in place. Then countersink and counterbore for two carriage bolts (with washers and nuts) at each leg and fasten the legs to the bench supports, just like we did lower down at the table supports.

Braces – Give Your DIY Picnic Table Something To Smile About

Picnic table leg brace.
The leg braces are cut from 2×4’s. Start with a 60° miter on one end. Then measure 30-1/2” from the point and make another 60° cut parallel to the first.

We’re not here to throw shade on your project; that’s what the umbrella is for (did you opt for the hole?). We know your project is your baby and we feel the same way. But someone has to say it: your baby desperately needs braces. That’s not our way of callously mocking a wayward overbite. Instead, we’re referring to the required leg braces.

Leg brace blank.
The leg braces start like this (go ahead and cut two of these). Both edges are 30-1/2” long.

The leg braces are arguably the most critical part of the picnic table project. They aren’t difficult to make, but do not be tempted to omit them. This is a heavy unit and – without the braces – it is not safe to use. We might be all smiles now, but if your picnic table pancakes at the next shindig nobody’s going to be flashing those pearly whites.

Custom Fit The Leg Braces – DIY Picnic Table Project

Customizing the leg braces.
Hold a leg brace like this, with the miter flat against the bench support and the other end hanging down beside the table top. Align the bottom of the miter flush with the lower edge of the bench support.

Since there will undoubtedly be minor variations in the distances between the middle table support and the outer supports, the leg braces are cut to fit.

Marking where to cut.
Mark where the “top” edge of the bench support falls on the leg brace.
Mark at table line.
Without moving the brace, draw a line where the table top intersects the leg brace.

To avoid confusion or error, fit the first leg brace before starting to customize the other.

Perpendicular to mitered edge.
Use a square to draw a line where you marked at the “top” of the bench support.
Marking other end for cut.
Also, verify that the line you drew along the bottom face of the table top is perpendicular to the miter. If not, split the difference and square it up now.

After marking and squaring the marks at both ends (as described above) cut the points off, keeping your blade to the waste side of the lines.

Straight From The Bird’s Mouth – Fitting The Leg Braces To The Middle Table Support

Brace in position for marking birdsmouth.
Rest the leg brace on top of the middle table support, in the same orientation as before. Make sure the miter up top is sitting flat against the bench support.

The next step is to cut a birdsmouth notch that will fit around the middle table support. For best results, verify that the legs are square to the table top (or at least really close) before proceeding.

Marking for birdsmouth.
Use a square to draw a line at the edge of the middle table support.
Mark other half of birdsmouth.
Then rest the support flat on the table slats and draw a line level with the face of the middle table support.
Laid out and ready to cut the birdsmouth notch.
Birdsmouth layout.
Notch cut with jigsaw.
Cut the notch with a jigsaw.
Overview of finished leg brace.
Overview of finished leg brace.

Finishing Up With The Leg Braces – DIY Picnic Table Bench Plans

Brace in place.
Fit the leg brace in place.

After shaping the leg brace, set it in place and fasten with screws.

Fasten brace to bench support.
Fasten the brace to the bench support with two self drilling deck screws (use a 3” long #9 screw near the “top” and a 4” long #10 screw below that).
DIY picnic table.
At the middle table support, I drilled a countersink hole to allow the screw to thread a good inch or so into the middle support piece. It’s angled slightly towards the support.
Attaching brace.
Carefully drive a self drilling 3” #9 deck screw. Aim for the middle support, but try to miss the hole. You don’t want to split the end of the brace, so consider counter-boring or backing the screw out a few times to clear the dust as it drills its way through the wood.

And now, repeat the process for the other leg brace.

The power of the brace.
This demonstrates the value of good bracing. Don’t attempt this until the braces are in place or you’ll probably cause damage.
If you’re working alone, like me, now is a good time to move the table to its final resting place.
Rolling the table upright.
Once in place, carefully roll it over.

We Have A Picnic Table – Now For Somewhere To Sit

We’re almost done building the picnic table. The next step is to cut the bench slats. You should still have four untouched 2×6’s. Cut each to 68” (4” shorter than the table top).

Since this is a project designed for sitting – and people often shift and slide around as they sit (sometimes wearing shorts) – I did a couple things I wouldn’t normally do to an outdoor project: I routed a 1/4” roundover on all four bench slats and sanded their top surface (choose the best face as the top) and outer edges. I also routed all outer edges of the table top.

1/4" roundover
I routed a 1/4” roundover on all corners of all four bench slats. It takes only a minute or two per slat and the payoff is huge. Even though there may be factory round-overs, rout over them anyway.

I highly recommend taking the time to rout and sand the bench slats. It doesn’t take nearly as long as you might think and it makes for a soft, comfortable feel. Best of all, outdoor family time won’t be ruined by nasty splinters in your loved ones’ legs and hindquarters.

Sanding bench slats.
I sanded the top faces and all edges of the bench slats with a Ridgid 18V Octane ¼ sheet sander that we’re testing for an upcoming review. The included 80-grit paper made quick work of this task.

Then, also for comfort, I routed the same roundover on all outside edges of the table top. I didn’t sand the table top, but you can if you want or need to.

Routing the table top edges for comfort.
While you have the trim router out, go ahead and run it around all outside edges of the table top.
Rounding over the hard corners.
Don’t forgot the bottom and corner edges.

Intermediate Bench Supports – Stiffen The Benches On Your DIY Picnic Table Project

Intermediate bench supports.
The long face of the intermediate bench supports measure 10”.

The last parts to cut are two short support pieces that go in the middle of the bench seats. Like the middle table supports, these keep the slats aligned and help prevent sagging under load.

Attaching the intermediate support.
Lay out a pair of bench slats and attach an intermediate bench support.

To assemble the intermediate supports to the bench slats, lay a pair of slats with the sanded side (the top, butt contact side) facing down. Align the slats side-by-side with 1/4” spacers and gently clamp the ends to hold everything still while you fasten the support.

Screwed in place.
Square the support piece to the bench slats and drive two 2-1/2” #9 deck screws per slat. The longer (10”) face should be down, against the slats. Because this is a short piece, I staggered the screws to reduce the risk of splitting.

You May Now Approach The Bench – A Place To Rest Your Weary Bones

Centering the bench slats.
Center the bench slat assemblies side to side. I’m using a combination square to find the point where the overhang is the same on each end.

Position the first set of bench slats and clamp them in place. Then tip the picnic table on edge and screw them to the bench supports. Take care that the table doesn’t tip while attaching the benches.

1/2" overhang.
Allow the front edge of the bench slats to overhang the supports by 1/2”.
Bench slats clamped to picnic table.
Clamp to both bench supports.
Picnic table stood on edge.
Carefully stand the picnic table on edge.
Screwing the bench slats in place.
Attach the bench with two 4” long #10 deck screws (two per slat). You’ll need to counter-sink enough that the screws thread most of the way into the bench slats.

After you get the first bench mounted, carefully right the table then stand it on the other edge and attach the other bench.

DIY picnic table project.
The screws near the ends angle outward like this.

Bench Press – Enjoy Your DIY Picnic Table!

Enjoying the fruits of my labor!
As I press my cheeks against the bench, I contemplate the subtle complexities of life while feeling thankful that I finally got enough rain-free hours to finish this project.

You’re done, and you’re now a pro at how to build a picnic table bench set! There were a ton of photos for the sake of clarity, and that may make it seem like a long, difficult build. But if you follow along and build your own picnic table, you’ll probably agree this was an easy, fun project. From here you can leave it as is or finish it any way you’d like.

Paint, deck stain or spar urethane would add a layer of protection and beauty while squeezing a few more years of life out of your picnic table project. When the liquid sunshine eases up a bit more, I’ll be using a deck stain/sealer on mine.

Now grab yourself a cold one, sit down and relax. You’ve earned it! But hurry up, more rain is on the way.

Photo of author

About Steve

Steve made his first woodworking project at age 9 (in 1982) and whittled his first wooden chain at 18. He was also a consumer electronics repair tech and shop owner for a little over 20 years, until his impending obsolescence became impossible to ignore. Since then, Steve has focused passionately on manipulating his wood... in his workshop. Don't judge him.

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