Ever wanted to slide into a picnic table, rather than hop over the bench while balancing a full plate of food in one hand a cold bevy in the other? Well, with this design, you can. Watch as DIY dynamo, April Wilkerson, shows us how to build a Southern Yellow Pine picnic table.

April Wilkerson Puts an Ergonomic Twist on a Classic Outdoor Design

They say makers got to make, and in April Wilkerson’s case, it’s really true. The Texas-based, wood whisper is always building home improvement projects designed to enhance indoor and outdoor living. But she doesn’t just have a way with tools, this natural born teacher also has a knack for breaking down each step with easy-to-follow instructions and pro tips. And her latest project, a Southern Yellow Pine picnic table, is no exception. 

True to form, Wilkerson refined this classic outdoor structure for functionality. Instead of a long table with a long bench you have to step over to sit in, she’s made a two-person table with a cantilever top, so you can just slide into your seat.

“This is an incredibly quick and easy build, even if you want to build multiples like me,” says Wilkerson who has several of these tables around her property. “If you have more than two people in your party, it’s no big deal. You can just throw two tables back to back and have quaint seating for four.”

Here’s How She Did It

The first step is picking out the right material. For this project, she wanted a sturdy, enduring wood, so the table would last for summers to come without any wobbling issues. She chose Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) for its unique cellular structure, which makes it perfect for pressure treatment. And using preserved wood is really going increase the longevity of this outdoor structure.

“I imagine any picnic table will be going outside, so I do recommend using pressure treated wood,” says Wilkerson. “Since it’s long lasting, you won’t have to rebuild in a few years. That’s good for you and it’s a good for the environment. Most treated lumber is Southern Yellow Pine which is strong, dense and stable material. Plus, it holds nails and screws incredibly well.”

As an eco-minded builder, April uses natural materials for most of her projects. From cradle to grave, using woods such as SYP instead of manmade materials benefits climate stabilization in several ways. Also, all parts of SYP trees get used during harvest – the bark is used for landscaping, the chips are used for making paper etc. So, no waste.

But it’s not just a green choice, SYP has a distinct grain pattern and appealing golden color, making it a visually pleasing option for anyone who appreciates wood’s natural beauty.

DIY Friendly Project

Another reason Wilkerson opted for SYP is it’s easy to work with and she wanted to keep this weekend project simple and DIY friendly. With that in mind, she also kept the range of dimensions to a minimal.

“This project is built entirely with 2×6 material,” says Wilkerson. “And I started my build off by cutting the boards into the needed pieces. You only need two power tools to build it – a circular saw to cut and a drill to join.”

A Two-Seater Southern Yellow Pine Picnic Table in Eight Easy Steps

1. Assemble Legs – Measure and place legs on work bench. Using construction adhesive and exterior-rated screws, attach top crosspiece to both legs, then attach bench cross piece.

2. Install Table Support – Place both cantilever support pieces together on worktable to ensure they’re flush to each other. Then pre-drill and attach with 4” screws. 

3. Attach Cantilever Support – Attach cantilever assembly to leg assembly. Use a speed square to make sure long cantilever piece is flush with top support of leg. For extra support, attach small block between upper and lower horizontal members of leg assembly.

4. Build Tabletop – Set pieces on workbench. Then place brace across all four boards and glue and screw it into place.

5. Install Tabletop – Set tabletop assembly onto cantilever support to make sure it’s a fit.  The back board should line up flush to the top of outer leg assembly. Then set tabletop aside, apply glue to cantilever, place tabletop back on and screw into place. Then attach a full-length board that connects the leg, tabletop and cantilever members.

6. Assemble Seat Support – Assemble seat pieces. Attach to table assembly. Then repeat by making a mirrored seat assembly and attach on other side. 

7. Install Seating – Place boards to seat frame and attach. Repeat on other side.

8. Add Seat Braces – Attach a diagonal seat brace to each bench.

To get started on this Southern Yellow Pine project, visit a local lumber retail yard near you. And for more detailed instructions, visit April Wilkerson’s DIY Plans page.