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Al fresco dining 

Make a simple picnic table with basic tools and materials. With a little bit of help from Google, Johann Stadler was able to design one using standard 76 x 38mm pine.


By Johann Stadler

Shopping list 

*  Seventeen 76 x 38mm pine in 4.2m lengths.
    The average price should be around R60 per length

*   A packet (more than 100) of 3.5 x 60mm cut screws

*   Thirty 10 x 100mm bolts with nuts

*  3mm wood drill bit

*  10mm wood drill bit

*  Sandpaper - 100-grit

*  Wood sealant 

Cutting list

Table and bench slats:

9 x 1 500mm lengths


Top supports:

3 x 760mm lengths


Bench supports:

2 x 1 368mm lengths



4 x 910mm (shortened to 866 with 30˚ angle as indicated in fig. 3)



This picnic bench is fairly easy to make. As always, it is a good idea to have a helper on standby as you might need an extra pair of hands for certain things. If you look after this bench, it will last for many years.



Step 1: Start by cutting the various lengths. It is easier to cut the pieces with a mitre saw. If you don’t have the luxury, just make sure you cut each piece exactly square. Remember, if you measure twice, you will only cut once.

Cut two slats out of each 1 500mm-long piece. The leftover pieces will be used to cut the legs and supports etc. Only the two bench supports will have to be cut out of their own 4.2m lengths. 

Step 2: Cut the legs (4 x 910mm pieces) to size as indicated in figure 2. The angle is 30° or 44mm in from each side. Remember to cut each leg piece shorter on either side, but opposite each other. 

Step 3: Then cut the support slats for the top and bench.

Step 4: Before starting the assembly process it is wise to push each piece through a thicknesser to make it straight. Although strong and fairly inexpensive compared to other wood, when using pine you usually end up with a few warped pieces. This process will also take off any ink marks on the wood. If you don’t have a thicknesser, you can use a sander. If you don’t have a sander, use your hands and the 100-grit sandpaper and remove any markings.


Table top

Step 5: Lay 10 pieces out exactly square to each other. Then clamp them to keep all 10 pieces tightly together and square.

Step 6: Make a mark 76mm in from the edge on the short side of your table top. Do this on both sides. Then clamp a support piece onto the 38mm width on the outside of the line. Once you have done this on both sides, turn the table top upright. Measure 57mm from the edge. This will give you a line exactly above the middle of the 38mm width support.

Step 7: For each slat make the spacing even with 20mm from each side, then drill 3mm pilot holes through the top, 38mm deep. Screw the 3.5 x 60mm cut screws in and countersink the heads nicely.

Step 8: Take off the clamps, turn the top upside down and measure 712mm in from each short side. This will show you exactly where to clamp the middle support, flat side down, in place. Drill pilot holes again and screw in the screws.


Bench tops

Step 9: Place the two 1 368mm pieces down on their 38mm sides. Then put three
1 500mm slats, flat on each end, exactly on the end. Clamp them in place and drill pilot holes through the top, the same way you did for the table top, and screw them in place.


Attaching the legs

Step 10: Turn the table top upside down. Measure 80mm in from the length on the outside of the table slat supports. Then mark 168mm from the same spot. Your table leg will fit exactly in-between these two lines. Clamp it in place, mark four pilot holes, drill them and screw the legs tightly. You should now have three flimsy-looking legs attached to an oversized upside down table top.

Step 11: Carefully turn the table back upright, onto its new feet. Find a helper and lift the bench partly over the top and slowly let it slide into position. Use a level to make sure it is 100% level and in place, then clamp it.

Step 12: Mark three spots where the leg and bench supports cross and drill 10mm holes. Put the bolts through and tighten them. Cut off the excess piece of bolt with a hacksaw or grinder. Do this for all four legs.

Step 13: Your picnic bench is just about done. Give it a final sand down with an orbital or belt sander. Without being too aggressive, sand the two bench and table top surfaces until they are smooth.

Step 14: Use a cloth to clear away any dust. In a clean and dry environment, apply a wood sealer as per product instructions. After drying, your picnic table is ready for use.  

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