DIY $14 Kid’s Picnic Table

Since the weather’s getting nice, I wanted to make my kid’s a little table for sitting outside.  I prefer wood to plastic and kind of like this Ikea Reso table, but it looks a little thin to me.  So, I decided to make a more traditional picnic table using Ikea Sultan Lade bed slats.

table 3

I got inspiration and guidance from the following sites:

If I was just using lumber, the Ana White instructions are probably all you need, but since I was trying to hack the bed slats I already had, I used those sites for guidance and sort of winged it so that it would be the right size for my kids.  (Sometimes I think I should rename this blog “DIY By the Seat of Your Pants” of “Hoping for the Best DIY”.)

Step 1: Remove straps and staples

Remove the fabric straps and staples from the bed slats so you’re left with just the wood.  I used my handy tack remover tool that I bought for reupholstering a chair (I owe you a post on that) to loosen the staples and a pair of needlenose pliers to pull them out.  The staples will leave a slight mark in the wood, but you can put that side down when you’re assembling your table or use wood filler if it really bothers you.

Step 2: Table top

I decided to make this table slightly bigger than the table my boys use inside because I want it to last for a while.  This meant that I had to buy an extra piece of lumber to cut two support pieces for the bench (more on that in Step 4) that are a bit longer than the slats, which are 30″ long.  If you want to stick to standard kid sized furniture, you can make it all with just the bed slats.

I cut 4 slats 19 1/2″ long.  (Confession: I have a fear of large power tools, so whenever I say that I cut something, I mean, I kindly asked my partner to cut and he obliged.)  (Also, big thanks to my personal tool library C&J who kindly lend me their power tools whenever I ask.)  I cut 45 degree triangles off the ends of 2 of these.  These are used to support the top and attach the legs.  I screwed each of these supports together in an L shape.

I laid 5 pieces face down, spaced 1/2″ apart (It would be good to use something like shims or cardboard to keep the spacing even, which, of course, I didn’t do) on the floor.  Each slat is 3 1/2″ wide, so the top is 19 1/2″ wide and 30″ long.  I measured 2″ in from each side, placed the supports on the table top, and screwed them to the table top.



Step 3: Legs

I wanted the table to be 25″ off the ground, so I held a slat up to the table top at an angle that would make the top about 25″ and then marked that angle with a pencil.  I’m sure there’s a more mathematical way to do this, but I figured I had extra slats, so why not try winging it first?  I cut the same angle off the other side so the leg would be flat on the ground.  I did the same on another slat, held them up to table top to see if it worked, and it did!  Can you believe it?  I cut two more for the other side.

I screwed these on from the inside to hide the screw holes.  I used a level to make sure the table top was parallel to the ground because nothing is worse than food sliding off a table!

Step 3

Step 4: Benches

To make the benches, I cut 1 slat into 4 – 7 1/2″ long pieces to attach the slats for the benches.  I screwed them 2 3/4″ in from the end to the two slats making up the bench.  They should be even with the equivalent pieces supporting the table top.


I figured where the seats start should be about even with the end of the table.  Actually, I think for little kids, it would be even better to have them slightly under the table so they’re more likely to drop food on the table instead of on their lap, but I thought that might look weird and I couldn’t do that because of where my legs ended up (you could plan ahead, aka not “wing it”, to avoid this if you wanted the seats to go under).

So, the seats ended up about 1/4″ from the table edge, so the supports for the benches would need to be 7 1/2″ + 7  1/2″ + 19 1/2″ + 1/4″ + 1/4″ = 35″ wide.  So I cut my 1″ x 4″ x 6′ Select Pine Lumber in two 35″ pieces and cut 45 degree triangles off each end.

I screwed, from the inside, the seat supports in place 12″ off the ground, so the seats will be 12 3/4″ off the ground.  I used a level to make sure they were parallel to the ground.  Better to be safe than having crooked benches and sliding kids!

Step 4a

Then I screwed the benches into the seat support.  I had to screw these from the outside, but the screws are slightly hidden by the bench overhang.


Step 4c

I also added an additional support beam between the two bench supports.

2014-04-16 20.36.26

Here’s a picture of the table upside down so you can see all the places I screwed.2014-04-16 20.38.42

Step 5: Paint

At first, I was going to stain the table, but couldn’t resist using a fun color instead, so I used Benjamin Moore Arborcoat solid in Meridian Blue (761).  You can get Arborcoat in any BM color.  I use Zinsser Cover Stain primer that can be used for interior or exterior because I had it.  If I didn’t have any, I would have taken my chances and just used the BM Arborcoat because it says it’s self-priming on most surfaces.  It took 2 coats of Arborcoat and then I applied two thin coats of Minwax Water Based Helmsman Spar Urethane that we happened to have from when we built and painted our vegetable box.  A nice benefit of painting vs staining is that I painted over the screws, so they blend in more than if I had stained.

table 2

Looks pretty good, right?  The wood is definitely not super high quality, so I’m hoping that the spar urethane will help the table withstand some kid beatings, but I’ll do an update if it turns out Ikea bed slats are not up to the task!  Next job: building a deck (or more accurately, getting a deck built!)


  • Full size Ikea Sultan Lade bed slats – $0 (free on Craiglist, but $30 if you buy them new)
  • 1 – 1″ x 4″ x 6′ Select Pine Lumber – $6.50
  • 1 1/4″ exterior screws – $7.50 for a box with enough screws to make many more tables!
  • Benjamin Moore Arborcoat sample can – $0 (I had a coupon, but usually $5)

Total: $14



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