April 04, 2020

How to Build a Squirrel Picnic Table (a tutorial)



I've gotten a lot of compliments on the squirrel picnic table I made for my squirrels, so I wanted to write the specifics here in case someone else wanted to replicate it.

*Note: I've been seeing pictures that people have posted of their tables after using my tutorial, and it makes me sad that they don't give me credit for it! It would be nice to share a link--I worked hard on this, and I'd appreciate it if others knew about my tutorial. Thank you!*

As I said before, this table was NOT my idea... it came from a photo of a table that went viral. A man made a squirrel picnic table and shared the photo on Facebook, and then several people sent the picture to me and said I should make one. Of course I agreed! (Here is a link to the original: Squirrel Picnic Table by Rick Kalinowski)

(Here is the post about how it went over with my squirrels when I was done building it)

So, here I am posting a (not great) tutorial for how to build it (assuming you're familiar with simple woodworking). Because I made this up as I went along, I don't have pictures of everything. But this will give you a good idea of how I made it.

I didn't have many scraps of wood left to work with, and I ended up using a slightly warped board that was 1 inch by 12 inches by 6 feet. I used my table saw to cut it down to the size pieces I wanted and I used the router to smooth out the edges of each piece. But this is a project that is a great way to use up scraps of any size!


I was going for a "rustic" look--I wanted it to look a little more detailed/realistic than the original viral photo (mainly because I love woodworking and I wanted to spend some time using my new tools making it my "own" rather than a copy of the original).

Even though I spent a ton of time disassembling and reassembling pieces of it as I went along, I finally got it done and it's actually very simple to make! I added an umbrella, but I'm not going to include that here because I don't think my squirrels were happy with it, hahaha.

Here, I'll just show how I made the table, and then you can choose how to hang it. (I added a block of wood on one end of the table and screwed the block into a post on my deck.)

First, here are the final cuts I made out of the warped board. These are actual dimensions and not the "common" dimensions of most strips of wood. (Aside from the wood, I used exterior screws that were 1-1/4 inches long)

Seat tops (4): 2" x 3/4" x 8"
Table top (3): 2" x 3/4" x 8"
Legs (4): I will detail this below, because I cut them on an angle; but the boards were 1.5" x 3/4" x 5" (They were 6" before I angled them on the miter saw)
Supports for table top (2): 3/4" x 3/4" x 5"
Supports for seats (2) 1.5" x 3/4" x 12"

(In the photo below, the dimensions are slightly different than they ended up being... I modified the dimensions a little as I worked, but this shows the pieces I cut):



First, I cut out all the boards on the table saw. I thought about putting them together as-is, but when I think of picnic tables, I picture the edges of the boards being slightly rounded (a little more rustic). So, used the router with a rounding bit to trim the edges along the length of the boards.



For the legs, I had no idea what angle to cut them. I eyeballed it, and then noticed that it was close to a number that, on my miter saw, is highlighted at 22.5°. I have no idea why that is an important number as far as mitering goes, but I decided to give that number a try. And it worked great!



So, after routing the leg pieces (they were about 6" in length), I cut each side to a 22.5° angle with the miter saw (making each one a parallelogram). After angling, they were 5" from the top edge straight down to the bottom edge.


To assemble:

(There has to be a better way to assemble than what I did, because it was hard to drill in such a tiny area. I had to use a drill bit that allowed me to drill at a right angle. But here is what I did...)

Lay the three table top pieces next to each other, and then lay the two tabletop support pieces on top of those (perpendicular to the tabletop pieces).

I put the table top support pieces 2" in from the edge of the boards and screwed them down to the bottom of the table top. (Yes, they're messy looking, but they were just scraps and hidden from the outside of the table).



Then I placed the legs on the outer side of the support boards (1/4 inch apart in center) and screwed them into place from behind.

You can see from the side--this is how I laid it out to see what I wanted it to look like from the side. (Obviously that's a bigger gap than 1/4-inch between the top of the legs, but this was just a rough idea as I worked--after assembling, there is 1/4-inch there. The dimensions below are what they ended up being when I was done).



If you look at the side of the "A" frame when everything is together, the measurement from the bottom of the middle tabletop board to the top of the seat support is 2-5/8". (Updated: There was a typo here, I've corrected it)



After screwing the legs into place, I added the seat support boards--those are just screwed into the legs from behind.

Finally, I placed the seat boards on top of the seat supports and screwed them down into the supports from the top.

As I clearly demonstrated, this is NOT an easy thing to explain, but I think the pictures help. The dimensions aren't super important, and you can just play around with them to get it to look how you want. Basically, I just played around with it until I liked the way it looked.

This is the final result... (like I said, I added an umbrella, but if making it again, I wouldn't do that).



Make sure you check out the post about how my squirrels liked it... I'm so glad I spent so much time working on it for them! *eyeroll* Hahaha

I've put this whole post into a PDF, in case you want to print it for reference. Sorry that it's not a "plans" format, but I'm better at tutorials than I am at writing up plans! Here is the PDF tutorial.

67 comments:

  1. I love it soooo much! If you ever decided you wanted to make some to sell, I will be your first buyer!! Jill Borst

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    1. Hi there Jill! I'd be willing to make one for you--I don't usually sell crafts because when I ask myself how much my time is worth spending on them, I tend to be expensive ;) But if you're serious, send me an email and maybe we can work it out!

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    2. I would love to buy one too.

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  2. Thanks for the detailed plans. I'm going to build a bunch and leave them around the neighborhood.

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    1. Your statement should be a simple reminder to everyone that "NOT ALL HERO'S WEAR A CAPE"!!! That is indeed a very thoughtful and great idea!!! Thank you for your kindness and generosity!!!

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  3. I just made one for my mom, thanks for the measurements that was a big help! She loved it!

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    1. Yay, I'm so glad she liked it! And that the measurements were helpful :)

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  4. Thank you for the plans, I made one for my daughter and she loves it.

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    1. I'm so glad! I hope that it was easy enough to understand :)

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  5. Just a comment on the 22.5 angle its half of 45 degrees which gives you the perfect angle

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    1. Interesting! That seems so obvious now, haha. I understand why 45 degrees is important, but is 22.5 degrees used frequently?

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  6. Just reading through this and something seems odd. Your side view shows the top as 8" and one solid piece. 8" is the length. The width is three 2" pieces so it should be 6" wide, right?

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    1. I understand the confusion--I meant that each piece is 8" long x 2" wide x 3/4 inches tall. When put together, you're right--it would be six inches across the top. But when I said table top "boards" I was referring to each individually. Sorry for the confusion!

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  7. Made one for my bride off your idea, thanks! I’m too dumb to figure out how to attach a picture but wanted to give you credit per your note.

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    1. That's awesome!! I hope that she liked it :) (And you're not dumb--Blogger's comment platform makes it ridiculously impossible to do much of anything in comments!)

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  8. Katie, I have recently discovered the squirrel picnic table phenomenon on line...and I have to say, your table is absolutely the best looking, your plans are extremely clear and thorough, and your pictures are tremendously helpful! Thank you so much for sharing!

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    1. I appreciate the kind words so much! Thank you!

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  9. Is that just a small piece that you attached to the table to attach to the tree or fence? I've seen a couple different ideas. Thanks for the plans, most people try to keep squirrels away...and some of us are trying to bring them in...😆

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    1. Yes, I just used a block of wood to attach the table, and then I attached the block to a post on my deck. I don't know why anyone would want to keep squirrels away... they're the BEST!! <3

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  10. Thanks, Katie. My daughter and I used your instructions and now have a not-so-great looking (mainly because I am NOT a woodworker!), but cool addition to our backyard. Stay safe in Michigan!

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    1. Haha, I'm sure the squirrels don't mind if it's not the best looking... but I'm sure they appreciate the effort! ;)

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  11. Easy to follow direction. Turned out better than imagined

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    1. I'm so glad! I wish I'd taken better photos, but I changed it up so much that it was confusing even to myself, haha ;)

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  12. I have pre cut everything, but I don't see how the legs can be 5inches. Is that right? I'll try to assemble it, but it seems the legs need to be about 8 inches?

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    1. It was hard to measure the legs because they were on an angle, but when I measured them from the flat top to the flat bottom, it was 5 inches. I did have a typo (which I've corrected)--the top of the table to the top of the seat support is 2-5/8", and not the 4-something inches I'd listed before. Sorry for the confusion!

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  13. Best looking one I’ve seen. Great job on the explanations
    Now off to the garage we shall go!

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    1. Thank you so much! I hope it turned out well!

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  14. I am excited for this project! My husband bought me some lumber when he was at the store getting stuff for his reno project. I haven't worked with wood since 7th grade shop class (it's been a while haha) but I always want to. I'll post a photo of the finished project!!

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    1. How fun! I hope that it turned out good for you. It was one of my favorite projects I've made :)

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  15. Would love to print this out so I can build a few for a couple of senior care centers. But it will not let me print or copy so I can print. This is by far the best design I have seen.

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    1. I didn't even think of that when I published it! I will try to turn it into a PDF so you can print. The problem is that it's a tutorial rather than "plans"--but if it's helpful, I'm happy to do so!

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    2. I turned this whole post into a PDF, and included a link at the bottom of the post. If you download the PDF, you can print it from that! Hopefully that helps :)

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  16. I just built it and it was pretty easy except the screws were splitting the wood after i predrilled the holes

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    1. Yeah, pilot holes can be important--you may have to do a tiny one and then follow up with a bigger one before driving the screws. I've learned the hard way many times! ;)

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  17. Thanks for sharing! It's cute! I measured and cut all of my parts yesterday and will assemble this afternoon. It helps with our extra time to have something to focus on. I totally agree with the no umbrella tho. I'm not going to put one on mine. I hope it doesn't split the wood tho when I predrill today like a previous post. Hmmm. Will have to think about that. Again, thanks so much!

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    1. I hope that it turned out well for you! The umbrella was a pain, but it's fun for the squirrels when it's raining out ;)

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  18. My hubby has squirrels at church and Insaw this and thought it was cute. He was worried people at church might not like it, so I did not make one. Well today we have our first ever squirrel in our back yard! So I guess it is fate that I make one! Thank you so much!

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    1. Isn't it so fun to see them using it?! :)

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    1. I'm sorry, I'm not sure what you mean...?

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  20. there is no way the 4 1/4" dimension is correct from the bottom of the table top to the top of the seat support. If you did 4 1/4" and then add the 1 1/2" for the seat support you would end up with 5 3/4" which is longer than the legs themselves. It needs to be more like 2 3/4" . I drew this design out on a computer cad program and the 2 3/4" dimension is more practical

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    1. Gee, I'm so sorry, Tom, that my FREE tutorial had a typo. I just re-measured and it was 2-5/8". Hopefully your computer cad program will accept that.

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  21. Thank you for sharing your plans. My plan is to build two of them today for mother's day (with the help of my two kids). I wouldn't have thought to share your post with any photos but I will be sure to do so. Thanks for suggesting that and again thanks for posting the plans. I'll report back on how they went

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    1. That is such and awesome gift! What a great way to spend Mother's Day--I hope she enjoys them! :)

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  22. Just finished mine. Great plans. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks for letting me know! I'm glad that it turned out well :)

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  23. What size roundover bit did you use and did you do it on a router table or a handheld trim router. Thank you.

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    1. I believe it was a 1" bit, but I used a router table, so I set it low enough in order to make a true round edge. A handheld trim router would work as well, but since the pieces are small, just be careful you don't knick a finger! ;)

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  24. Nice plan, thanks for putting it out there! Had fun making a couple out of all the random scrap wood I had.

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  25. Hi Katie! Excellent plan. Thank you so much! You're right about assembly - yikes! So, I made a jig! Never did that before, but wow! What a big help. Assembly of each table took 20 minutes with it. There's still a lot of assembly/disassembly, but it works great! I can show you if you're interested, but I don't see a way to share a photo here.

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  26. Just made these. Yes, dreams do come true!!!

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  27. thanks for the plans,fun project.i'll make another one downsized still useing your template.also i used a brad nailer instead of screws.thanks again stay well.

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  28. It came out perfect! Can you be a little more specific about how you attached it to the pole?

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  29. Fun project with the family I made 3 with scrap wood laying around the garage. I used brad nails turned out great. Thanks!

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  30. I was wandering what kind of screws you used such as size, type, and length? Also, I cant figure out what you added to connect it to a tree or post? Thank you so much for sharing your plans with everyone! They were the best I could find on the internet. From Kevin here in Texas Thank You and God Bless you and America.

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    1. Sorry I'm just replying to this! I used outdoor screws, #8, 1-1/4 inches, I believe (maybe 1-1/2 inches). To connect it to a post, I just used a block of wood that I first screwed onto the picnic table and then screwed the block of wood onto a post (using a few very long outdoor screws).

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  31. Are you making any so I can buy one? Thanks alot

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  32. I just built one! My daughter had sent me an idea and it was on my mind for some time this year. The wood did cost me $2.60. I looked for more details and could not find my daughters e-mail so I had found your tutorial and used it. Thanks. I made it longer, 9 inches instead of 8. I used #8 11/2" screws and they protruded on the other side so I had to file their sticking tips to make it safe. This was the biggest challenge. And I used wood treatment to stain the finished table to protect it from elements. All in less than 2 hours. The first visitor was a black bird. Peanuts were on the menu. Thanks!

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  33. I made a couple of these. One with reg scrap wood and one w picket fence scraps. Thank you so much! They look awesome!

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  34. I love the feeder tables. My roommate showed it to me earlier today and I went out and made one. I had a bunch of scrap wood that it turned out were exactly the sizes you listed on your feeder plans. And I was guessing the sizes and what I guessed were also exactly what you had listed.So then I finished it earlier and get online and I'm seeing your plans for the first time and it's funny how I made it exactly the same dimension as yours.but I took a 1"x1" and ripped it down thinner and used it as a border around the edge to hold any feed from falling as easy as it would with nothing. I just held it about 3/4" above the table top on 3 of the 4 sides. I like how you routered the edges of all pieces of wood, nice touch.
    Also the way you can explain dimensions of wood that has mitered cut ends is by referring to the longer side(the pointier end of the board) as the "long point", and of course the other side the "short point. That's how I was taught 100 years ago when I started in construction building custom homes. I think it'll help you in measuring and explaining dimensions to us. I hope I explained it good enough, and keep up the good work. I'm retired now after 45 years of building, so I need projects like this to keep busy, lol

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  35. Thanks for posting this! I drew this up and rendered it in Fusion 360. Now, I'm off to the garage to see if I can find scrap wood to fit. For the leg assemblies, I've put them 1/2 inch in from the end of the table. I lengthened the bench support beams to 12.5 inches since it looked like the drill hole from the outermost slats would potentially break the wood out. I also chamfered both the tabletop and bench supports for looks. Can't wait to make it IRL and go tantalize the squirrels.

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  36. I love your idea! I have a ton of scrap wood in the garage and was looking for an idea to use some of it. One of my friends posted a picture of a picnic table for squirrels and I just LOL'd. When I searched for ideas, your table popped up. I will definitely give you credit for your idea because you deserve it. I will try to send you a picture via some method when I'm done. It will be a while because I'm currently making candle lanterns as Christmas presents (hence the scraps). I would like to make a suggestion. If you didn't seal the table, consider using a spar urethane or marine urethane sealer. It will protect the table from the elements making it last longer. When the sealer is dried it will not harm the squirrels or any other creature interested in a snack. :)

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