DIY diva

Weekend DIY Picnic Table Project

July 25, 2009 | 115 Comments | DIY How To, Outdoors
DIY diva

See this picnic table? I love eating at this thing almost as much as I loved building it. Detached benches, no visible screws on the top, and a whole lot of AWESOME. The plan took some thought, but not an unreasonable degree of skill, and the result? Well, see for yourself.


My favorite parts?

  • No exposed screws on the top of the table and benches (have I mentioned this yet)
  • Lap joints on the legs of the table and benches
  • The benches aren’t connected to the table, so it’s completely flexible

You can download the Popular Mechanics plan I used here. (At some point that link broke, but I hunted down the plan here on page 86 and 88.) It’s not a step-by-step plan, which is perfect for DIYers that like to, well, DIY a little bit of it. I made a couple of modifications, making the table and benches a few inches longer, and using a whole lot more powertools than they suggest.

Here’s my step-by-step look at the project.


  • 5 – 2x6x66″ boards for the top of the table
  • 4 – 2x4x40ish” boards for the table legs
  • 2 – 2x4x29ish” boards for the table cleats
  • 2 – 2x4x29ish” boards for table braces
  • 6 – 2x4x66″ boards for the top of the benches
  • 4- 2x4x12ish” boards for the bench cleats
  • 4- 2x4x12ish” boards for the bench braces
  • 8- 2x4x20ish” boards for the bench legs
  • 1 box 3-1/2″ deck screws (plus a couple of 2″ screws for the ends of the table cleats.
  • 12 – 3/8″ lag bolts with washers and nuts (stainless steel if you can get them, but I can tell you you can’t get them at Lowes. I used hot-dipped.)
  • 6 – 3/8″ Lag screws with washers. (Again with the stainless, again Lowe’s doesn’t carry them.)


  • Miter or circular saw (or both)
  • Drill & bits
  • Sockets and wrench for the lags
  • Chisel & hammer for the laps
  • Level and square
  • Clamps

Step 1: Cuttin’

The table and bench tops are the easiest. 5 2×6’s and 6 2×4’s cut to 66″ in length. Then it gets a little bit trickier. One of the things I loved about the PS plan, was the suggestion to build a template.


Even though I used the miter saw and had the angles all set out for me on the saw, the template was still well worth it to help with visualization. Essentially it meant drawing (or getting an engineer to draw) a 27×28-1/2″ square on some plywood and then drawing in the legs. Made cutting the lap joints in the legs exceptionally accurate.

The table legs were cut with the saw set at 38-degrees.

The bench legs were cut with the saw set at 24-degrees.

The cleats were cut at the same angle so they would be flush with the angle of the legs, and the braces were all cut at 45-degrees.

All of the table pieces: 4 leg pieces, 2 cleats, 2 braces, and 5 boards for the top.


Same for the benches: 4 leg pieces, 2 cleats, 2 braces, and 3 boards for the top each.


Step 2: Lap it up

The lap joints were extra fun and definitely worth it when it came to the final product. I did them two ways.

First, I broke in MysteryMan’s hand saw. I actually don’t own one of these, probably because it doesn’t have a power cord. But still, it was fairly quick, and very easy. I used the template to lay out the joint, and then cut notches 3/4″ deep.



Then I popped them out with the chisel. This one worked because it was what I had, but a wider one would have been ideal.


The other option is to set the depth of a circular saw to 3/4″ and cut the notches that way, which is faster to some degree, but you have to take enough time to be really accurate with the machinery… so really I think its whatever you’re most comfortable with.

Step 3: Assembly
Once all of the pieces are cut, assembly is pretty much a piece of cake. The boards should go right-side-down, and shim them out 1/4″ for the table. 1/2″ for the benches.


Then, lay out the holes to countersink the screws and attach the cleat to the top. Screws should be countersunk 1-1/4″ deep with a 3/8″bit. Use 3-1/2″ deck screws and don’t power drive them in! You’ll bust right through the top. Not that I would know from experience or anything. Hem.


The legs are only a tiny bit trickier. Make sure the lap joints fit before you start assembling. Then attach them on the outside of the cleat by drilling a 3/8″ hole all the way through both leg and cleat (make sure you’re aware of where those deck screws are.)
Use a 3/8″ lag bolt, washer, and nut to attach them. Check for square 11 or 12 times. Then attach the brace with a lag screw through both legs and the brace, and a deck screw from brace to top of table.


Then it’s lather, rinse, and repeat for the benches, as you can see here (if you haven’t already):

DIYdiva: Building a Picnic Table Bench from kitliz on Vimeo.

Step 3: Add cold beer, good friends, and enjoy!



It really is that easy.

DIY diva


  • Bob Martino

    Do you have a printable version of the plans?

    • Tina

      Do you have plants for the table and bench?


      • Rob

        Looking for plans to build the picnic table and benchs

        • Linda Wagner

          Can we buy the plans to make the picnic table and benches

        • Fred Brown, Jr.

          I saw your plans on your website for making a picnic table with 2 separate benches. Unable to make copy. If possible could you send me these plans thru mail at 5260 Merle Road, Concord, NC. Please advise what I need to do to get these plans. Thank you

      • Bee Culver

        Could you please send me printable plans for this picnic table. Thank you. Respond by email

      • Dan

        Thank you for the plans, i noticed you have listed both lag bolts and lag screws as 3/8” but no length. How long should i get?

        • Clark

          3 1/2″ lag bolts and screws worked for me! I made the table from these plans a couple years ago, and now I just started building the benches.

    • Andrew Schoenfeld

      Looking for plans for picnic table. Separate table and benches.

  • david

    like the plance
    can you send the plance to me

  • Adare

    Garden furniture. Such furniture, especially when it comes to sets that are not made of anything at all and can cost a lot of wood. You see, you’ve done it yourself and it’s pretty good. The design of garden furniture made very well. I like the simplicity and functionality in the garden. Now only preserve and ready! Cool!

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  • Bryan Thompson

    I look forward to building this table and benches

  • Jeffey Jeff Jeffer


  • Thomas Parker

    Could you send me some plans

  • Thomas Parker

    Could you send me some plans nice work

  • Adam Feightner

    Because I’m seriously thinking about doing this as a weekend project for my grandmother’s birthday how much does all this cost

  • treddinwater

    here are the plans — printable. some improvements on the buy list and a cutlist. I just copied them from the popular mechanics page and mashed a pdf.
    The gist of the info is already here at diydiva. thanks.

  • Matthew Payne

    I streched out the table top to 8 feet. I ran a 2×6 laying flat across the underside of the table top at the mid point to brace it a bit more, I made the bench tops 6 feet long. I spaced the table legs a couple inches over 6 feet apart so the benches slide right under and bump up against the 45 degree braces for storage. Seems good to go.

  • Jim Beecher

    Could you send me the plans for your picnic table?

    Thank you,

  • Lance Pitcher

    The instructions on this are painfully inadequate.

  • Joel moloisi

    Please email me a PDF file of step by step of building a picnic table

  • Derek

    Please email a copy of plans

  • Rebecca

    Do you have a printable version of the plans?

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