To make the project more elegant and keep exposed end-grain to a minimum, I capped the tabletop and bench ends with strips of wood. I opted for half-lap joinery to connect the legs to the supports; this adds legroom and increases strength.
To begin making the top and bench assemblies, prepare your stock for the slats and the breadboard ends.
Take a look at the plans and you’ll see that the slats for the tabletop and bench need tenons on both ends that fit into corresponding mortises in the breadboard ends.
It’s always good practice to cut mortises before tenons, since tenon thicknessis easier to adjust after the fact than mortise width. When a mortise is going to be close to an end-grain edge, as in the case of the first and last mortises in all the breadboard pieces, you need to leave support in place.
Turn your attention to the leg assemblies and the angled half-lap joints I told you about earlier. To cut the lap joints in the table and bench supports, set your dado blade to take a 5?8″-deep cut, which is half the thickness of the parts you’re working on.
Get ready to put the leg assemblies together by drilling angled holes for pocket screws to attach the benches and the top. Secure you leg assemblies with more outdoor-rated polyurethane glue and clamp them together.
I brushed on an exterior primer, then sprayed a couple of coats of CIL marine enamel in Ensign Red, sanding lightly between coats. I protected the end-grain of the table legs from moisture damage with 1?4″- thick brass bar stock. Put the shoes on the legs and your table is ready to be moved to a sunny (or shady) spot in the yard. Next, stand the assembly upright and slip one opposite brace into the group, fitting the notches together.
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Our Assortment Of Picnic Tables - Click On Any Picture For More Information On That Particular Item.ALL TABLES ON THIS PAGE CAN NOW BE SHIPPED VIA MOTOR FREIGHT. The drawer frames also work to trim out the front of the project, so test after building to make sure they fit correctly. Drawer faces are nailed to drawer box with 1 ?” finish nails and glue, with an even gap around all sides. This detail is called “breadboard” ends, and although it adds a lot to the project—including stability and durability—you can leave it out if you want to simplify the design.
The weak points of most picnic tables are the feet, since the end-grain surfaces draw up moisture.
It’s important that the distances between the tenon shoulders on all these parts are exactly the same. I used a hollow chisel-mortising machine to remove the wood, but you could also use a Forstner bit in a drillpress.
I like to use a dado blade in my tablesaw for this job, although you can certainly cut tenons by hand too. A mitre saw is a great tool for the angled cuts on these parts, although a tablesaw works fine too, especially with help from that drafting square. Use polyurethane glue and stainless-steel #8 x 11?2″ round-head screws to hold everything together.
You simply need to make corresponding 45o cuts on each end of the braces so that they measure 151?2″ between the long points.


In order for the wood to have a little tooth to hold onto the painted finish, I stopped sanding at only 80 grit. If you’re going this route, wear a respirator and goggles, and work in a well-ventilated area.
Then I filed a chamfer around the edge on the bottom side, and drilled and countersunk holes in each shoe for some #8 x 1″ brass screws. Apply screws from below to secure the pieces notch to notch, then add the other two legs and feet to the inside surface of this brace. Add four rubber or plastic glides to the bottom edges of the feet to keep them off the patio surface, then open your umbrella and enjoy! Nail and glue to project, ensuring legs are placed square with bottom shelf and parallel to end legs with an equal distance between the front legs. These are made with 1×3 boards for extra strength – if using pocket holes, drill two pocket holes per end. Attach hardware – you may need to drill special holes to accommodate the drawer hardware with the double thick face by drilling through drawer box with larger bit sized for screw head, and drilling through face of drawer with bit sized for screw shaft. If you don’t have a thickness planer, you can use standard 11?2″-thick lumber cut to the right width, but remember to account for this change in dimensions when building the project.
Cut six 3?16″-wide spacers from scrap wood to create equal spacing between the slats. Bore overlapping, 3?8″-diameter holes in the area of each mortise, removing as much wood as possible before using a sharp chisel for final cleaning and squaring up.
As you work, make absolutely sure that each lap cutout is located on the correct face of each piece. Use the 60o corner to adjust the mitre gauge, make a test cut on some scrap, then complete cuts on the legs before bringing one piece over to your full-size drawing.
Begin by making test cuts on a couple of pieces of scrap, then lay them together to check the fit. An 80-grit paper creates an excellent surface for any outdoor finish that forms a protective film over the wood. Finally, tap the remaining brace in place, interlocking the notches and sandwiching the parts as before. Slide this assembly downward from the leg tops until the brace top edges are flush with the upper surface of the notches you cut in the legs.
After everything looks good, mark the location of each part, remove them and paint the exposed edges. If not, you will need to mark it with a square (remember 50 degrees is off square, so that means the angle off the board edge would be 40 degrees.
When wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper.
Use glue and make sure the legs are attached square, with the distance between the legs equal all the way up.
These must be built exactly square and exactly the same for the drawers to slide correctly. The slides need to sit ?” inset from the front of the front frame to allow for the drawer face to hide the slides. Alternatively, you could use pieces of solid-wood composite deck stock or a rot-resistant hardwood such as white oak.
I drew full-size end view of the table on a sheet of 1?4″ MDF to make sure I had everything right. Make sure you have enough leftover scrap stock of both thicknesses to prepare test pieces while tooling up for the mortise- and-tenon and half-lap joinery later.


Mark the shoulders of the tenons on the face of each slat with a sharp pencil, marking gauge or utility knife. If you’re using a tablesaw, use a mitre gauge to support the wood as you nibble away at the tenon.
You’ll get best results if you fasten a 30″ piece of plywood or hardwood to your tablesaw mitre gauge to stabilize your workpiece and reduce blade tearout along the back of each cut. Clamp a stop block on your auxiliary mitre gauge fence and make the corresponding top cuts. Adjust the depth of the dado until you get a joint that touches in the middle yet is flush on the faces.
You could also drive #10 x 3″ screws down through the top of the benchtop and tabletop into the leg assemblies, but pocket screws hide the fasteners. Install the braces with a pair of screws on each end, fastening them into the bench supports, and the underside of the tabletop’s centre slat. This temporary piece gives you a place to affix the large compass or pencil and string you’ll need to use when drawing a circle around the outside of this frame.
Prepare these parts now, then slice off any dried glue that squeezed out of the top frames you’ve just made.
This is very important because if your box is not square, your drawers will not slide correctly. Screw a sacrificial backing fence onto the mitre gauge to prevent tearout as the dado blade exits each piece. Clamp the braces in pairs as you work, notching the top edge of one pair and the bottom edge of another.
I wanted a smooth, relatively knot-free wood for painting, so I chose yellow cedar, but other great options are red or white cedar, hemlock or even an exotic wood such as cypress. Next, clamp the slats into three assemblies: one with five slats for the table, and two with two slats each for the benches. To locate the laps properly, the easiest and fastest way is simply to transcribe directly from the full-size plan onto the pieces themselves. The idea is to have alternating notches in the upper and lower brace pairs so they interlock, half-lap style.
Using a chisel and a block plane, adjust the tenons for a perfect fit into the mating mortises. It’s a good idea to lay all the parts for each leg assembly down together in their proper orientation so each piece of the puzzle can be seen in relation to its neighbour.
It is always recommended to apply a test coat on a hidden area or scrap piece to ensure color evenness and adhesion. Now all you have to do is hold the corresponding breadboard piece into position up against the ends of the slats and transfer all the tenon locations to the faces of the breadboard ends.
You’ll find it necessary to alternate between the right- and left- hand 60o settings on your mitre gauge to complete all the lap cuts.
Draw an “x” in each mortise location to indicate where you will remove wood so you don’t cut in the wrong place. Use your drafting square to adjust the angle of the gauge and test the results against your full-size plan.



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