Garden Bench with Table #2: I hate drilling dowel holes

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Blog entry by Greg Wurst posted 07-11-2008 03:26 PM 2705 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Sketchup plans Part 2 of Garden Bench with Table series Part 3: Finished »

So I took yesterday off in hopes of getting the bench together. I thought I would have the whole thing together and sealed by the evening. Of course, I was wrong.

I had already cut the pieces for the bench a week ago and let them sit in the garage. Wednesday night I took the seat supports down into the shop and cut the curve on the band saw and smoothed them with the oscillating drum sander (I printed a scale picture of the curve to use as a pattern). I also cut the legs to shape using the band saw and the scroll saw. FYI, a band saw blade can get nice and stuck if you’re not making a through cut and the wood tension causes the kerf to close behind you. I spent 20 minutes prying the wood apart enough to get it off the band saw. On the other 3 legs I used the scroll saw to make a cut across the piece to avoid that problem, but even that small 3” cut closed and I had to widen a hole using the jigsaw blade and then release and remove the blade.

My first mistake was in buying a self-centering doweling jig from Harbor Freight. I’ve bought a number of basic tools from Harbor Freight, and while there are certain tools you just don’t buy there I figured how could they screw-up a doweling jig? Well, they did. This POS couldn’t find the center of a board if its life depended on it. I didn’t even attempt to use it since I could see it was cockeyed.

So, a trip to the local ACE hardware and $37 later I get a decent jig with a 4” capacity.

FYI, It takes a LONG time to align and drill 120 or so 3/8” holes for dowels. I started on the backrests and drilled the hole in the slats and then used centering pins to transfer the hole locations to the horizontal supports.

Assemble one side, mark the centers again, and repeat to finish one backrest.

It was at this point I started the bad habit of assembling one side of a part before marking and drilling the holes in the other side. After noticing I had assembled a chair side before drilling the holes for a support and noticing a rail was in the way of the jig, I changed to marking and drilling all the holes BEFORE and assembly. I had to take the doweling jig apart and hold the drill bit sleeve by hand on a few holes before I learned this lesson.

Here’s one side assembled and clamped.

I then assembled the interior side pieces and attached the backrests to create 2 three legged-chairs.

By this time it was 9 PM, so realizing I wasn’t getting everything done today I decided to get the bench assembled and tackle the arms another day. I attached the rear center brace and the front brace to tie everything together and called it a night. I cleaned-up the garage and put the bench to the side and managed to get both the cars in the garage.

As always, these things take me much longer than I think they will. Oh well, I’m almost there.

-- You're a unique and special person, just like everyone else.

4 comments so far

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3186 days

#1 posted 07-11-2008 05:09 PM

looking good. I’ve never myself really been a fan of dowels. but the chair is coming along great so far. thanks for the post.

View SPalm's profile


5249 posts in 3300 days

#2 posted 07-12-2008 12:24 AM


Looking good. That is a lot of (fussy) holes. It’s fun to see someone else’s oops.

My hat off to you for keeping at it. It gives you appreciation why people buy mortise machines and the like.

The design looks great,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View shiney5757's profile


111 posts in 3189 days

#3 posted 07-27-2008 01:16 PM

nice job on the sketchup,
when i made these benches i used loose tenon joinery for strength for the main seat parts but still used dowels for the back rest,
i didn’t run the centre rear legs to the floor also on the straight bench but did on my angled benches.
check out my atemp on these benches.
Click for details

-- I cut it twice & it was still too short

View Greg Wurst's profile

Greg Wurst

786 posts in 3250 days

#4 posted 07-27-2008 04:38 PM

shiney5757 – I hadn’t seen your take on these benches before. Very nice, and I like the angled ones a lot. The loose tenons would definitely add strength. Someday I might get one of those Festool Domino tools. Loose tenons in about the same time as making a biscuit slot.

-- You're a unique and special person, just like everyone else.

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