How to Build a Kids Picnic Table

Build Your Own Kids Picnic Table, Part 2: What You’ll Do

This series of posts was written by my husband.  Every now and then, he’ll be stopping in with something of his own to share.

If you missed Build Your Own Kids Picnic Table, Part 1: What You’ll Need, start there first.

Build your own picnic table for kids

Once you’ve purchased your lumber and have all of your tools ready, it’s time to cut!

Cutting is the easy part… it’s the measuring that poses the biggest problem. Once a mistake is made, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to salvage that piece of wood (you’ll have to get a fresh plank). With that said, let’s make sure we follow these instructions close, measure twice and cut once.

man building a kids picnic table

Let’s kick it off with the hardest part, then coast downhill, shall we?

Step 1: OUTER LEGS

Measurements for building a kids picnic table

  • Begin with one of your 8ft 2×6 planks.
  • Pick a corner, mark it with a smiley face (or whatever you want) and use this point as a reference corner for the rest of these instructions.
  • From your reference corner, measure a 60°. Use your straight edge to draw the line all the way to the other opposite edge. Once you cut along that line you should have a really long plank and a little tiny triangle (you now have a door stop!).
  • From your reference corner, measure 22 inches and mark it with your pencil. From here, use your protractor and make another 60° line. Once cut you should have a sweet trapezoid: 22 inches on top and about 13 inches on bottom (just like in the picture!)
  • The reason you want 22 inches along the top is because that is the length that three planks (plus a little bit of space in between) will occupy.
  • Next, you will follow the same procedure to measure the angles and make the cuts, but instead of 22 inches along the top you will measure 36 inches (save yourself a cut and start this piece at the same place on the plank that you left off – it’s the exact angle that you already need!). Again, you should end up with a trapezoid just like your first one, but longer!
  • Since you’re rockin’ and rollin’, go ahead and repeat these exact actions one more time (you need two legs, right?).
  • What you have just made are the mounts for the table top and benches (set these aside for later).

Step 2: INNER LEGS

Measurements for building a kids picnic table

  • This part is a bit tricky. Examine the plans closely.
  • The easiest way to think about this is to plan on making four parallelograms (I know, it’s been a few years since geometry).
  • Establish your reference corner again. Measure a 60° angle just as before. Tape measure 22 inches from your reference corner but instead of making a 60° angle, make 120° angle (going in the EXACT same direction as from your 60° reference corner).
  • Once you have cut along these lines you are left with a parallelogram. Each long edge measuring 22 inches. Each short edge should be about 8 inches (make sure you Google parallelogram if you’re not sure – it’s really important not to mess this part up).
  • With your tape measure and pencil, make a mark at 4 inches along one of the short edges. From here, you will measure a 90° angle. Continue this line all the way to opposite edge (should be about 7 inches).
  • Cut along this line (good news… you have yet another bodacious door stop! I’m sure there are first grade teachers out there that will love you forever).
  • Step back for a minute and make sure what you’ve just created looks like the plans. Again, it should be a parallelogram with a triangle cut off of one side (you still haven’t looked up what a parallelogram is, have you?).
  • If what you have looks like what I have… GOLD STAR! The good news – you don’t have to measure any more angles! Just trace this piece three more times until you have four identical pieces.

Step 3: BUILD THE LEGS

  • Take another minute and examine the plans closely… you see what’s next? That’s right. It’s hammer time, people.
  • Break out the nails and secure the inner legs to the outer legs (read the rest of Step 3 before you actually drive any nails).
  • From the photo, you can just make out where I placed my nails (you can drive as many nails as you want, but mine is a very effective and secure pattern).
  • The best technique is to lay the inner legs flat on the ground, align the outer legs and keep them aligned until the nails are driven all the way.
  • It’s hard to see from the picture, but there is about one inch distance from the bottom edge of the outer leg and the ground. This is to keep the wood out of the moisture of the soil/grass.

Step 4: HAVE A SEAT

Build your own kids picnic table

  • As you can see, the bench and table top is 48 inches long (no angles to cut!!).
  • The important details about this step are to ensure the inner legs are on the inside and the outer legs are on the outside (I’m sure that seems obvious, but I almost botched it).
  • Also, I attached the benches/top to the legs 6 inches from the end.
  • This step may require a buddy to suspend the legs while securing the benches (I recommend the benches first, then the top).

Boy helping his father build a picnic table

Step 5: ATTACH THE TABLE-TOP

  • You probably require no further instructions from here.
  • You’re doing great by the way!

Step 6: SAND

Use your sander to smooth the table top and benches especially, but it is a good idea to just sand every surface (you never know what might snag a little one’s finger or leg – and who wants to fish out splinters?).

Step 7: SEAL THE DEAL

  • Get a big fat paint brush and coat the entire table (that includes the undersides).
  • Pay special care to seal the bottoms (or feet, if you will) of the legs. This will help keep out moisture and prevent rotting.
  • I did two coats and that was plenty for me. Two coats should last about two years (no refunds on that, though – every place has different weather and natural abuse).
  • An alternative to painting the top; you could glue some of your children’s’ drawings and then paint over it with a clear lacquer, they make “chalkboard” coating now (how fun would that be?), or (if you’re really adventuresome) you could make some sort of mosaic.

Sidewalk chalk on a picnic table

Child drawing with chalk on a picnic table

Child drawing with chalk on a picnic table

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

You’ve worked really hard to build something wonderful for your family! It looks great! Celebrate by throwing down on some cheese burgers and ‘tater salad!

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