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How to make a flat pack for storage plywood picnic table.

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Joined: 29 Jun 2007
Posts: 85
Location: Norwich, Norfolk, UK

PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 11:01 pm    Post subject: How to make a flat pack for storage plywood picnic table. Reply with quote

The picnic tables are made from a single sheet of plywood, take about 30 minutes to mark out, and about 1 hour to cut out.

These flat-pack plywood picnic tables have been a God send this summer for both me personally, and for for my business; Cargo Cycles. Each table weighs about 15 kg, are extremely robust, take about 30 seconds to assemble, and about 45 seconds to take apart and strap up for storage.

They have been hauled around to various shows and events that I have attended, been used as canteen seating in the unit workshop for Sammy and I. I've conducted business meetings sat at them. They've been loaned to my neighbours on the business estate for similar duties, have been borrowed by friends, etc. and in a few weeks time the students allocated to me by the probation service will sit at them as I train them in City & Guilds mechanical fitting, and these tables have proven to be a very valuable advertising media and asset for me.

You will need a copy of the plans, which you can download and save from here:

To mark out the plywood, you'll need: a rule or tape measure, a pencil, a square, and a straight edge of about 4 feet long, or slightly longer.

I have used a cordless jigsaw for the rounded cuts, and cordless circular saw for the long straight cuts, but a jigsaw will be more than adequate for all the cutting requirements.

Pay close attention to the plans: being originally drawn by an American they are slightly odd: following both a Centre Line set of dimensions, and an accumulated set of dimensions from the bottom edge of the sheet of plywood. The only really tricky part of the plans and the dimensioning are the long recesses in the seat support.

Note: I have used cheap 18 mm thick sheet of shuttering plywood rather than the recommended 1" thick plywood: so if you follow my lead here, you'll need to reduce the joint let ins from 1" to 18 mm.

Ready to mark out:

The sheet of plywood marked out and ready to cut:

The best results will be obtained by using a jigsaw blade that will cut on both the up, and the down strokes, and is suitable for cutting curves. You will also need to set the reciprocating motion function of your jigsaw to either 0 or 1. A close up photo of a jigsaw blade that cuts on both the up and on the down strokes:

The first cuts to make are: The table top, seat tops, and seat supports, by doing these first, it'll make the remaining piece of plywood a more manageable size:

Then cut out the curved detailing:

You should end up with something that looks like this:

The next piece to cut out is the main support:

And then you can cut out the two end pieces:

When the plans say that you can make this flat pack picnic table from a single sheet of plywood, they weren't kidding. Here are all of the off cuts and the pile of saw dust that I produced:

Now you can begin cutting the slip joint let ins and complete the detailing.

The table end:

You will then need to cut out the hand grips; 2 in either end, and 1 in the table top:

The hand hold cut outs are 4 inches X 2 inches, and are more than big enough for my gloved hands:

The main support:

Assemble your table;

Then turn the frame upside down, place it on the table top and centralise it. Cut 4 of these from the off-cuts left over to make the hold together clips:

Then glue and nail them to the table top only; in each corner of the main support and table end like this:

Which should then look like this:

You can now assemble the Picnic table as seen in the photos above and use it. Here is Sammy who works for me sat at one of the tables:

It is now time to sand everything down and to round off any edges. You can then either paint the table, or give it a coat or 2 of wood preservative (now my preferred method):

My six tables along with another 6-10, that I can borrow from my Church will be used during our house warming party in 3 weeks time; 40 odd guests, two bands, and 5 other performers.

I have however encountered a slight issue with them, not exactly a problem, but more of a niggle.

I had 4 very large ladies (and I mean very large; think 20 plus stones/280#/ 130kg a piece = 1/2 ton +) sit at one of my tables and eat their picnic during one show (and they weren't even interested in my products Disbelief ), their combined weight sank the table legs almost 4 inches into a reasonably dry grass playing field, and I had one helluva job pulling the table out of the soil while Sammy, in fits of laughter stood by watching me.

I am lucky as I have a whole metalworking and woodworking workshop available at my disposal for my every whim, and so the other day I fished out my 6 inch diameter hole saw and made some simple, but very effective plywood feet to spread the load, reduce the ground pressure, and prevent another situation of having to recover the sunken narrow legs of a table from the turf again.

OK, I have used a hole-saw and a bench mounted pillar drill, but a jigsaw and pistol drill will be more than adequate to make a set feet similar to the ones that I have made. I used 10 mm dia X 50 mm long bolts, c/w two flat washers and a 10 mm wing nut to secure each of the feet to the tables.

Last edited by Gareth on Fri Aug 27, 2010 12:14 am; edited 1 time in total
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Michael Chu

Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1654
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, that is a pretty awesome picnic table. I wish my garage was cool enough to use for a woodshop. Unfortunately, it's over 120°F (49°C) in there during the day and about 90-100°F (32#176;C) at night. I need to find a way to cool the garage...
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