Dowel joinery?

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Forum topic by Beginningwoodworker posted 03-14-2010 02:00 AM 4783 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3700 days

03-14-2010 02:00 AM

Topic tags/keywords: joining question

I have a General doweling jig that someone gave me I am wondering I could use the doweling jig in the place of a biscuit joiner since I that own one, I have never use the doweling jig. Just now thinking about putting it use. I am thinking about using the dowels in glue ups to help with aligment.

14 replies so far

View Woodwrecker's profile


4154 posts in 3602 days

#1 posted 03-14-2010 02:40 AM

I made a pretty big shoe rack/cabinet using dowel’s a while back Charles and the dowels helped line things up real nice.
One you get the hang of it, you’ll use it a lot.

-- Eric, central Florida / Utor praemia operibus duris

View BradHess's profile


63 posts in 3039 days

#2 posted 03-14-2010 02:47 AM

I have that jig and yes dowels work very well in the place of biscuit jointer and have similar strengths. The key thing with dowels is testing the setup before gluing things up.

One thing that I have found very useful for this is using center markers when joining two pieces of different thickness. Using the center markers you drill a set of holes in one piece, put the dowel center marker in the second piece and then push them together. This creates a dimple you can use to drill the next hole.

If you want I can post a few pictures and a quick writeup sometime just let me know.

View patron's profile


13608 posts in 3368 days

#3 posted 03-14-2010 02:51 AM

for side joining ,
lay out your boards ,
and mark a line across both at the seam about 1/4 ” into each board .
place your dowel jig so that you can see the mark in the little line on one side of the jig .
tighten and drill your hole , do this to both boards ,
the mark is on the ’ face ’ of both boards , so that the place the hole is drilled ,
is the same distance from the ’ face ’ on both of them ,
the guide can be moved for different thickness of woods ,
or to offset the holes ,
drill maybe 1/8 ” deeper than half the length of your dowel ,
as you don’t want the dowel to be more into one board than the other .
the dowel ’ pins ’ are made in 1/4” and 3/8” in various lengths ,
and have either a spiral or straight groves in them ,
for the glue to escape from the hole .
glue is a liquid , and does not compress ,
so you must have that escape slot for it ,
or the glue and the clamps will ’ burst ’ the wood and glue will come out like a mini-volcano .don’t fill the holes with glue , as it really makes a mess .
you can make your own dowel pins , but they must have that glue slot in them ,
and longer is not really better , as the friction and the drying glue can keep them from going all the way in .
they work fine , if your marks are straight across , and your jig doesn’t have to much play in it .
have all your clamps and pins ready , and once you start , don’t stop , until it is clamped together .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Mike's profile


252 posts in 3409 days

#4 posted 03-14-2010 02:48 PM

Yes you can, it is a little more work to do. I have both, started with the dowel jig and now I have since purchased a biscuit joiner. I think if you are planning on doing more than one project, then I would probably think about purchasing a biscuit joiner.

-- Mike, VT

View Sawdust4Blood's profile


405 posts in 3048 days

#5 posted 03-14-2010 03:31 PM

Many of us learned using dowels back before there were biscuit joiners. That being said, there is a reason biscuits have replaced dowels for many jobs. Assuming you’re talking about the General 840 doweling jig, the most common criticism of that tool is the inaccuracy/slop so you might find purchasing a biscuit joiner less frustrating in the end.

-- Greg, Severn MD

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3700 days

#6 posted 03-14-2010 08:11 PM

Thats the model, I have Greg.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3313 days

#7 posted 03-15-2010 06:53 PM

I personally think dowels provide a stronger joint than bisquits, but they are more trouble. I used to have the same General jig. I agree with Greg—It is sloppy. I use a Dowel-it jig now, which is much better.


View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 3032 days

#8 posted 03-15-2010 07:02 PM

One advantage is you can dowel together pieces narrower than you can biscuit together. Lower limit on biscuits is maybe 1 7/8” for a #0?

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

View AaronK's profile


1506 posts in 3491 days

#9 posted 03-15-2010 07:48 PM

I think dowels are great. They are sufficiently strong They’re excellent for aligning glue-ups. Joinery with them is good too – just make sure you use enough of them… like 1 per linear inch or so, if you want strength. Also, i wouldnt use them for chair legs. That said, you need a reliable jig. Fortunately jigs are cheap, and you can even build your own. You can use dowels as complementary and even somewhat decorative features as well. For example, pinned or doweled rabbets are easy to make, functional, and have a crisp look to them. Dowels may be used to pin tenons, and you can even mix dowel sizes – you can make the joint with a large diameter dowel, then pin the dowel itself with a smaller diameter dowel.

FYI, I use the Wolfcraft dowel-pro jig, and it is fantastic. There is a very useful review of it on this site as well. It is a non-centering jig, but for standard thicknesses it is set up to hit the center line. What is good about it is the fact that for most joints, the two pieces are registered and drilled while clamped together, so you dont introduce error with the doweling center pins.

It’s sort of up to you though re: dowels vs. biscuits. biscuits might be faster, but you have to buy the machine. I’m a weekend warrior, so I dont need to bother with biscuits. If I was assembling lots of kitchen cabinets out of plywood i might think very differently.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4245 days

#10 posted 03-15-2010 08:11 PM

I use dowels, but I never really thought of them as an alternative to biscuits. I use them more as a substitute for mortise and tenon joinery. The main difference is that a biscuit joint will have some side-to-side “play” when you glue it up, but a dowel joint is going to be rock-solid (which means your holes better be in precisely the right spots.)

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3612 days

#11 posted 03-15-2010 08:49 PM

I sold my biscuit dewalt joiner with all biscuits and have gone for dowels only now of course I do mortice and tenons too but mostly dowels as I find them more accurate when building furniture.MY 5 cents. LOL Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Don Newton's profile

Don Newton

716 posts in 3645 days

#12 posted 03-15-2010 09:22 PM

Charles… sure to mark one face of all pieces and be consistent in working from that face. If the jig is off center it won’t really matter.

-- Don, Pittsburgh

View Dustmite97's profile


439 posts in 3247 days

#13 posted 03-22-2010 03:32 AM

Dowels will work. I don’t have a biscuit joiner either, so dowels have done very good for me.

View hokieman's profile


186 posts in 3781 days

#14 posted 03-22-2010 04:26 AM

I have never trusted biscuits and never use my biscuit cutter. Anyone want to buy it ? :-) I have used dowels for a long time and never had any problems. M&T is better but for joining face fronts for cabinets, I think dowels are just fine. When I did my workbench – M&T for the base and it is solid as a rock.

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