Why make dowels when you can buy them cheap? Well, you can’t buy dowels in every kind of wood. Also you might be working on a project and you don’t want to take the time to go to the store to get them, or maybe you like to be self sufficient like me.
Dowels made on a lathe or with a router jig take a lot of set-up time. With this method you only have to prepare the stock, do a little carving on each end and in about 30 seconds you have a nice long dowel. If you like that idea and want to learn how you can make them, read on.
This is the dowel maker. A piece of mild steel with holes for various sized dowels drilled through at 45 degree angles. This leaves a cutting edge on the top and the bottom. When the top becomes dull just flip it over and use the fresh edge on the other side.
I drilled the large holes by starting with a much smaller bit. I drilled in a little at 90 degrees to give a dimple for the bit to start the 45 degree hole so it wouldn’t slip. I then used progressively larger bits up to the final sizes. It takes more time, but you get a better and less stressful result. I did the same with the small sizes except I began with one size small than the final size. The drill should be set a slower speed and you should use a little oil as you go.
Take your time with the drilling. This dowel iron will last a long time. I’ve been using mine for about 8 years now, and I still haven’t had to use the bottom “fresh edges”. I don’t use it a whole lot though.
Here is the dowel maker mounted in my tail vise and ready to use.
The dowel stock is cut square to the same dimension as the diameter of the dowel you want to make. Here you see it prepared to fit into the chuck of my hand drill. The ends are just quickly whittled with a knife. Try to keep the tenon centered as good as you can.
This end of the dowel stock is tapered to fit into dowel maker hole. Try to keep it centered as well.
Chucked up and ready to go.
Just getting started.
My target size was 13mm. The calipers show 13.6mm. After a little sanding it came down to 13mm.
Here is the finished dowel.
I made some more dowels in 8mm size for my little project. Note that I have cut a littlel “v” channel on each. This is so excess glue can escape. I just hold the dowel in one hand and use short bladed knife to make the two cuts needed to form the channel. A safer way is to hold them in you vise while you do the cutting.
Here is how I used them. As you can see I have drilled a hole on the side not too far from the end and glued my 13mm dowel into it on the back face of the workpiece, and I have drilled a screw hole from the end of the board and through the dowel. This was done to avoid screwing into end grain which would not have held the screw well. I have used the 8mm dowels on the end of the board instead of a mortise. This piece will be used as a stretcher. The “joint” I pictured here is very strong and durable and I don’t doubt it is just as strong as a mortise or nearly so when assembled. This is a great way to make a good joint with only a hand drill, some dowels and screws.
This blog is to show folks with a limited range of tools how they can still make a good joint that can also be taken apart for flat packing.
-- Mike, an American living in Norway.