How to Build a Rustic Picnic Table

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Rustic picnic tables look at home next to a cabin, cottage or Tuscan villa. They require far less finishing than other styles, and can be made using only hand tools if you have the time and patience. Rustic decor allows you to limit power tool use to whatever saves time and effort. You can avoid planing and extended sanding if you select logs that are already straight and even in diameter .

Things You'll Need

  • 4 logs, 8 feet long, 12-inch diameter
  • Power log splitter
  • Planer
  • Belt sander, coarse and medium sanding belts
  • Carpenters' tape measure
  • Carpenters' pencil
  • Chalk line
  • A variety of wide, deep clamps
  • Scrap wood clamp pads
  • 4 lengths 2-inch by 4-inch stock lumber
  • 2 pieces 1-inch by 4-inch by 8 feet stock lumber
  • 6 logs, 3 feet long, 6-inch diameter
  • Power drill, 1/2-inch bit
  • Box of fender washers, 1/2-inch diameter hole
  • Box of carriage bolts, 1/2-inch diameter, 10 inches long
  • Box of 1/2-inch diameter hex nuts
  • Hacksaw with titanium-coated blade
  • Carpenters' glue
  • Rubber mallet
  • 3-inch wood screws
  • Split the four 12-inch diameter logs in half lengthwise. Plane or sand the surface of each log just enough to remove most splinters. These will be the table and seat surfaces, while the 6-inch diameter logs will be the table legs.

  • Lay four split log halves flat side down, long sides against each other. Measure 2 inches from each end of each log half. Snap a chalk line along the marks at each end to make a straight line. Make two more chalk lines 6 inches from each end. This makes registration lines to position the supports under the table.

  • Measure 40 inches from each end and snap two additional chalk lines to create the registration marks for the center support.

  • Lay the three 2-inch by 4-inch supports in the correct positions. Clamp in place while drilling one 1/2-inch diameter bolt hole at each end of each support.

  • Place a fender washer on each bolt. Insert bolts from the flat side of the table surface, with the bolt heads on top, rather than underneath the table. Add a second fender washer and secure with a 1/2-inch hex nut. If desired, use a hacksaw with a titanium-coated blade to cut away any excess bolt length.

  • Make tenons on one end of each of the 3-feet long, 6-inch diameter logs. Doug Wilson's photo #1 at Abana.org illustrates how the tenon and mortise will fit together. Make matching mortises in the underside of the tabletop, 4 inches from each end of the second and fifth log halves.

  • Apply carpenters' glue inside each hole in the underside of the table and on the tenons on each log. Insert tenons into mortises and tap firmly with a rubber mallet until the legs are joined to the table. Wipe away any excess glue and allow to dry overnight.

  • Attach the 1-inch by 4-inch by 8-feet stock lumber to the sides of the legs on the long sides of the table, using 3-inch long wood screws. Repeat for the 4-feet long pieces.

Tips & Warnings

  • Rustic furniture is a loose term. Unlike other styles, the term rustic describes a range of design elements rather than one characteristic look. The common thread is the use of available natural materials and limited embellishment. The most commonly used material for rustic furniture is wood. Wood may be planed on just one or both horizontal surfaces, if making a table or bench. It may be stripped or retain its bark, and may be sealed with clear acrylic. Rustic furniture is rarely painted, but it is sometimes stained. Jared Winston states that rustic design, "...in the United States is a take on the frontier style, based on life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries...of the people who lived on the forefronts of America's westward and southward expansion..."

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