Dowel diameter reduction 3/8" -> 1/4" on ends

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Forum topic by Milo posted 04-24-2014 07:06 PM 1412 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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869 posts in 2736 days

04-24-2014 07:06 PM

I need to reduce some dowels to repair a drying rack for my wife.

The dowels are 30” long and 3/8” in diameter. I want to reduce each end of the dowel to 1/4” The length of the reduction at each end needs to be 1”.

Any suggestions? I’ve already destroyed one dowel trying to use my big sanding disc. The disc grabbed the dowel, yanked it between the disc and the table, and promptly reduced it to waste. Since I’d already cut the dowel to size (the other end had already be reduced), I snapped the worthless thing into pieces in frustration.

Any other suggestions? I don’t think a lathe is the answer.

Thank you,


-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

23 replies so far

View Elizabeth's profile


814 posts in 2561 days

#1 posted 04-24-2014 07:22 PM

Hm. I would try carefully scoring a 1/16” deep line around the circumference of the dowel using a scroll saw or band saw and a stop block, at short intervals from 1” from the end of the dowel to the end (multiple cuts) and then using a chisel from the end to chip away the bits, and sand smooth. I don’t know if this would work, so try it on one of your newly reacted scrap pieces first.

If my math is right, 1/16 off each radius will leave you with a 2/8 or 1/4 diameter.

View Rex B's profile

Rex B

320 posts in 1668 days

#2 posted 04-24-2014 07:22 PM

I think you could use a table saw sled/miter gauge. Raise the blade up 1/16, push sled forward until the dowel is over the highest point in the blade, and rotate the dowel. Repeat many times to nibble it away or use a dado stack.

-- Rex

View Yonak's profile


979 posts in 938 days

#3 posted 04-24-2014 07:33 PM

Another way you could try is with a fence on the band saw, pushing the dowel endways between the fence and the blade, with a stop on the fence 1” in.

View chrisstef's profile


15455 posts in 2424 days

#4 posted 04-24-2014 07:45 PM

How about a spokeshave?

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View jdh122's profile


878 posts in 2235 days

#5 posted 04-24-2014 07:46 PM

I’d whittle them down with a sharp knife. Works fine for chairmakers – just take off a bit at a time.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View crank49's profile


3979 posts in 2388 days

#6 posted 04-24-2014 08:25 PM

Using a big disk sander for this is kinda like swatting flies with a 44 mag.
Especially with the table not adjusted close enough to the disk avoid the grabbing the workpiece.
Lucky you didn’t get an abrasive manicure.

Score around the dowel with a box cutter with only 1/16” of blade exposed. Make several circumferential cuts from the end to a point 1 inch from the end. Then use a coarse file or fine rasp to reduce the end.

If you must use a power tool, the table saw method mentioned above would be good. Think I saw that in one of those wood working tips magazines with the slight modification of using the miter gauge to keep the dowel square to the blade.

-- Michael: Hillary has a long list of accomplishments, though most DAs would refer to them as felonies.

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 1490 days

#7 posted 04-24-2014 10:11 PM

You can also use the table saw to do it against the rip fence. Clamp a stop to the fence as a depth stop. Set a feather board. First rip into the end on several planes. Then you can slowly start spinning it (I like clockwise, against the direction the blade is spinning down into the table, as you are spinning, move it forward. Continue until you get to the stop. You get a smoother dowel than the mitre bar, 90 degree to blade method. (depending on you blade!) The picture shows this process except there is no stop on the fence, but you should be able to visualize that.

-- Who is John Galt?

View theoldfart's profile (online now)


7932 posts in 1868 days

#8 posted 04-24-2014 10:18 PM

Two possibilities

The first is a dowel plate and the second would be a tenon cuter in a brace bit. Both are old fashioned but its how things were done for years

Lie Nielson has a plate you can also make one by drilling out an “L” bracket from a hardware store. There is a posting somewhere on LJ’s about making a dowel plate.

A tenon cutter looks like this

and fits in a bit brace.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View a1Jim's profile


115167 posts in 2994 days

#9 posted 04-24-2014 10:36 PM

I like Joeyinsouthaustin’s approach.
On larger dowels I’ve held a tube just big enough for the dowel(or even square stock) to fit inside,then holding the tube across the miter gauge at 90 degrees to the blade, lower the blade so it will give the desired tenon size ,then feed the dowel or square stock (not the tube). While firmly holding the tube spin the wood inside the tube and feed it in and out of the saw blade to get a perfect tenon, you can use your fence as a stop to get the length of tenon you want.

-- Custom furniture

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 2211 days

#10 posted 04-25-2014 12:00 AM

If you have a router table and a straight bit you can use the same approach that Joey uses on the TS.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View gfadvm's profile


14925 posts in 2107 days

#11 posted 04-25-2014 12:11 AM

I was going to suggest the router table but then I saw Joey’s post. I gotta try that!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


1140 posts in 1051 days

#12 posted 04-25-2014 12:18 AM

I like Joey’s too.
The router is commonly used. Just build a v block and use a mortising bit.
Or use a belt sander or disk sander, put a hole in a block of wood to hold the dowel, then use that to control the feed of the dowel, and allows you to rotate it and keep it in position.

-- Jeff NJ

View bigblockyeti's profile


3569 posts in 1138 days

#13 posted 04-25-2014 12:46 AM

Set the sanding fence close to the disc so the dowel can’t fall between the two. Chuck up the dowel in a drill and keep it spinning as you slowly bring it to the sanding disc.

View Gshepherd's profile


1727 posts in 1619 days

#14 posted 04-25-2014 01:03 AM

I would use the lathe, Shove the dowel as you would when using it as a knockout, clamp it down with the chuck and use a parting tool to size it down….... Here is a so so pic of what I mean, Nova DVR and I also tried it on my Turncrafter and it works…..The Nova will handle 1/2 and the Turncrafter will handle 3/8 dowel that way… Just have to use the small chuck. Remember you will have that long end spinnin out the rear of the headstock….

-- What we do in life will Echo through Eternity........

View Redoak49's profile


1816 posts in 1406 days

#15 posted 04-25-2014 01:07 AM

I would whittle them down a bit oversize and then use a dowel plate.

showing 1 through 15 of 23 replies

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