How to Build a Picnic Table

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON: Today we’ll start at the University of Maryland in College Park where the Tri-Delta sorority has invited me to teach a new class—picnic tables 101.  Hi!



LAUREN: Hi, I’m Lauren, welcome to Delta Delta Delta.  Come on in.

RON HAZELTON: Hey Lauren.  Wow, I’ve never had a welcome sign like this before.  Did you do this yourself?

LAUREN: No, we had a little help.

RON HAZELTON: You did, huh?

LAUREN: Um-hm.

RON HAZELTON: A little help from?  The girls of Delta Delta Delta.

GROUP: Hi Ron.

RON HAZELTON: Good morning.

GROUP: Good morning.

RON HAZELTON: So, I understand we’re going to build some picnic tables because you have no place to eat.

LAUREN: Well no place to eat outside, yeah, we have places to eat.

RON HAZELTON: Oh, okay, did the materials get here?

GROUP: Uh-huh.

RON HAZELTON: And where are they?

GROUP: Out back.

RON HAZELTON: Let’s go look, huh?  How many, how many of you have had like no experience whatsoever with tools or building or anything like that?


RON HAZELTON: Okay, so tell me how you’re, how you’re feeling about doing this today?

FEMALE: I’m excited to learn.

RON HAZELTON: So, Lauren what are you mostly concerned about in terms of getting hurt?

LAUREN: Well, I guess like I don’t want to cut my finger off or like damage my eyes.

RON HAZELTON: Okay.  This won’t help your fingers, but it will help your eyes.

LAUREN: Oh, okay.

RON HAZELTON: So the fingers we’re just going to keep out of the way.  I mean does it seem intimidating, does it seem like, eh, you know, this is simple?

FEMALE: Intimidating.

FEMALE 2: Intimidating.


FEMALE 3: Seems like something that you just have to do.

RON HAZELTON: You have to do?  So, but what’ll happen to this idea of just you know marrying a guy who could head all the know how and the, brought the tools with him?

FEMALE 3: Well not today, we’re ‘90s women here, we’ll try it out.


RON HAZELTON: Okay, ‘90s women.  This is what the finished product is going to look like right here and we’re going to make it all out of the lumber you’re sitting on over here.  It’s all basically the same lumber, 2 x 6.  We’re going to start by building these end frames right here, they’re sort of like triangles.  We’ll bolt these together.  And we’re going to stand them up vertically and we’re going to put on a couple of bench boards and then the top boards and then finally, these little braces underneath here.  So, you want to start?

GROUP: Yeah!

RON HAZELTON: So, we’ll try to cut everything first and then bolt it together.  So, let’s go over here to this saw.  Okay, so this is called a power miter box.  It’ll do a couple things, first of all. . .we move right from the lecture to the lab.  The power tools course begins with a lesson on making straight cuts.  Goggles on everybody!  After a demonstration by the visiting professor of construction, it’s time for the Tri-Dels to raise a little sawdust.  Okay.  Excellent.  Okay.  Just keep your thumb, keep your thumb down a little bit.  I’ll tell you these women are quick studies.

FEMALE: Is that good?

RON HAZELTON: Aces.  Now bring your tape out as close. . .most of our pieces will require angled cuts.  So, it’s time for lesson #2.  Katie measures and marks the angle to cut on the lumber according to the diagram.  Then Lindsey learns to use the bevel gauge so that she can transfer that angle to the power miter saw.  Okay, pull it up, up.  There you go.  Then slide it sideways.  There you go.  Okay and just push the handle down and that’ll lock it.  This is a stop here. . .Because the three tables we’re building have identical pieces we’ll set up a stop on the saw that speeds up the process and ensures that all of the parts will be exactly the same length. 

LINDSEY: One foot and 11/16 inch overhang.  Does that make sense?

RON HAZELTON: With the lumber cut, Lindsey leads the group in assembling the table top and bench supports onto the legs.  Once completed, these pieces will make up the end frame.  We’ve made a work table from plywood and saw horses.  As we set up our first assembly, the girls mark off the exact location for all the parts.  Now, all we have to do for the next five frames is line up the pieces.

LINDSEY: Okay, the next thing we have to do is drill holes. 


RON HAZELTON: The next portion of our class covers drilling and lots of it.  But before bolting our (INAUDIBLE) together, they must first be assembled with screws.  The first holes that we drill called clearance holes are slightly larger than the screw.  Then we’ll drive screws through that hole and into the piece that we’re going to attach.  Drilling the holes for the carriage bolts requires a little more muscle power.  They’re larger and they must go clear through both pieces of lumber.  Though this process shook her up a bit, this Lindsay’s hard work paid off.


RON HAZELTON: And I gave her an A+ for effort.


LINDSAY: All right, ready?

FEMALE: Ready.


RON HAZELTON: Okay, this is our, this is the first of the ends that we’ve constructed here and while they’re holding themselves together, we need to reinforce them with these carriage bolts.  The carriage bolts are doing the real work in holding the end frame together.  Now, here’s a tip.  Putting the smooth bolt head on the inside will keep your legs from getting scratched.  After adding a washer and nut, we’ll snug it tight with a socket wrench. 


RON HAZELTON: Setting the first plank for the tabletop in place had the Deltas singing.  But it was time for more clearance holes and more screws.  Music class I guess will have to wait for awhile.  Well the Tri-Delts are doing a great job.  And they’ve gotten power tools down to a science.  But there’s always time for a tip from the professor.  Mandy?


RON HAZELTON: Put this hand up on the top.

MANDY: Okay.

RON HAZELTON: And then kind of, you can actually kind of lean on this a little bit.  Quarter inch spacers ensure that the planks will be nice and even.  Now we’ve got an assembly line going which speeds thing up.

FEMALE: Like a finely tuned machine.

RON HAZELTON: And the tabletop is put together in no time. 


RON HAZELTON: The benches are next.  We’ll make sure the outside board overhangs the supports evenly on both ends and the sides.  The combination square keeps the offset consistent.  It’ll come right up on its side like this. . .Well the sorority project is almost complete.  It looks great.  But the table still seems a little shaky, so our next step is to add some bracing to the underside.  . . .Adding one more brace right here, the one you’ve got in your hand.  One of these on each side and we’ll be ready for a picnic. 


RON HAZELTON: Would you believe it?  From this, to this in just a few hours?!  I’ve got one more piece of homework for you though guys, tomorrow when it’s nice and sunny, put some sealer on here, it’ll keep it in good shape and keep it looking good.  And I got to tell you, the Tri-Delt’s get very, very high marks in my book for picnic table building.  Thanks so much for having me over.

GROUP: Thank you, Ron.  Go HouseCalls!!

Build a Picnic Table from Two-by-six Treated Lumber Cut to Dimension in an Assembly Line to Speed the Building Process

Use this simple design and two-by-six treated lumber to construct a picnic table with built-in benches.  Set up an assembly line and end stops to cut multiple pieces of identical dimensions.  Screw the components together initially, but insert carriage bolts to hold them securely for the strength and stability to serve an immoveable feast and seat many people!

Mark Angle Cuts for the Picnic Table End Frames
Step 1

Mark Angle Cuts for the Picnic Table End Frames

Measure and mark for angle cuts on the ends of the two-by-six planks as you construct the end frames for the picnic table. Use a bevel gauge to transfer the angle to the power miter saw.

Cut Picnic Table Components to Exact Dimensions
Step 2

Cut Picnic Table Components to Exact Dimensions

Set up the power miter box with end stops to ensure that like picnic table components are cut exactly to length. Using an assembly line to cut multiple pieces makes the project go faster.

Position Supports for Picnic Table End Frames
Step 3

Position Supports for Picnic Table End Frames

Use a workbench to position a short and a long lateral support (for the picnic table top and benches, respectively) onto a pair of angular legs. The resulting end frame resembles an uppercase letter "A." You'll need two per table.

Drill Picnic Table End Frames for Screws and Carriage Bolts
Step 4

Drill Picnic Table End Frames for Screws and Carriage Bolts

Pre-drill and initially attach the end frame components for the picnic table. Next, drill additional larger holes through all the thicknesses of the end frames for the carriage bolts.

Reinforce End Frame Construction for a Strong Picnic Table
Step 5

Reinforce End Frame Construction for a Strong Picnic Table

Insert carriage bolts through the large holes with the smooth heads inside to protect legs from getting scratched under the picnic table. Add washers and nuts on the outside, finger tightening them and snugging them with a socket wrench.

Secure Planks for the Picnic Table Top
Step 6

Secure Planks for the Picnic Table Top

Set the end frames upright and evenly position the planks for the picnic table top, spacing them 1/4 inch apart with temporary spacers. Pre-drill holes and drive in screws to secure the planks to the supports.

Center Planks for the Picnic Table Benches
Step 7

Center Planks for the Picnic Table Benches

Position outer planks for the picnic table benches with an even overhang at the tips of the supports and centered on the table. Space the second bench blank 1/4 inch away and secure all to the supports with screws.

Reinforce the Picnic Table with Cross Braces
Step 8

Reinforce the Picnic Table with Cross Braces

Add cross braces to the underside of the picnic table top, spanning laterally across the planks. Secure angle braces from the table top to the end frames for even more stability and strength.

Coat the Picnic Table with Multi-surface Sealer to Protect It
Step 9

Coat the Picnic Table with Multi-surface Sealer to Protect It

Brush on multi-surface sealer to penetrate the wood to seal and waterproof the picnic table and protect it against sun and weather. Let it dry thoroughly per manufacturer's directions before using the picnic table.