If you’re looking for a picnic table that’s simple to build but looks great on your deck or patio, here’s the design for you.
Its pedestal support ensures that no one can complain about “having the leg.” The round top is fastened from below, so unlike many other tables, this one has no screws or nails visible on the top. The pedestal, joined with threaded rods, is simple to retighten if rain and sun combine to loosen it. The 48" dia. top easily accommodates six people.
What it takes to build
You’ll need one unusual tool to build this table: a 1/2" dia., 12" or longer “ship auger” bit (see Sources, below). It’s used to drill the long holes through the legs of the pedestals
without wandering off course
(Photo 3), and is often available at home centers for around $20. Unfortunately, a spade bit with extension just won’t do the trick.
We used clear, vertical-grain redwood for our table because of its wonderful appearance, but it has gotten very expensive in recent years. You can substitute construction-grade redwood or cedar, if you pick it out carefully. If you choose pressure-treated wood for your table, be sure to use plates and cutting boards so food doesn’t come into direct contact with the wood. Expect to spend $90 for enough cedar to build the table, and more for redwood. The vertical-grain redwood we used cost $350.
The main steps to build this table are shown in the photo sequence. After building the table, we can also offer these tips:
• When you’re cutting the four pieces of 4x4 that make the pedestal legs (part D), it’s more important to have the ends flat and square, and all four pieces the same length, than to make them exactly the length given in the Cutting List.
So if you need to trim them a bit, go
• When you’re cutting the boards
for the top, be sure to cut the longest
pieces (H) first, then use the remaining
pieces to cut parts F and G. There are
few things more frustrating than chopping
up a long board, only to find you
still need to get a long piece out of it.
• This tip is a chestnut, but it’s useful
on this project: Before you cut the
threaded rod for the base, screw a nut onto it. Cut the rod, file the cut end
smooth and then back the screw off. It
will clean up the threads nicely.
• It’s a lot easier to sand the pieces of
the base before you assemble them.
• It’s fine to finish the whole table after
it’s assembled, but for maximum longevity,
put a weather-repellent finish
on all the parts before assembly, making
sure the finish soaks well into the end
grain. Or you can skip a finish entirely
and let the table age to a natural gray
(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)
Irwin Tools, irwin.com, 12" dia. x 17" L
Ship Auger bit, #47408.
Fig. A: Exploded View
Detail 1: Underside of Tabletop
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker June 2000, issue #80.
Click on any of the images to view a larger version
1. Cut dadoes in the four boards that will form the
top and bottom “x” on the pedestal. Cut the dadoes
all at once, making them half the thickness of your
boards so a lap joint is formed. Cut the dado a little
undersized in width, then sneak up on the final width,
using a scrap of the lumber to test the fit. It should be
a snug, sliding fit.
We forgot to clamp a piece of scrap at
the end of the boards we cut, and this is what
happened—“blow out.” Luckily, we were able
to hide the damage. The moral: clamp a piece
of scrap wood at the end of the cut as a
2. Cut bevels on the ends of the four boards. Be
sure the bevels are on the same side as the dado on
two of the boards, and on the opposite side from
the dado on the other two. When the two “x”s are
assembled, all the bevels should face up. Drill the 1"
counterbore holes in these parts on the non-beveled
sides. Then drill the 5/16" holes.
3. Drill a hole through the center of each pedestal leg,
using a 12" “ship auger” bit. Drill in halfway from each
end, using a guide block to help the bit go in straight.
I know it seems impossible that these two holes will
meet, but the special design of the drill bit prevents it
from wandering. It works, even when you’re drilling by
4. Assemble the base on blocks so you can
hold the nuts on the bottom. Tighten the nuts
from both ends. Fill the 1" holes on the top
with brown caulk so water can’t collect in the
hole. Glue and screw the small feet on the
ends of the base.
Tip: For outdoor
important to finish
the pieces before
way the finish penetrates
especially the end
grain. The only
exception is areas
that will be glued.
5. Clamp the top boards in a simple jig, bottom
side up, with 1/8" spacers between the boards. A
line drawn on the middle of each board beforehand
makes them easier to align.
6. Draw a circle using thin wire or chain and a nail in the
middle of the center board. Take the boards out of the
jig, cut out the arcs with a bandsaw or jigsaw and sand
the ends. Put finish on the top boards and reassemble
the top, including the spacers, on the clamping jig. You’ll
need to reattach the end block of the jig, because the
top is now smaller.
7. Attach the base to the top. Set the upside-down
pedestal assembly onto the top boards and screw it
down. Cut the cleat boards (J and K) and screw them
down as well. Flip the table over, remove the spacers
and you’re done.