Woodworking vacation tidbits #2: Making your own dowels

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Betsy posted 05-27-2008 12:03 AM 6400 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Setting up a hand plane Part 2 of Woodworking vacation tidbits series Part 3: Got my planes today! »

Well I’m still pretty tuckered out from my vacation drive home so I’m only puttering around today. But one of the things I need to do is make pegs for my cutting board we made in class. The tenons are to be draw bored and for that you need a peg. So I’ve been messing around with making pegs/dowels today.

The first thing is that you can make a dowel from any type of wood. The straighter the grain the better. If your grain is not straight it will still work, but you should work with shorter pieces.

I only have a small piece of white oak for my board so I practiced with some red oak, it’s not the straightest grain but it will do for demonstration purposes.

By the way – if you are learning a new trick like this – it helps to blog about it, because you have to think it through more thoroughly than you may if you were not trying to explain it to someone.

So here we go. First you need a scrap of the wood you want to use for a dowel – it needs to be at least a smidgen wider than the finished dowel. Set the scrap in a vise or other type of holding devise.


Using a sharp chisel – rive a piece a bit wider than the final dowel you need.


The straighter the grain the neater more precise the cutoff will be. You can see this red oak did not go down perfectly—- but I can still use it for the 1/4” dowel I’m working on.


Cherry did not split well at all. But it makes a nice wedge.


Next taper down the corners of the cutoff so that it’s tapered at one end. I used a block with a channel plowed into it to hold the cutoff on an angle to get the corners down. Then used a block plane to do the clean up work.



You can also use a knife to taper the end of the cutoff. But I would not suggest using this particular knife as it is so dull it would not cut butter—but you get the idea.


Next you need a dowel plate. You can pick these up at most good hobby shops or Lie Nielson sells them also. They run about $45-50 and you can get in inches or metric. Set the desired diameter of dowel over a hole in your bench.


Insert the tapered end of the cutoff into that diameter hole.


Then just started pounding away at it. As the cutoff goes into the dowel plate you will see that the sides will ””flower” up on the sides. That’s a good thing.


You need to be careful as you are driving the cutoff to make sure you are driving it straight. If it gets cocked at an angle your piece will either break or not be completely smooth when you are done.

Once the cutoff is through the plate, pull it out the back and you should have a pretty clean dowel/peg.


And for giggles if you want to make toothpicks, or just a smaller dowel, just move onto the next smallest hole.


Well – that’s all the puttering for today. I’m headed off to watch a ballgame.

As always I appreciate your comments, suggestions or “you know that is not exactly right” help.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

8 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3787 days

#1 posted 05-27-2008 12:24 AM


This looks like an interesting technique. If memory serves me (and that is a big if) I believe that Gary did something like this for one of his projects. It sounds like you are having fun.

Have you gotten a car yet?

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1283 posts in 3702 days

#2 posted 05-27-2008 12:31 AM

It’s good to see the energy and interest in woodworking.

One thing I noticed is that you are using a steel bench dog. It might be a god idea to substitute the dogs for wooden ones when using a plane or other tool that might get damaged if it hits the steel dogs. They are easy to make buy purchasing some 3/4” dowel.

Keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!!

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3733 days

#3 posted 05-27-2008 01:20 AM

thats cool. i always see those dowel plates when i look through my lie-Nielsen catalog but i never know what they were for. thanks for the post.

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3860 days

#4 posted 05-27-2008 05:10 AM

Thanks guys.

Scott – nope no car yet. I’ve been looking and looking. But I really can’t make a decision on what to get until I know what the insurance is going to give me on the other car. I want to keep payments as low as I can, imagine that.

John—- you are right about the dogs. I’m careful to move them lower than the top of the workpiece, but accidents happen so I will be making some wooden dogs soon.

TWW——glad to help. I enjoy doing these blogs and enjoy yours as well!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View gator9t9's profile


331 posts in 3669 days

#5 posted 05-27-2008 05:58 PM

Betsy Thanks so much for this blog as I had forgotten about the old way of dowel making.
I think i saw Roy Underhill make dowels one time about 20 yrs ago ..

It seems as looking at your dowel that what you have after driving the oversized wood piece thru the Lie Nielsen
dowel maker hole …is a piece that may or may not be round or may or may not be torn on one side as yours seems to be …Is this just the way it happens or was this your first time or ????
I am not trying to be critical …just want to know if one can make quality dowels by hand …

and who won the ball game …..I know it wasn’t the Mariners …as we seem to be mired in another crappy season…..
thanks again …

-- Mike in Bonney Lake " If you are real real real good your whole life, You 'll be buried in a curly maple coffin when you die."

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3860 days

#6 posted 05-27-2008 09:40 PM

Mike—- thanks for reading my blog. I don’t think you are being critical at all. This system works well when you start with a straight grained wood. White Oak is best. I was using red oak just for demonstration. But you can make dowels from any type of wood——you just need to be very careful and start with a piece that is just oversize.

Not every attempt will be perfect—- but you’ll get close.

The Rays beat the Rangers.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Taigert's profile


593 posts in 3805 days

#7 posted 05-29-2008 05:51 PM

Imagine what our Grandfathers went through to make some of the fine old furniture that is still around today.
Nice blog Betsy.

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3860 days

#8 posted 06-21-2008 02:14 AM

thanks Ed.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics