How to Build an Outdoor Picnic Table - Assembly How to Build an Outdoor Picnic Table - Assembly

A Step By Step Approach

These are the steps to follow in building most outdoor furniture.

  1. Familiarizing yourself with the plan.
  2. Cutting the lumber to length.
  3. Assembling the spokes and installing planks.
  4. Assembling the table.
  5. Finishing

Familiarizing yourself with the Plan

There are no rough cuts on outdoor projects, only final cuts. Make sure the cuts are accurate and recheck the dimensions of each board as stated in the plan. Label the pieces after each cut in a place that will not show on the finished project.

The table saw is used to make many of the cuts. Remember to allow for the width of the saw cut, called a kerf when measuring for the fence setting. Cut to the scrap side of the wood. Also a circular saw can be used to make the cuts. If you are using a circular saw, it is wise to make a jig to make be sure to get accurate angle cuts and several boards always cut the exact same length.

Keep the plan close for review purposes during the construction of the project. By knowing the plan thoroughly and rechecking when there is a question, many mistakes will be avoided and the project will flow smoothly.

Cutting the Lumber to Length

The planks are mitered at a 30 degree angle across the face of the board, and the short spokes are mitered at a 30 degree angle through the thickness. The shortest spokes are double mitered at 30 degree angles through the thickness. Taper the outside end of the spokes at a 60 degree angle.

  1. To make the 30 degree cuts, tilt the table saw miter gauge to 60 degrees and make a simple jig to do all the taper cuts quickly and accurately. Attach a long wooden face to the miter gauge and clamp a stop block to this face.
  2. Clamp the board to be cut to the jig and feed it slowly into the blade. Be careful when doing this because the saw guard must be flipped out of the way.
  3. Cut the legs, cleats, planks and spokes to length with the table saw and jig, labeling each one as you finish.
  4. To make the miter cuts across the thickness (1 1/2" dimension) of the boards, tilt the table or the blade, depending on the saw, to 30 degrees. The four short spokes are double mitered cut. Turn the spoke over and miter the other side at 30 degrees. The point should be at one half the thickness from the side, so that the point meets in the center of the stock.

Assembling the Spokes and Planks

  1. Attach the cleats to the outside ends of the seat spokes using 6-penny galvanized nails. If needed, drill a pilot hole before nailing to prevent the wood from splitting.
  2. Lay the spokes for both the seat and the top on a clean flat surface. Mark the spokes so that lines drawn across the centers of opposing spokes will cross at a center point (both in depth and length) of the long spoke. Then mark each spoke at their exact location on the long spoke so you will know when each spoke is exactly positioned.
  3. Tack the spokes together. Some of the boards can be face nailed into the long spoke, others must toenailed. Drill pilot holes for the toenail and apply the round gusset after the planks are on.
  4. Attach the planks to the spokes using hot dipped galvanized siding nails (12d or 16d). Do not hammer them in all the way at first in case there is a need to make an adjustment later. Allow 1" between the courses of planks so that water will not be trapped and cause wood rot and swelling.
  5. Add a gusset to the bottom of the top wheel and one on each side of the seat wheel. Align the grain of the gussets to be perpendicular to the grain of the long spokes. Again drill pilot holes to avoid splitting.

Assembling the Table

  1. Assemble the table on a level surface, turn the top wheel upside down and place the seat wheel on top of it.
  2. Use concrete blocks or scrap wood to block the seat wheel up off the top wheel so tops of the seats are facing down. This top edge of the seat should be exactly 13 inches off the ground. Make sure the seat wheel is centered over the top wheel so that the spokes are aligned.
  3. Clamp two legs to the top spokes on opposite sides of the wheel. Measure carefully in several areas to make sure they are in the right place, and then measure the seat wheel to make sure it is still centered. Be sure that the angle cut at the end of the legs are flat against the bottom of the table top. This step takes a lot of measuring and adjusting until everything is properly aligned.
  4. When the leg placement is correct, tighten the clamps.
  5. Drill holes for the carriage bolts, insert them then tighten.

Repeat for all the legs, and your table is ready for a finish if you plan to use one.

Finishing Touches

Whether you choose to paint, stain, shellac, or just leave the natural color depends on the type of wood from which you built the project and how you want it to weather. If you used treated wood, a clear or tinted sealer, or a water proofing liquid will help it weather.

If painting the furniture is the option you choose, add a mildew resistant element if it does not come with one. Use a special primer as an undercoat so that the paint will adhere better. Thin coats of paint are better then heavy ones and a good brush is important.

Redwood, cypress or cedar do not need a protective coat, however you may want to use one so the wood will not water stain. There are many clear waterproofing liquids on the market made just for redwood, cedar and cypress. These prevent water stain and blackening of the wood.

A varnish stain or polyurethane in clear or tinted is another choice for redwood, cypress and cedar. However you will have some peeling in many climates. If you can not find the right color, a regular wood stain can be used and then just apply a sealer. All stains will darken the grain of the wood in proportion to the length of time the stain is left on. If a driftwood gray is desired a bleaching agent can supply that look.

Be careful when finishing outdoors because of wind blown debris. Keep a good brush, mineral spirits and rags handy to cope. Follow the manufacturers instructions closely, and make sure there is plenty of ventilation.

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