I was inspired by my daughter to attempt a table without using any complicated tools or mortise and tenon joinery. This was in part based on an approach she saw on another blog for simple furniture building.
Before I begin, I will state that this may not be the cheapest way to build such furniture, nor will it be the strongest (though it will be a strong as the stuff you buy partially built in the major brick and mortar stores). However, it can be done with just a drill, clamps, a mallet and a saw (I did use a table saw, but a hand saw will work). Some sanding, gluing and screwing will also be required. What is not used is a chisel, router, stacked dado head, etc. you see in other furniture building.
You start by getting your wood. What makes this an easy way to build furniture is you use stair spindles for the table legs, basic 1x3 boards for the frame members, and some 3/8" dowels (which you cut to size). I cut the 1x3's into 4 38" sections (2 sections each for the upper and lower rails for front and back of the piece). You will also cut the 1x3's into 4 18" side rail sections. Make sure all you rails sections are the same length (if you are off slightly, clamp all the similarly-size rails together and sand them on the ends to be the same length). You will also need some angle brackets and hinges, but that will be brought up in a later posting.
Typical stair spindles will have a shorter rectangular (i.e., unturned) area at the top and a longer rectangular area at the bottom.
You get a small (approx. 8") piece of 1x3 and use it for a jig / template for aligning holes for the dowels. You will carefully cut it in half lengthwise. You flip it sideways and then mark a line across it for aligning the dowel holes. This will become clearer when you look at the photos.
Hole Alignment Jig / Template
You lay out the position for 2 equally spaced 3/8" holes in the jig piece. This is the most precise part. Once you align the holes, carefully drill them out. Now here is the key part of the project. The jig can be used from either direction, but you need to be consistent with your usage. I would use 1 side for drilling the holes for the legs (spindles), but the other side for the holes in the 1x3 frame members. By flipping the jig around, any error in your drilling will work itself out in the assembly (trust me this work fine).
Use the jig to align and drill 3/8" holes into the spindles at the top and bottom ends. You will need to drill the holes into 2 adjacent side of the spindles. Make sure you use the same side of the jig when aligning the holes for the spindles!
Jig Used to Align Holes at Top of Spindle
Jig used to Align Holes at Bottom of Spindle
Once that is done, you flip the jig around and drill the holes into the ends of the rail pieces. Pick your rail pieces carefully to that you have the best side facing out.
Drilling the Holes in the End of the Rails
One the holes are drilled, you then cut short sections of dowel and glue them into the rail pieces. You then glue the spindle pieces into the shorter rail and build the sides of the table frame. Clamp it all together and check that it is square.
Detail of Joint
Basic Side Frame Subassembly
Stay Tuned for Part 2 - Finishing the Frame and the Adding the Gate Leg . . .