Friday, June 20, 2014

Building an easy toddler picnic table

A few days ago I went to Home Goods to kill time and take a breath. Many of us may ask how somebody with 4 toddlers have time to kill? But those parents with multiple know better. When we have the small change to get out of the house and take a little time for ourself in the middle of the morning or night when everybody else is busy, we go to stores and walk around just to breath and have a "spiritual" quite time.

Anyway, going back to business, I walked into this little picnic table and it was love at first sight. I set it in the middle of the store floor and ask my older toddler who also take advantage of those quite times to seat and check dimension and functionality. He looks so happy and comfortable that I impulsively decided to buy it. Then I check the price tag, it was 79.99. Then I though hmmm it looks a little clumsy and not very well build but the structure is simple, maybe I can build it for less and a little stronger. So I left the store after I took a few pictures from all angles and I used my hands and body for measures.   I always feel like I am stealing when I do that, I guess is a designer kind of values. But lets face it, this picnic table you are about to see are as common as italian bread.

Back at home I looked at the pictures and I did a little research online and I was lucky I found some plans and dimensions very similar to the one table I wanted.

Since i don't have a big saw machine, I went to Lowes and I picked my lumber and I ask them to straight cut most of the pieces (the angle cuts were made at home with a little jigsaw).

I choose the cheapest pine wood they have which is still nicely finished and I made sure all were straight. The table need only two standard  lumber size: 3"x1" and 6"x1" and some screws to put them together. I didn't know what screw size so I picked 1 1/2" long wooden screws (the good quality golden one)

Lumber Cutting List 
ItemSize / DescriptionQuantity
aLegs1x3 (actual size 3/4" x 2-1/2") 23 1/2" long and angled each end 30 degrees off square. See diagram above.
bCross member table top supports1x3 (actual size 3/4" x 2-1/2") x 16-1/2" long. Angle each end. Angle is for decorative purposes only.
cCross member seat supports1x3 (actual size 3/4" x 2-1/2") x 33" long. Angle each end. Angle is for decorative purposes only.
dBrace / Spreader1x3 (actual size 3/4" x 2-1/2") x 28" long (The original table was around 24 inches but I made it larger to gain more leg room and less unused overhanging)
e/fTable top boards1x6 (actual size 3/4" x 5-1/2") x 36" long. Panel e is straight and f are for angle in side boards only for safety purpose (mark 1" in one side and make a 45 degree mark to cut) 
gSeat boards1x6 (actual size 3/4" x 5-1/2") x 36" long.Angle is for safety purpose (mark 1" in one side and make a 45 degree mark to cut)  


1.   Cut all the pieces of lumber using the list provided. I choose to do most cuts in the store then I cut angles at home using a cheap jigsaw

2.   On an even surface make up the two end frames. To do this first lay the legs members (b) and (c), i.e. table and seat supports, flat on the ground and then lay the legs (a)in place on top. Ensure the seat/table supports and the legs are as dimensions shown in the 'end profile' diagram above. Fasten together using 4 1-1/2" wood screws at each intersection. 

3.   Stand the two end frames up and fix the brace (d) in place using two 1-1/2" wood screws at each end. Ensure the brace is in the middle of the two end frames and flush with the top. This brace also acts as a spacer for the two end frames. 

4.   Lay the remaining five boards, i.e. two seat boards (f) and three top boards (e), in place on top of the seat and top supports. Check that the overhang is equal at both ends and that all is square 
Fix boards (f) to the seat supports (c) and boards (e) to the top supports (b). Use two 1-1/2" wood screws at each meeting. 

After 1 1/2 hour of labor the table was done, I get  a little help form my father in law holding some of the pieces for me to screw them together and Lorenzo hiding pieces of wood around the garage and playing with small cut pieces. 

We try the table immediately after put together, to make sure height and leg room is good enough for 4. Needles to say they loved it and get it to use immediately. We are still planning to sand the borders since they are a little too sharp and paint it, but that is another project. I will update as soon as it is completed. 

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