Cutting or Routing a channel into a dowel

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Forum topic by cmckerliesr posted 02-13-2009 07:34 PM 8548 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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82 posts in 3471 days

02-13-2009 07:34 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question jig tip

I have a problem, that I am hoping someone can help me with since I have never tried this before.

I am making some tracking sticks. Without going through a lengthy discussion, I need to cut a 1/2 inch wide channel into the sticks in order to place or mount a measuring tape. The tape is used by searchers to measure foot prints or other items. I have an adhesive measuring tape. But the problem is that no matter what is used to cover the tape, to protect it, a small ridge remains on either side and the tape eventually becomes damaged and unusable.

So, I now have less then a week to come up with a solution for use during a 4 day search and rescue training event.

Right now the best I can come up with, is to cut a channel or slot into the stick, lay the adhesive backed tape measure into the channel and seal it with 50/50 epoxy resin. The problem is that I have not found a way to secure the stick so that a straight 1/2 inch wide channel can be routed or otherwise cut into it.

I am hoping some knows of a jig or some other tip to do this.

I hope I explained what I am trying to do well enough and someone out there can help me quickly, as they have to be finished by this Thursday at the latest.

Thank You!
Craig McKerlie
The man in the can

-- The Man in the Can, Craig M. North Carolina

16 replies so far

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 4047 days

#1 posted 02-13-2009 07:51 PM

Make a “cradle” for the sticks and run your router in a track above it.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3418 days

#2 posted 02-13-2009 07:52 PM

Don’t know how thick is the stick , but I would suggest to make a jig piece with an “U” profile where you can secure temporalirly the stick (inside the “U’), perhaps drilling and setting several pins to keep the stick spinning….....the channel could be made in a router table. My two cents

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View Rob1's profile


26 posts in 3424 days

#3 posted 02-14-2009 12:21 AM

Get two straingt boards, lets say 1×4.

Cut two pieces about 2 inches so you end up with two pieces 1×4 x 2.

Drill a hole the same size as the sticks. The sticks should fit snugly in these holes.

Take two other pieces of 1×4 as long as the sticks. Make a box using the small 2 inch pieces as the ends of the box. Put a straight edge guide on the router, but the router on the box, adjust the fence and depth and cut your dado.

I can email you a sketch-up diagram but can’t post

-- Regards, Rob

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 3484 days

#4 posted 02-14-2009 01:09 AM

Does it have to be a dowel? could you just use a small board and route a channel in it? Then round over the edges with the router.

-- San Diego, CA

View Rob1's profile


26 posts in 3424 days

#5 posted 02-14-2009 02:21 AM


-- Regards, Rob

View ShawnAllen's profile


28 posts in 3478 days

#6 posted 02-14-2009 04:41 AM

Trick question, right?

A couple guys on here have mucho jigmojo – one was ripping ridiculously thin slices off material using a channel thingy. I submit the same kind of device could be used to rip a section off a dowel, if the channel iis either U or V shaped. You’ll want a little longer dowel than you need, and secure it to the jig. Kinda like the box thingy above only instead of cradling the dowel in the jig, hold it down on the table.

I would think a featherboard over the fence to hold the material down onto the table surface, and another to keep material on the fence (horizontal) would let you push a dowel secured to scrap at the back end through safely. You’d need to stop the rip before the “attach” reaches the blade.

Why does this have to be a dowel instead of a 1×2 or a square though..? Sometimes picking the right battle is the better part of valor.. or summat like that!

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3786 days

#7 posted 02-14-2009 05:04 AM

We’ve had a rash of bad accidents among Lumberjocks this past few days. Keep in mind that a “hurry up” situation is often associated with accidents. I have nothing against any of the suggestions here, but if the set-up that you choose creates some uncomfortable doubt in your mind – don’t do it.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View cmckerliesr's profile


82 posts in 3471 days

#8 posted 02-14-2009 04:53 PM

“Why does this have to be a dowel instead of a 1×2 or a square though..?”

The reason for the dowel or round blank to be more precise, is because I do not have a lathe capable of handling the length that I need. The sticks must be between 42 and 48 inches. I have made several attempts at making the sticks in 2 pieces then joining them together. The biggest problem being that the stick of course breaks or deforms at or around the joint. I have used many different methods to join the two pieces, but it still happens.

The stick is often used to knock or beat down brier’s or other small vegetation while trying to get to a victim. So far only a single stick design with not joints is strong enough to stand up to the punishment inflicted on these sticks. All my problems would be solved if I had a lathe capable of turning a single piece 48 inches in length. Then I would just simply use a square pieces, cut the channel with a dado blade, then turn it on the lathe.

The ideas left so far have been good, and I had already been thinking along the same lines as some of the suggestions. I did not post if I had a router table or other tools, since I wanted to see just what ideas I would get.

I thank all of you for taking the time to post your ideas, and I can tell you that once I have chosen one or a variation I will post the entire thing as a project.

-- The Man in the Can, Craig M. North Carolina

View Rob1's profile


26 posts in 3424 days

#9 posted 02-15-2009 03:32 AM


One last idea borrowed from my boat building site. Get some 2 oz fiberglass sheet and epoxy.
This is the stuff used to make surf boards, and in “Stich & Glue” boat building.

Adhere the self stik ruler tape to the dowel, then wrap in fiberglass and coat with epoxy.

The fiberglass becomes transparent. Sand the overlap smooth. These should be very sturdy, and easy to produce in quantity. You may be able to double wrap and still read the tape – experiment.

Good luck.


-- Regards, Rob

View Ekim's profile


17 posts in 3479 days

#10 posted 02-15-2009 07:17 AM

You don’t say what diameter of dowel you want. I would make a square stick and plough the channel for the tape. If you want a 1” dowel use a 1” square stick, then use a router table with a 1/2” radius cutter to round off the stick making a dowel. The trick to this is to leave a couple of inches of square at each end to keep you straight. So a 48” long dowel would start out as a 52” long stick. Install your tape and wrap the stick in clear packing tape to protect the measuring tape.

-- mike,

View cmckerliesr's profile


82 posts in 3471 days

#11 posted 02-15-2009 05:17 PM

OK. As far as diameter, the sticks or dowels are either 3/4 or 1 inch. It depends on what the user wants. But the specifications set down by NASAR, which is the governing body of search and rescue dictates the diameters and lengths.
I have tried an ash straight rake handle which about an inch in diameter and using a draw knife shave it down and finish it by sanding. But the trouble always comes from the measuring tape. When it is not recessed into the stick, it leaves a ridge on either side of the tape that wears quickly and makes the stick useless.
So, I thought I would hit you guys up for ideas for making the slot, groove, dado, what ever you want to call it. And you guys have not let me down. In fact I am trying to find a supplier for the fiberglass suggested by Rob.
But do not stop. If you have any other ideas or things that you think might help, then please continue to post them.

Must be:

between 42 and 48 inches in overall length
3/4 to 1 inch diameter
withstand extreme weather and treatment
be able to stick it into the ground allowing it to stand on its own
non conductive
no metal other than at bottom tip
uses: measure foot prints, stride, to beat down brush, self defense, and to aid in walking/climbing.

There are other things, but listing these and the other specs will probably raise way to many questions. I am mainly looking to handle the measuring tape problem as I have the others pretty much taken care of.

I am currently leaning toward the fiberglass idea, since there are other markings and stuff that really are easier on the lathe. The fiberglass would allow me to part the sticks, do all the other work, then join them and fiberglass them so the joint will not be a real concern any longer.

Keep the ideas coming!

-- The Man in the Can, Craig M. North Carolina

View Eric Sutton's profile

Eric Sutton

4 posts in 3434 days

#12 posted 02-15-2009 07:25 PM

Lots of good ideas above for routing or cutting the groove for the tape. And for finishing, how about pondering this…

Break the tracking stick in two pieces for easier storage. Use billiard cue threaded joints to join the parts for use in the field. You can find composite (instead of metal) joints at Once the tape is adhered to the stick, try clear heat-shrink tubing to secure it all and protect the tape from damage. Fiberglass tape and epoxy will make it darn near firefighter proof and still leave the markings on the stick visible.

Good luck to you and thanks for all your work!

-- IAFF L2737 Cortland NY

View pitchnsplinters's profile


262 posts in 3463 days

#13 posted 02-15-2009 07:27 PM

Do it carefully.

-- Just 'cause a cat has kittens in the oven, it don't make 'em biscuits.

View KnotWright's profile


258 posts in 3513 days

#14 posted 02-18-2009 06:37 AM

So when you are doing this measuring, what is the smallest measurement? are we talking 1/4” are is 1” increments small enough.

Instead of installing a tape measure to the side, or into a groove, why not do like I do on a set of post hole diggers, I just took a triangle file and scored marks in the handles at set depths I wanted, 16” 24” 36”.

You could do the same thing on 1” x 2” x 42” stick or on a tree limb, you’ll never have to worry about wearing the grooves off, unless you really start whacking those bears with it. The grooves you file into whatever you use could be 1/8” deep or greater depending on what you use.

-- James

View Al Killian's profile

Al Killian

273 posts in 3778 days

#15 posted 02-19-2009 12:24 AM

I like useing a v shaped craddle and stick it in place with turners tape. The use the router to cut the grove.

-- Owner of custom millwork shop

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