Transforming table, pt. 1: Happy drilling


This is one of my favorite projects in my upcoming book, “Build Stuff With Wood.” This table can be stacked on its side to form a bookcase or even made a little shorter as a stool. It is based on an elegantly simple, multi-use piece from the Bauhaus movement in Germany.

To make it easier to build, I traded the traditional dovetails in the corners for a simple dowel jig from And I found cool way to form tenons on the three big dowels that pass through the middle, using any router big or small. Still it’s the most complex project in the book, so I figured I’d roll it out here in parts.

Of course the book covers every last step, with lots of extra tips and tricks, but you can get the gist right here in these blog posts.

In this post, I’ll cover the all the drilling for the big and small dowels, starting with the dowel jig. Available at for just $15 the jig comes with the bit you need, plus a small stop collar that controls depth. I went with the 3/8-in. size, which is perfect for joining 3/4-in.-thick boards. And Rockler’s perfect-fitting dowel pins are just a few bucks more.

To make one table you need just one six-ft.-long pine board, sold as a 1×12 at home centers but actually about 3/4 in. by 11-1/4 in. Plus one 4-ft.-long, 1-in.-dia. dowel to make the three big spindles.

And you’ll need a bag of those 3/8-in. spiral dowel pins for the joints. They have a spiral groove that lets air and glue escape when you tap them into their hole.

So chop your boards to size however you want, and let’s get drilling!

After you cut your boards to size, you need to lay out the dowel spacing on the top board (put them about 1-1/2 in. apart and 3/4 in. from the ends) and then transfer those marks to the sides as shown, which is super easy.
This Rockler dowel jig is one of my favorites in the world. You can’t beat it for simplicity, and dowel joints are super strong.
I’m setting the stop collar on the drill so it will only go about 1/2 in. into the sides.
This is how easy it is to use this jig. You just line up one of the jig’s lines with your layout mark, and clamp the jig right there.
Clamp, drill, move the jig. Repeat.
The mating holes in the top will go right through it, so the dowels will show in the finished piece. Notice I had to carry the layout marks onto the ends of the boards here, and I’m using a long clamp to hold the jig in place. Also, there is a scrap board underneath to stop the bottoms of the holes from splintering.
Clamp, drill, move the jig, repeat.
Let’s drill the big holes for the big spindles. Here’s a trick: To keep the drill from wandering off your precise layout marks, make a dent with a nail first.
At some point, you should invest in a set of Forstner bits. No drill cuts big holes as cleanly. This one is 7/8 in. dia., just smaller than our 1-in. dowels. I’ll explain why later. A 3/4 in. bit would also work.
Some people say you can only use a Forstner bit in a drill press. That would be wrong. Notice the scrap board on the bottom side to prevent splintering again.
Clean as a whistle. In the next part, I’ll show you how to make smooth, round tenons on your spindles, to fit these nice holes we just drilled.







4 thoughts on “Transforming table, pt. 1: Happy drilling

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