Thought nuts and bolts were strictly made of metal? Nope! Make your own and you're well on your way to fastener-free furniture.
Step 1: Tools & Materials
Step 2: Tap the Nuts
I cut out donut shapes to make the nuts. They are 4" Ø with a centered 1 1/4" hole. The size of the hole is important- 1 1/4" gives you a tight fit for the threads while giving you enough space to fit the tapping tool.
The constancy of the hole is also very important, so I recommend using a forstner bit instead of a paddle bit. A drill press is also essential for getting straight holes.
Here's where the linseed oil comes in: put some on a rag and apply generously to the inside of the hole. This lubricates the tap- you will find it's really hard to get through the hole without the linseed oil.
When you start tapping, it's really important that you make sure the tap tool is flush, otherwise you'll get slanted threading.
There's no need to back in and out the way you would with metal. There are grooves built into the tool that channel out the wood chips.
WARNING: A user in the comment thread below pointed out that a linseed oil-soaked rag can spontaneously combust due to oxidation! Remember to always properly dispose of oily rags, let's not have anyone burning their house down.
Step 3: Die the Bolts
Clamp up the dowel and start the die tool so that it's flush with the top of the dowel. This likewise gives you straight threading which will keep you from getting a slanted table leg, or whatever you plan to use the nuts and bolts for.
It helps to sand a slight chamfer on the end of the dowel you're going to thread- this will make it easier to make a flush thread.
This tool is practically effortless- no need for linseed oil on this one, and no need to back it in and out.
Step 4: Put Stuff Together
I'm playing around with these and thinking of a lot of different applications. The first use is going to be a coffee table.
These things are INCREDIBLY STURDY when you combine them like they're shown in the photo. I also love the fact that a finished piece of furniture made this way can be taken apart and moved, or the parts re-used for something else.
The die cutter component is interchangeable for different sizes (I've seen a range from 1/2" Ø to 2" Ø), so you could really make some cool stuff with a more fleshed out kit.
The red oak is very sturdy (and you can buy them at any hardware store, they're used as clothes hanging racks and hand rails), but the wood's not hard enough to keep the softer veins from breaking out. I'd like to try it with some other wood species and see how well it holds up. I suspect poplar would be much less likely to break out like that.