Proper number of dowels?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Joinery forum

Forum topic by Hmlee posted 05-10-2013 04:58 PM 6976 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Hmlee's profile


18 posts in 1890 days

05-10-2013 04:58 PM

Hi all. I’m beginning work on a dining table glue-up using 8/4 ash. The glue-up consists of 3 boards, two outer boards 11.75” wide and a middle board 6” wide. I was planning on using dowels for the joining, but I’m wondering how far apart the dowels should be. The total table length is 5 feet. I’ve never worked with 8/4 wood before, and I want to make sure I make a strong joint but don’t waste materials…

5 replies so far

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2602 days

#1 posted 05-10-2013 05:19 PM

How many dowels do you need to ensure the joint is strong?...None. A edge joint is plenty strong on its own, and dowels will only help with alignment. 3 or 4 along the length should be good enough to keep everything aligned.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2816 days

#2 posted 05-10-2013 08:25 PM

Unless your dowel drilling is dead on, the dowels only make alignment worse, not better. If you do the glueup in two stages, so you’re just dealing with one 5’ joint at a time, you’ll be able to walk and tap as you clamp and get it amazingly close.

There are those who will recommend that you rip the 11.5 pieces in two and flop half of them to minimize cupping. I suggest you give this serious consideration. More glue joints, yes, but visually a more interesting top and definitely more likely to stay flat.



-- " 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 realcowtown_eric's profile


608 posts in 1902 days

#3 posted 07-04-2013 06:37 AM

Concur with both previous posts. Dowels joining 8/4 ash are a totally unneccesary complication that will only add frustration. They will not, could not add any structural integrity, nor add any possible benifet to the glue up.
Not just a total waste of time, but possibly a detracting outcome. Please park this idea.

I’d be more worried about using boards 11” wide, particularly with ash.

If you look at the ends and see the annular rings. well, they tend to want to go linear and straighten out, and that’s what they will do. Ash seems to me to react particularly promptly to moisture changes. a an 11” wide board is not just gonna move a little, but perhaps a whole lot.

And do watch you allow for wood movement when you attach the top to the base, cause ash splits real good and easy!

Conventional wisdom is to alternate grain direction….cup up, cup down,cup up, cup down, etc and with much smaller widths of wood than you propose. so that the fluctuations in ambient moisture do not coalesce in the same direction, but rather are somewhat distributed and their effects moderated. Something to think about.

just my thoughts.


-- Real_cowtown_eric

View bondogaposis's profile


4683 posts in 2317 days

#4 posted 07-04-2013 12:06 PM

Zero dowels is the way to go. Glue alone is the best joint for edge to edge, especially w/ 8/4. Dowels unless they are in absolutely perfect alignment, something that is very difficult to accomplish, will actually prevent good edge to edge contact and add almost nothing to the strength of the joint. Using modern glues will give a bond that is stronger than the wood itself in an edge to edge application.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Don W's profile

Don W

18685 posts in 2533 days

#5 posted 07-04-2013 12:25 PM

+1, no need for dowels.

8/4 ash for a table top? Nice choice. Post some pic’s back here.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics