How to build a one piece folding picnic table

folding picnic tables old version and new version

This one is different – It has a wider top
picnic table folding down to bench

Note: This project DOES NOT contain any plan drawings. Plan drawings are only in the PREMIUM PLANS at leskenny.com version. To find out why click here.

From picnic table to bench seat

Angela sitting on a picnic table bench

Typically, one-piece folding picnic tables have narrow tabletops – that’s been the downside of an otherwise great design.

The narrow tabletop was seemingly a requisite needed for the folding mechanism to work as intended.

However I have overcome that perceived requisite with this design.
My previous two designs had a maximum tabletop width of 18⅛” (460mm). This one has a tabletop width of 23¾” (605mm).
That’s 5⅝” (145mm) wider, which makes the tabletop a useable area.

The size of it

The tabletop is 23¾” (605mm) wide and 51½” (1310) long.
The height is 31½” (800mm) and overall width is 52″ (1320mm)

It is a handy 4 seater picnic table or a 2 seater bench seat.

About the wood sizes for this project

The wood size (thickness & width ) I used for this project (actual size) was –
For the frame: 1¼” x 3½” (32 x 89mm).
For the seat & tabletop boards: 1¼” x 5½” (32 x 140mm).

That is not an overly common wood size worldwide

But don’t worry
You could also use 1½” (38mm) thick wood if you want. which is far more common and a standard in North America.

These plans are written to allow for both thicknesses, but really it only becomes relevant when it’s time to cut the tabletop and seat boards in Step 7.

In short, if you cant acquire the stock size I used, you can use 1½” x 3½” (2×4 nominal size North America)

About the length measurements given in this project

All length measurements in this project are given in both inches (standard) and metric (mm).

The standard (inch) measurements are given first followed by the metric equivalent in brackets.   For example: 19-5/8″ (498mm)

folding picnic table plans top view and side view

Materials List

First, about the wood size again:
The wood size (thickness & width ) I used for this project (actual size) was –
For the frame: 1¼” x 3½” (32 x 89mm) lumber.
For the seat & tabletop boards: 1¼” x 5½” (32 x 140mm) lumber.

But don’t worry – a different size will be fine.
You can also use 1-1/2″ (38mm) thick wood if you want. which is far more common and a standard in North America.
These plans are written to allow for both thicknesses, but really it only becomes relevant when it’s time to cut the tabletop and seat boards in Step 7.

So with that in mind, this is the amount of wood you will need…

For the frame

Use either 1¼” x 3½” (32 x 89mm) stock   -OR-   1½” x 3½” (38 x 89mm) stock
You will need 30ft (9 metres) in total.

For the seat and tabletop boards

Use either 1¼” x 5½” (32 x 140mm) stock   -OR-   1½” x 5½” (38 x 140mm) stock
You will need 36ft (11 metres) in total.

You will also need:
4 of 3/8″ (10mm) carriage/coach bolts 3″ (75mm) long with washers and self locking nuts.
80 of 3″ (75mm) exterior type wood screws.
Exterior wood glue.

Tools you will need

Circular power saw, Miter saw – able to cut accurate angles, Jigsaw, Electric drill, Hammer, Hand saw, Measuring tape, pencil, square, screw driver, level, clamps, adjustable angle bevel. 3/8″ (10mm) drill bit for the bolt holes, 1/8″ (3mm”) drill bit for the screw holes, 1″ (25mm) drill bit to countersink (embed) the bolt head, and a bench saw would be helpful but not essential.

Instructions

Step 1. Cut the frame pieces

Cut the frame pieces according to the dimensions given in the plan drawings. Cut two of each piece.

Note: Pieces [h] have to be rebated, and pieces [f] need a countersunk hole, as you will see further on.

When you have cut pieces [h] (the front seat supports), they will need to have a rebate cut out of each piece as below. Ensure they are a mirror image of each other.

folding picnic table seat support

Rebating the front seat supports [h]

folding picnic table seat support cutting detail

fig.1. Make the rebate (cut-out area) the width of the front leg and a depth of 1/4″ (6mm).
You can do it with a bench-saw or a circular saw. Set the blade to a depth of 1/4″ (6mm) and make multiple cuts along the cut-out area.

fig.2. Clean out the rebate (cut-out area) with a sharp chisel.

Step 2. Drill the frame pieces

Pieces [a], [e], [f], and [g] will need 3/8″ (10mm) holes through them – positioned as shown in the plan drawings, see ‘cutting detail’ plans.

On pieces [f] only, first drill a 7/8″ (22mm) starter hole (countersink hole) into the face side of each piece, 1/4″ (6mm) deep, to house the bolt head. Continue through with a 3/8″ (10mm) hole. Details as below.

folding picnic table seat support cutting detail

Step 3. Make up the front legs

Fix the front seat support [h] to the front legs [a].

Assemble to the dimensions given below.

The rebated part of the seat support [h] fits over the front leg [a].
The rebated part is shown in Step 1.

Glue and screw, four screws at each meeting.

folding picnic table front leg detail

Step 4. Assemble the rear-seat end-frames

Remember, each one is a mirror of the other.

folding picnic table bench end frame

Make up the two rear-seat end-frames as per plans and drawings taking note of the given measurements in the drawing above and that the top of the legs [b] and [c] are flush with the top of piece [e].
Secure with glue and two screws at each meeting.

folding picnic table bench end frame photo

Step 5. Assemble the side frames

Now, with all the pieces cut and drilled, join pieces [f] and [g] as shown in fig.1 below.
Next assemble the side frames as shown in fig.2, and if all’s well, when you fold it back it should look like fig.3.

folding picnic table side frame plan

Step 6. Prepare for the tabletop and seat boards

Fold the side frames into seat mode and lay them on their side on a flat surface. Place a 1/4″ (6mm) packer between pieces [f] and [h] and ensure pieces [e] [f] [h] are flush at the top. See fig.1 below.
Then hold each side frame in that position with a clamp. See fig.2 below.

folding picnic table side frame prepared for boards 1

Stand each side frame upright. Clamp a block to bottom of the front leg [a] for balance. See fig.3 below.
Space the side frames apart in readiness for the seat boards.

folding picnic table side frame prepared for boards 2

Step 7. Cut the tabletop and seat boards to length

folding picnic table boards - the length

If you use 1-1/4″ x 5-1/2″ (32 x 140mm) lumber

  • (A) Cut 5 @ 51-1/2″ (1310mm)
  • (B) Cut 2 @ 47-1/2″ (1208mm)
  • (C) Cut 3 @ 41-3/4″ (1061mm)

If you use 1-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ (38 x 140mm) lumber

  • (A) Cut 5 @ 51-1/2″ (1310)
  • (B) Cut 2 @ 47″ (1196mm)
  • (C) Cut 2 @ 40-1/4″ (1025mm)

Step 8. Rip the tabletop and seat boards to suit

Rip means to cut a board lengthwise.

folding picnic table boards - the width

The tabletop is 23-3/4″ (605mm) wide.
In the previous step you cut 5 boards for the tabletop. You will have to rip (cut lengthwise) one to suit.

The front seat is 9″ (230mm) wide.
In the previous step you cut 2 boards for the front seat. You will have to rip (cut lengthwise) one to suit.

The rear seat is 7-3/4″ (222mm) wide.
In the previous step you cut 2 boards for the rear seat. You will have to rip (cut lengthwise) one to suit.

Step 9. Fix the front seat boards

By now you will have all the pieces cut and prepared so it’s just a matter of putting it all together.
From here on in it will be mostly a pictorial guide so just follow along, look at the pictures, and read the stuff underneath them.

folding picnic table front seat boards fixed

Fix the front seat boards as shown in the photo above.
Screw only at this stage. Do not glue, just in case they may have to be taken off for an adjustment.

The overall width of the boards is 9″ (230mm).

Make the ends of the boards flush with the outside face of the seat supports [h], and the front side of the boards flush with the front of the seat supports [h].

Basically, just as shown in the picture.

Step 10. Fix the rear seat boards

folding picnic table rear seat boards fixed

Fix the rear seat boards as shown in the photo above.
Screw only at this stage. Do not glue, just in case they may have to be taken off for an adjustment.

The overall width of the seat is 7-3/4″ (222mm).

The boards should be flush at the back edge with piece [e].

folding picnic table rear seat board placement

Step 11. Fix a stop (to stop spreading)

Now is a good time to fix a stop to the inside of the front legs [a] to stop the unit from spreading more than intended.

folding picnic table rubber stop fixed

With the picnic table in table mode (the legs should be spread out at the bottom approximately 52″ (1320mm)), screw a stop to the inside of the front leg [a] directly under piece [g]

folding picnic table rubber stop fixed

Important! Make sure the stop is as close as possible to the outside edge of the front legs [a] so it does not get in the way when the seat is folded into bench-seat mode.

For the stop, I used a hard rubber door stop, but you can use pretty much anything similar to do the same trick.

 

Step 12. Tabletop preparation

This makes things easier – make the tabletop up first and hold it together with a couple of temporary nailed battens running across.

folding picnic tabletop preparation 1

Check the parallel measurements of the table rail [g] in relation to the seat rails . You may need to add a temporary stay, spacer, or prop to hold everything true.

folding picnic tabletop preparation 2

Step 13. Fix the tabletop

Screw the tabletop on to the table rail [g] ensuring everything is parallel and square. Make the sides flush with the ends of the table rail [g] and have the overhang equal each end.

Once fixed, remove the temporary battens from the tabletop.

folding picnic tabletop screwed on

Note: At this stage I did not apply any glue to the tabletop boards or the seat boards – only screws in the case any of the boards had to be removed for adjustment.
Once I was sure all the mechanism worked as intended, I then removed the boards one-by-one, applied glue and screwed the boards back on.

Step 14. Fix the back-stop

folding picnic tabletop backstop 1

Fold the table in to bench-seat mode. If everything works as intended – pack the tabletop (in backrest mode) off the ground at a height where the bottom of the tabletop is just touching the back leg [c]. Then fix the backstop

folding picnic tabletop backstop 2

Step 15. Another spread stop

folding picnic tabletop spreadstop 1
folding picnic tabletop spreadstop 2

Just for more ‘stop spread support’, add another spread stop. Just shape a pieces of wood as shown and glue and screw it in place. Refer to the pictures.

folding picnic tabletop spreadstop 3

Step 16. Bracing

And finally, add some bracing as shown in the picture. There’s sure to be enough off-cuts of lumber to make up the brace pieces – a batten under the middle of each seat and a brace at each end of the rear seat to stop any ‘wobble’.

folding picnic tabletop seat-bracing
folding picnic table seat brace

Done!

folding picnic table finished

Note: You can purchase this DIY article in downloadable file including plan drawings with dimensions for a small cost from the Premium Plans at leskenny.com section.