Low Budget Dowel Maker

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Project by TObenhuber posted 10-28-2016 05:59 PM 2283 views 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is definitely not the fanciest project that will be posted today but could probably save you the most money. I have been searching around for a while and experimenting with several diy dowel makers. Though I really like the concept of drilling holes with a step drill bit and cutting the edge out. Then clamping a chisel to it. I couldn’t get that concept to work. I gave it a good college try but never got the dowels to start without getting stuck or being loose. Over all very cool concept but some part was just evading me for some reason.

I wish you more luck if that’s the route you want to go. Link to Matthias Wandels Dowel Maker

The next possible route would have been to buy one. But at a rough price of $195 for the Veritas Dowel Maker, that doesn’t fit into the description of low Budget. Also at roughly $50 for each different sizes I would never be able to convince my wife I really really need this.

So, I kept looking for a cheaper route that I could afford to wiggle into the monthly budget without my wife noticing. I’m sure you understand at this point.

I did more research. What I came across was the Paul Seller’s Poor Man’s Dowel Maker. Just the title of the article was right up my alley. So, he basically takes appropriately sized cut washers which are ~$0.30 each and hammers a square peg through a round hole producing a dowel the right size. The concept is sound. Or, so I thought.

Down side to Paul Sellers method, if you try it. The dowel hammered, in my case pushed through with a drill, turns out a small fraction of an inch to big. After trying it, I immediately Googled Cut washer dimensions and found that cut washer inner diameters are over sized. In hindsight this is obvious because a half inch bolt has to fit through the opening and a perfectly sized hole wouldn’t work. DOH!!!!

In realizing this while standing around at the BORG, I realized this could be fixed. Bring on the drill. I realized the next size down washers would be fractionally smaller than the desired size. 3/8” washer is slightly to small for a ½” inner diameter. So, my ½” drill bit made light work of this issue. I cheated here, I have a drill press but a hand drill with patience would have worked. Do your best to avoid drill bit wander.

In short, LOL, I can make a perfectly sized ½” dowel with a ½” cut washer, a 3/8” cut washer, scrap 2×4, screws, ½” drill bit, over sized ½” square stock, ½” socket and a socket attachment for the drill. I also used a tablesaw for the ripping but could be done with other ripping tools. I assume most of you have a drill and might have a socket set. Of course you might have to spend the $15 to get the ½” socket and socket attachment.

First, I rip the square stock from the desired stock. Slightly over sized ½” stock for ½” dowels. Then, to make it easier, tilt your blade to 45 degrees and rip the corners off the stock. Now you will have nearly ½” dowel stock and it works far better if you cut the edges off. Now, hammer on the ½” socket to the dowel stock and chuck up your socket attachment into your drill. I cut the edges off the tip of the dowels about to be pushed through the washers to make them fit to get started. That preps the dowel stock.

For the dowel maker, take 6 to 8 screws and your cut washers. Drill one hole slightly larger than ½” (I used 5/8”)and fasten the 1/2” cut washer over the hole. In my case it was a chunk of 2×4. With both washers now fastened, drill out the 3/8” washer with the ½” drill bit. Vuala!!! Dowel maker complete.

Now with the dowel chucked up and dowel maker complete. Slowly start the dowel stock in the larger washer. Once complete, run the stock through the ½” modified washer. With a light sanding, the dowels fit perfect.

Now that this was a long article, I really appreciate you reading this far. For me, this was a long row to hoe. I hope my research and struggles help someone. It was a great relief when it was all figured out. I am really excited about being able to make dowels without the huge dowel maker expense.

One other tip, using a grinder. Grind some rough spots on the inner diameter of the mounted washers to roughen the edges to help cut the dowels faster.

If you have any question or if I was unclear. Please ask.

If you would like to see more of my shenanigans. Please visit Creative Woodworks Hybla Valley on facebook and please like if you enjoy what you see.

Thanks for reading and stay safe in the shop.

-- Travis, Virginia,

5 comments so far

View Jeremymcon's profile


306 posts in 915 days

#1 posted 10-28-2016 10:03 PM

Interesting! I have been experimenting with a dowel maker similar to Mattias wandel’s recently – found it in a write up on this website, actually. It’s been a little hit or miss, at least in the red oak I’ve been trying to make dowels out of so far. Once I decide to stop tinkering with it maybe it try this method.

View Mean_Dean's profile


6910 posts in 3382 days

#2 posted 10-28-2016 10:03 PM

Looks like an interesting concept!

Other ways I’ve seen:

Use a roundover bit in the router table to round over the edges of square stock into a round dowel. For a 1/2” dowel, use a 1/4” roundover bit. Make 4 quick passes, and you’re done.

Another way, which might be faster, is to get a piece of steel angle iron, 3/16” thick, about 6-8” long, and drill holes (or have a machine shop drill them) at the dowel sizes you need (say 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2”, 3/4”.) Then bolt the angle iron to your work bench, and with a mallet, pound the stock through the holes, to get the size dowels you need. Also, if your dowels are used for joinery, and seem to be a really tight fit when glue is applied, have the machine shop drill the holes 1/64” smaller than you need, to allow for the glue.

Keep us posted on how you make out with your jig!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View TObenhuber's profile


156 posts in 1827 days

#3 posted 10-29-2016 12:57 AM

So, I haven’t actually joined anything with them yet but I did make some test fits. So far the fit is snug but I can push the dowel through by hand without glue. Just tight enough to when I apply glue, I should be able to tap them in with a mallet as seen in the picture.

Jeremymcon, I did fool with Matthias’s method for several hours on several different days. Might have had better results if I used hardwood of some sort or if my chisels were some how sharper. I assume a chisel that can easily cut paper with little to no force should be sharp enough. I did all of my test with doug fir. This method for me was easier to make and had no adjusting. I felt that the amount of fiddling with Matthias’ method was wasted after I made a jig that was this simple. I recommend you give it a shot sooner than later. You won’t be sorry. Sometimes simpler is better.

Mean_Dean, as far as the other methods you mentioned. There is definitely more than one way to skin a cat. For me and the tools that I have, I can fairly quickly make the 1/2” stock for what ever I am working with then trim the edges off on the tablesaw. Then chuck the dowel stock up and run them through the washers. It would be more efficient when the time come to make several dowels all at the same time. Not just for the current project but to have enough for a couple projects.

-- Travis, Virginia,

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21953 posts in 3340 days

#4 posted 10-29-2016 02:33 PM

Nice work. That is a handy fixture for making yo own custom dowels too. I find that ones you buy anymore are off size so I have to rework them before I use them!!

cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View TObenhuber's profile


156 posts in 1827 days

#5 posted 10-29-2016 04:57 PM

Jim Jakosh, Agreed. It is tough to have to search through an entire stock to find a couple dowels that aren’t warped or weird grain. I don’t currently have calipers but I can use a forstner bit to drill a 1/2” hole and make test fits that way. Plus, if you already have the tools I used the whole jig could be made pretty cheap. $0.30 for cut washers 2X, scrap of wood, a couple screws and drill bit of the desired diameter.

-- Travis, Virginia,

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