Kids always seem to get such great use out of their toys and furniture. For that reason alone it's rewarding to build things for them, and that's exactly what Graham did ... while I stood around and watched and held a few boards. Actually, it was kind of nice to be an observer for a change and let someone else do the building. Lucky for me Graham has build a few of these in the past so not only did he know exactly what he was doing, he had a few tricks along the way to share with us too, which could make our builds quicker and better.
Graham started off with a number of red cedar, 2" x 4" and 2" x 6" boards of varying lengths. Because the plan for this picnic table called for use of pre-cut boards, all Graham had to do was to cut the boards to their correct lengths and he rounded over all the boards to help eliminate any chances of getting slivers from the wood.
The build was fairly straight forward when you understand that in this case Graham wanted to hide all the joinery underneath the table for a couple of reasons, first it makes it nice to look at, but secondly it helps to keep the weather from the screws and bolts, which in term helps to reduce the incidence of rusting, which will still happen, just not as quickly.
The entire picnic table was assembled while on it's top, which is a little bit different way of assembly and makes you think a bit more about how it is going to come together. First off the table top boards needed some even spacing which was done by using small 1/2" plywood blocks between each board ... then Graham lightly clamped the boards together, just to keep them from moving while he assembled the rest.
The next component for assembly was the side skirts, which would also sever as supports for the legs. For these, Graham marked where the 2 skirts would sit, just under the ends of the table top, then marked and drilled 2 pocket holes for each table top board. When this was done he use outdoor, Kreg pocket hole screws to fasten the 2 skirts to the table top. After this point the clamp can be removed as the top is now stable.
Next is fitting the legs, and Graham had cut the angles to 30 degrees which allowed for a good stability in the picnic table. When fastening the legs to the skirts on each end of the table, he made sure that the gap in the top of table also included keeping the leg tops apart so as to ensure that rain water would not easily soak into the tops of the legs. The legs will ultimately be fastened with galvanized carriage bolts, for this assembly, outdoor Kreg screws were used.
While still on the leg assembly, Graham also needed to install the cross member that would help keep the legs from slaying, and would also serve as the support for the seat boards. Rather than making multiple measurements with his tape, Graham cut a piece of scrap plywood, parallel at 8-1/2" that would position the cross member/seat boards perfectly.
While the table was still lying on it's top, the next component was to install the the 2 - 2' x 4" boards on each side that would be the seat. These were also fasten using Kreg Pocket holes and by hiding them under the seat boards, the hardware was protected and the seat looked better and also helped to avoid the incidence of slivers.
The final element of the picnic table was to install a cross member board that would help to keep the picnic table more rigid. This cross member was attached to the cross member that was preventing the legs from splaying and really made a difference in the stability of the little picnic table.
And that was it ... all done, well accept for finishing. This table was made with red cedar which is inherently difficult to finish because of the oils in the wood that migrate to the surface over time and lift what ever finish is on the surface. Pre-finishing with rubbing alcohol can help this, but ultimately the wood wins, especially when combined with out door elements of heat, freezing cold, sunlight, show and rain. Finding a long lasting finish for cedar has always been a challenge and in this case, the table will be finished with a stain only and will need to be re-finished every 2 or 3 years.
A great little picnic table that will give hours of use for youngsters to play on, eat on and use throughout the year.
Copyright - Colin Knecht