Magazine article Sunset

Say Good-Bye to Spindly Picnic Tables

Magazine article Sunset

Say Good-Bye to Spindly Picnic Tables

Article excerpt

Say good-bye to spindly picnic tables Graced with the simple, rugged look of the Southwest, this big table-and-bench set is handsome enough to bring indoors. Unlike many picnic tables with spindly, crossed legs made out of a 2-by-4s, this one has sturdy vertical 4-by-4s in each corner. The table and benches are 6 feet long, so there's room for at least three diners on each side. Sinc the table is more than 3 feet wide, you can also pull up chairs at the ends.

The frame and leg design is really what distinguishes this set from most. The upper portions of the 4-by-4 legs have been notched on two sides so the perimeter frame can rest on a 1-inch-wide lip (see sketch on page 100). The frame then bolts to the notched part of the legs. The tops of the table and benches are 2-by-6 boards that are screwed to the frames; the screw holes are plugged to give a neatly detailed, finished appearance.

This set was built of redwood and given a dressy, two-tone stain in green and warm brown. You could choose a clear sealer or select other colors. Since the project uses standard-dimension lumber, you could substitute other softwoods, such as fir or cedar, and paint or stain them as you please.

The table and benches can be built by a home woodworker over two or three weekends. For cutting the notched detail of the legs, a router, or a table saw or radial-arm saw with dado blades would be helpful. Other required power tools include a circular saw, saber saw, electric drill, and finish sander. You'll also need a screwdriver, hammer, square, tape measure, large clamp, vise, wrench, sharp chisel, and 3/8-inch plug cutter.

Starting the frame and legs

Building the base is most time-consuming part of the construction. After buying the wood and hardware (see list in box above), start by cutting the 4-by-4s to size. For the table, you'll need four 27 1/2-inch lengths, and for the two benches, eight 14 3/4-inch lengths.

Notching the legs comes next. All the notches will be 1 inch deep, but since the table has 2-by-6s for its frame and the benches have 2-by-4 frames, the notches will be of different lengths: 5 1/2 inches long for the table's 2-by-6s, and 3 1/2 inches for the two benches' 2-by-4s.

All three frames have mitered ends that are glued (with waterproof glue) and nailed together with countersunk 16d finishing nails. Bench and table frames are reinforced by two 2-by-4 crosspieces spaced at even intervals from the ends. (The 2-by-6 tops will also be screwed to these crosspieces.)

For each bench frame, cut the 2-by-4s into two 14 3/4-inch end pieces with mitered ends, two 68-inch sides with mitered ends, and two 11 3/4-inch crosspieces with squared ends.

For the table frame, cut the 2-by-6s into two 37 1/2-inch ends and two 68-inch sides, all with mitered ends. For crosspieces, cut two 34 1/2-inch 2-by-4s with squared ends.

To give the table's frame a decorative touch and more knee clearance, we cut gently curved slanting Ss to taper each 2-by-6 from a width of 5 1/2 inches near the corners to 4 inches along their straight center sections. Make a cardboard template to draw identical curves; start them 5 inches in from each mitered end. To cut the curves, use a saber saw. Make the straight cuts with a table saw or with a circular saw.

Assemble the frames for both benches and the table, gluing and nailing each corner joint: set two nails at opposite edges on the long sides and hammer them into the end pieces; center one nail at each short end and hammer into the sides. …

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