It seems like a 1/2" dowel should fit into a 1/2" hole

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Forum topic by richgreer posted 12-29-2010 07:43 PM 3539 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4541 posts in 2113 days

12-29-2010 07:43 PM

I buy my dowels from a big box store and lately I have had a real problem with dowels that are a little bigger than they are suppose to be.

I often have to sand (or rasp) the dowels before I can get them to go into the hole they should fit in. This seems to be a more common problem with dowels of 1/2” or bigger.

Are other people having this problem?

Is there a source for dowels that are accurately made?

Has anyone used a dowel plate to trim their dowels to the right size? (Seems like an expensive solution.)

Does anyone make a more reasonably priced dowel plate?

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

26 replies so far

View Dark_Lightning's profile


2276 posts in 2148 days

#1 posted 12-29-2010 07:51 PM

heh heh heh…they’re probably 13 mm, which is slightly larger than 1/2”. Then again, maybe it’s just that your 1/2” bit is worn? Even if you did drill a hole 1/2” in diameter, there’s fuzz in the hole, right?

View levan's profile


457 posts in 2018 days

#2 posted 12-29-2010 08:22 PM

We have a dowel sizing plate but I don’t know the brand. You may want to try american woodworker oct. 94 pg. 63 on line to make your own. We have always had some problems with sizes also, normaly in the summer with humid conditions. We also have been known to slip them in the microwave for a few seconds to dry and shrink. It works but you have to be careful not to leave them to long or the smell is bad. Ha ha And this can have a negitive impact on the cook.

-- "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right". Henry Ford

View SteveM's profile


108 posts in 3206 days

#3 posted 12-29-2010 08:23 PM

We see that problem a lot with big boxes and other “normal” lumber yards. Seems we now need to go to a specialty shop to get accurate dowels. That said, the man who taught me how to build a rocker swears by his/the old method of driving a block through a hole in steel. ;-}

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jim C

1463 posts in 2137 days

#4 posted 12-29-2010 08:28 PM

A 13 MM dowel is going to be about .512. That could be your problem. If you have digital calipers or a 1” micrometer, you might check them.
If they are just a couple or few thousands over, they are probably swelled. If so, a trick to cut a hole oversize is to grind the drill bit tip off center a little bit. in other words, grind the flute tips uneven so one side is a little longer than the other. The hole should come out oversize.

-- When I was a boy, I was told "anyone can be President", now I'm beginning to believe it!

View TheDane's profile


4476 posts in 2702 days

#5 posted 12-29-2010 08:47 PM

Rich—Yes, I have run into the same problem. I made a make-shift dowel plate by drilling 1/4”, 3/8” and 1/2” holes in a piece of steel I salvaged from a gate hinge. Not the most elegant solution, but …


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Seeharlez's profile


83 posts in 2032 days

#6 posted 12-29-2010 08:55 PM

Better than the 3/4” dowel I bought at HD that was about a 3/32” undersize…

-- Greg - Vancouver, BC

View Loren's profile


7967 posts in 2687 days

#7 posted 12-29-2010 08:57 PM

You can shrink the dowels with dry heat.

Make a “shop oven” with a light bulb and a coffee can. You can do it
with a hot plate too. A toaster oven works too but most are a little
big to keep in a cramped shop just for shrinking dowels and loose

One furniture maker I know has a hot box under his bench he uses to
warm up glues and finishes so they flow nicely on colder days. It
has a 100 watt lightbulb or two inside the cabinet and foil on the


View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


16449 posts in 2715 days

#8 posted 12-29-2010 09:30 PM

I was going to say make your own, but it had done been said several times ;-)) Be thankful it isn’t undersized. easier to take off than put on wood!

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

View patron's profile


13409 posts in 2380 days

#9 posted 12-29-2010 09:40 PM

mike showed us how to ‘size’ dowels
it will work with pre-made
or square stock

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

View wiswood2's profile


1138 posts in 2735 days

#10 posted 12-30-2010 12:34 AM

All Dowels from acrost the pond are allways oversized I buy nothing but USA made dowels .I never have a problem with them. Some supply co, handel both, But you will pay more for USA dowels/

-- Chuck, wiswood2

View TheDane's profile


4476 posts in 2702 days

#11 posted 12-30-2010 12:46 AM

Chuck—I think the labels on the dowels I buy at Menards say ‘Made in USA’, and they are the ones I have trouble with.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

294 posts in 2121 days

#12 posted 12-30-2010 01:21 AM

Maybe the manufacturer is trying to compensate for shrinking by deliberately making them slightly oversized. Or maybe they sharpened their dowel cutter a few too many times.

I had a problem today finding straight 1/2” dowels at the BORGs. Some had 2-3 bends in different directions along 3’ of length. There were only 2 straight ones out of about 30 in the pile.

-- Steve

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2022 days

#13 posted 12-30-2010 01:22 AM

My problem is that they are usually undersized rather than oversized.
Making a dowel plate is the way to go anymore. Good way to use up scrap wood as well.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View rowdy's profile


373 posts in 2481 days

#14 posted 12-30-2010 02:55 AM

Quite a few of the dowels that I have purchased recently have not only been either too large or too small, but also have not been truly round. Guess I am just asking for too much. I think a dowel plate is the way to go.

-- Rowdy in Kechi, Kansas

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 2098 days

#15 posted 12-30-2010 04:13 AM

Make your own dowel plate. just get a piece of steel and drill holes the sizes you need. Drive the dowel through. Easy Peasy. Still, when you buy 1/2” it should be pretty close.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

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