Basic Butt Joint question

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Forum topic by Richard Alexander posted 01-17-2011 03:42 AM 6138 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Richard Alexander

78 posts in 3078 days

01-17-2011 03:42 AM

What is a good method for drilling a straight pilot hole into a butt joint? I’m wanting to join two large pieces, so my bench drill press won’t work. I’m not sure how to clamp the two pieces together or how to drill the hole straight once clamped. In the past I’ve tried this and the joint is off. I’m thinking that I need to prill drill a block and clamp it to the outside piece to have a guide to get the pilot hole straight.

I hope this makes sense. I feel like I’m missing something simple.


-- Richard- Tulsa, Oklahoma

9 replies so far

View eregister's profile


14 posts in 2688 days

#1 posted 01-17-2011 03:51 AM

These have worked great for me in the past.

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Richard Alexander

78 posts in 3078 days

#2 posted 01-18-2011 02:34 AM

Thanks for the response. It looks like that might help. Any idea on the bet way to clamp two boards for a perpendicular joint?

-- Richard- Tulsa, Oklahoma

View eregister's profile


14 posts in 2688 days

#3 posted 01-18-2011 03:10 AM

Sorry, I think I may have only given you half of the equation. Let’s say you are building a bookcase and want to use a simple butt joint of the shelf to the ends. The butt joint in and of itself is not very strong so you want to add some dowel pins through the side of the end all the way through into the shelf. I’m not saying this is the ‘best’ joint but it is certainly an option, I have a book shelf in my bedroom loaded with books that has been there for about 7 years now and it still looks and works great. So for now we will go on the assumption that the butt joint is the one you want to use.

I would start by spacing at least 2 dowel pins and drill them into the end of the shelf using the jig I mentioned above. It will center the pins on the edge of shelf and when it’s clamped on the edge and you place your drill bit thorugh the jig it will help you drill a straigt hole. You will want to consider the lenght of your dowel and the thickness of the end board so you know how deep to drill the hole. I like to make the dowel pin stick slightly high on the end board. Then I use a flush cut saw and maybe a little sanding to get it flush with the side of the end board and make it look nice. Once you figure out the depth of the hole you need you can simply put some tape on the drill bit so you know how deep to go or use a drill bit stop. Make sure to account for the side board as well as the depth of the jig.

Part 2 of the problem is once you have the holes in the shelf how do you mark where to drill the side board so it’s accurate. The link below will take you to a little jig called dowel centers. They fit in the drilled holes and leave a small point sticking out. You then simply align the shelf board where you want it in releationship to the side board and press it into the side board so the points leave a starting point for you drill bit in the side board. If you are using very hard wood you may have to give it a little tap but normally you can simply press it together to leave the impression.

Here is the link to the centers –

Here is also a link to a page with various sample joints including the dowel pins we talked about.

If you have any other quesitons just let me know.


View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2847 days

#4 posted 01-18-2011 05:22 AM

I would first figure out how to clamp it. There is a way.

Even if it is an end grain to flat grain joint, the glue will stick it together. When it’s well cured—overnight is best—then you can drill through for the dowel and make its exposed end a design feature.

What do you think Richard? Will this work?



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3558 days

#5 posted 01-18-2011 06:03 AM

I’d use a dowel jig if possible.

-- Joe

View Richard Alexander's profile

Richard Alexander

78 posts in 3078 days

#6 posted 01-20-2011 05:19 AM

Thaks for the replies The doweling jig and the Rowell centers solves half my problem. I like the link that gave some good plans for building one. If notthere seem to be plenty of options for buying one. I appreciate the thoeiugh response and the links Ed. That site has a wealth of information.

Lee, your idea makes since to me. Figuring out how to clamp it I guess is the trick. But like you said, “there is a way”. I’ll find it.

Thanks again for the help,

-- Richard- Tulsa, Oklahoma

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2948 days

#7 posted 01-20-2011 05:45 AM

What about a corner clamp? I’ve seen several different types. Eg:

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View spunwood's profile


1202 posts in 2833 days

#8 posted 01-20-2011 06:06 AM

I like this jig

-- I came, I was conquered, I was born again. ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν

View Richard Alexander's profile

Richard Alexander

78 posts in 3078 days

#9 posted 01-21-2011 01:06 AM

Well, that takes care of the last part of my problem.

Thank you!

-- Richard- Tulsa, Oklahoma

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