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Through dowel as alternative to screw - strong?

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Forum topic by mcg1990 posted 07-13-2015 06:29 PM 1222 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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mcg1990

159 posts in 758 days


07-13-2015 06:29 PM

I’m planning to build a fold-out picnic table/bench for my wife. I have built a few as commissions, and they were well liked, but I hated all the ugly screw heads all over the place. I’m wondering if there would be any strength concerns if, instead of screwing two boards together – face to face – I clamped them in position, drilled [a number of] 3/8s holes all the way through the two pieces, and then dowelled them.

Here’s an example:

Would 3 3/8s dowels at each joint provide enough strength? I figure this will save me a lot of time over measuring and lining everything up to use the DowelMax.

Would the choice of dowel rod be important? I’m using Cedar lumber, so I’d likely go straight for the light coloured ‘hardwood dowel’ you get from the big box stores.. unless you’d advise otherwise.

Thanks!


9 replies so far

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ZXDrew

9 posts in 514 days


#1 posted 07-14-2015 03:10 AM

Have you considered using plugs?

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Bluepine38

3341 posts in 2551 days


#2 posted 07-14-2015 04:15 PM

They were using wood nails or dowels for fastening before screws were invented, if you face glue the
boards before clamping and be sure the dowels fit snug in the holes before gluing-because those box
store dowels are not a uniform diameter-you should have a strong and permanent joint.

-- As ever, Gus-the 77 yr young apprentice carpenter

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runswithscissors

2189 posts in 1491 days


#3 posted 07-15-2015 02:24 AM

It looks like the joint you are talking about is where the vertical and horizontal pieces overlap (?). If you were to clamp those joints together before drilling, then drill the holes at an angle (not at right angle to the wood), you would effectively lock them together. 3 dowels at 3 different angles would be very strong, I think.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View bigblockyeti's profile

bigblockyeti

3668 posts in 1186 days


#4 posted 07-15-2015 02:40 AM

If you’re really interested in hiding the fasteners, you can use a doweling jig that will allow you to drill blind holes on each interior face and they’ll never be seen. If you’re not interested in that level of complexity (read PITA), the plugs idea would be a good way to go for maximum strength and visual appeal. Through dowel should work fine provided everything fits tight and a good glue is used, I would personally be inclined to use 1/2” dowels though. I would certainly want to use some hardwood species, ideally something that’s strong and fairly water resistant. White oak would fit the bill and might be available, but it’s quite a bit lighter than the cedar and the only other dark, strong, hardwoods that I can think of would be exotics and very expensive.

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HornedWoodwork

222 posts in 680 days


#5 posted 07-15-2015 05:42 PM

I recently made the switch to doweling more for the aesthetic (I like contrasting dowels) and because I can make them in the shop with a dowel plate so they fit perfectly. These are simple, but very strong joints that I have found to hold very well. (3) dowels of 3/8” at any joint if you slightly angle them as runswithscissors suggests will hold incredibly well. A tight fit is desirable, just be careful of the hydraulic pressure you create when forcing the dowel and glue into the hole. (you can score the dowel or crimp it with plyers to relieve the hydraulic pressure as you drive the dowel in.
I have made through, stopped, and blind joints. Each has its use, but the simplest to achieve is the stopped joint.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

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rwe2156

2198 posts in 946 days


#6 posted 09-01-2015 12:08 PM

+1 to screws and plugs.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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bearkatwood

1205 posts in 477 days


#7 posted 09-01-2015 12:24 PM

The Ark wasn’t screwed together. ;)

-- Brian Noel

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runswithscissors

2189 posts in 1491 days


#8 posted 09-01-2015 07:49 PM

Traditional boatbuilding, particularly on large vessels, used treenails (“trunnels”), a.k.a. dowels, to fasten planking onto the frames. Locust was a favorite choice. This is still occasionally done when restoring old ships, or building replicas of historic vessels.

As for the ark, I regard that to be in the same category of fairy tale as the nursery rhyme “Three men in a tub.” But if there really had been an ark, most likely it would have been built that way.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Daruc's profile

Daruc

459 posts in 598 days


#9 posted 09-01-2015 07:54 PM


It looks like the joint you are talking about is where the vertical and horizontal pieces overlap (?). If you were to clamp those joints together before drilling, then drill the holes at an angle (not at right angle to the wood), you would effectively lock them together. 3 dowels at 3 different angles would be very strong, I think.

- runswithscissors

Best method in my opinion, if your just wanting dowels.

-- -

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