Dowel Cutter

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Project by galooticus posted 06-20-2016 05:07 PM 1691 views 2 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I decided to try to come up with a way to make dowels (mainly for drawboring) without buying any more tools (!), and of course using only the few hand tools I have so far. A quick search turned this up:

I decided to try something similar, minus the power tools.

First I took a piece of scrap, cut two pieces the same size, and glued them face to face to make a block of double thickness. I have a set of oldish Irwin auger bits, so first I made a 5/16” hole about halfway through the thickness of the block. I then continued that hole through with a smaller 4/16” bit. I bored as close as I dared to the edge of the block; on my first attempt I was too close and the bit wandered out the side of the block.

Next I planed the side of the block nearest the hole until I had just exposed the edge of the smaller 5/16” part of the hole. This looks pretty rough (pictures 2 and 3); I don’t think auger bits are the best for this application. Despite that, it actually works pretty well! Planing was a bit of trial and error—I stopped a bit short, then tested it out, took another thin cut, and repeated until it worked.

You clamp a chisel tightly across a wider part of the hole, then insert a rough-shaped stick (picture 4) and start turning carefully. Tapering the end of the stick a bit so it fits immediately into the smaller part of the hole helps to get things started (picture 1). For best results, go slow and avoid taking heavy shavings. After a little bit, the stick/dowel starts to get hard to turn, so I just tightened my brace down on the end. Be careful not too push too much with the brace (barely at all); otherwise you’ll take too much of a cut and the dowel will splinter.

I made a second hole on the other side of the block going from 6/16” to 5”16. You can make any size dowel you have drill bits for. I found that starting with the 6-5 hole and going to the 5-4 hole gave really nice results (picture 6). The dowel is smooth enough that it looks burnished in places.

I tried a hole that went from 6/16” to 4/16”. It was much harder to get a clean dowel with this larger diameter change without splitting the stick with the brace. The 1/16” difference works better.

The end result is surprisingly good dowels from a pretty crude looking setup using only brace, bit, and chisel.

I’ll make more sizes as needed. I’ll probably use a harder wood for the block (this scrap seemed slightly denser than alder) as well. I’m thinking of trying a tapered reamer to make a similar setup for forming tapered tenons, maybe good enough for the projects in Anarchist’s Design Book?

-- Andy in CA

5 comments so far

View Dave G's profile

Dave G

332 posts in 2074 days

#1 posted 06-21-2016 08:59 AM

Well done.

-- Dave, New England - “We are made to persist. that's how we find out who we are.” ― Tobias Wolff

View helluvawreck's profile


31393 posts in 2892 days

#2 posted 06-21-2016 03:33 PM

This is very handy and creative.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Matt Hegedus's profile

Matt Hegedus

146 posts in 819 days

#3 posted 06-21-2016 09:31 PM

Nice! My first attempt (using Matthias’ method and an un-sharp chisels) failed, and being new to the game I thought “why am I wasting my time when there’s a hardware store 4 minutes from my house?” So I went and bought dowels.

It’s great you made it work! My only complaint is why say 4/16”? Lol I had to think about that one! Not a common phrase around here…

-- From Pittsburgh, PA

View galooticus's profile


50 posts in 927 days

#4 posted 06-21-2016 10:55 PM

Haha, sorry about the weird sizing. It’s because my auger bits are labelled from 4 to 16, corresponding to their size in sixteenths.

If you look closely at the 5th picture, there’s a dowel on the lower shelf of my bench with a bar code on it :) I wanted to be able to make my own. Hopefully my writeup has some information to help others figure it out.

-- Andy in CA

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18290 posts in 3702 days

#5 posted 06-22-2016 06:31 AM

Kool! thanks for posting.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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