Ebony Pegs the Hard Way!

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Blog entry by woodworksbyjohn posted 02-21-2011 03:18 AM 2991 reads 2 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Many years ago a dowel plate or dowel sizer was a pretty common thing to find in a furniture or cabinet shop. Even then, the diameter of the dowel would change with humidity and they weren’t always the correct size so the dowel plate corrected that. If you want to have dowels of a non commercially available species like Ebony, you could make your own. Well, things have changed and the dowel plate is a hard to find item. Lie-Nielsen has a beautiful one in their catalog but it has a back order time of 2-3 weeks. How do I know that? my friend Vince, ordered one and said I could use it but it won’t be here soon enough.
After an extensive Google search I found that it is possible to make your own but results were mixed. Since I need about 8, 1/4” Ebony dowels I thought I’d give it a shot.
I had a couple of pieces of Ebony that were slightly under 1/4” square. In my vise you see a piece of a miter box saw blade that I’ve screwed onto a piece of maple. After attaching the blade, I drilled a 1/4” hole through it and completely through the wood. I removed the blade temporarily to increase the diameter of the hole to 9/32” and replaced it. I also drilled another 9/32” hole at the other end of this piece of wood as a “pre-sizer”. The final step was to chamfer the metal with a countersink to create a cutting edge.
Here’s what I did, first I used the block plane to ease the corners. Since the Ebony pieces were about 20” long it was easy to hold one end while planing. I would eyeball it for roundness and also test it in the 9/32” hole drilled into the wood. When it seemed right, 2” or so of the dowel was cut off and hammered through the hole with a mallet. It would stay in the cutter until I ran the next piece in. I forced each dowel through the hole twice and although they’re kind of rough they will be acceptable for the project I’m working on now. You can see the sample hole I did in the background.
This weekend has been one of figuring out how to get Ebony dowels and also making jigs. The project I’m designing is a small bench of Honduras Mahogany. The seating surface will be woven rush and it will have some design influence from the Greene & Greene style. The jig that’s in progress is one put a detail on the ends of the legs. You can see that detail on the cover of Darrell Peart’s book. Me being me, I had to complicate things somewhat! In my sense of design, some of the Arts & Crafts furniture is a bit heavy. To overcome that I’m putting about a 3 degree taper on the bottom of the legs, about 8” worth. Of course, this necessitates a jig that has that same taper and it has to be reversible. I’ve figured it out and will show how it works in the next blog or so.

-- John Visit my Blog:

4 comments so far

View Don's profile


517 posts in 3122 days

#1 posted 02-21-2011 04:52 AM

I’m looking forward to seeing the bench. I’m a big fan of Greene and Green style and Darrell Pearts work. I’m also planning on incorporating the stule of leg you refer to in an upcomming project so it will be interesting to see your work with it.

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

View robert triplett's profile

robert triplett

1566 posts in 3154 days

#2 posted 02-21-2011 08:56 PM

Thanks for the explanation. I have made Walnut dowels by handsanding and it is not fun. With a harder wood it would be very difficult. I will keep your jig in mind when I have to do more.

-- Robert, so much inspiration here, and now time to work!!!

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2889 days

#3 posted 02-22-2011 05:17 AM

Great jig. See you can put a square peg in a round hole. I will have to try this. Thanks for the share.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View woodworksbyjohn's profile


87 posts in 2741 days

#4 posted 02-22-2011 05:35 AM

I’ll put the success (hopefully) of this on the blog I’m doing on the rush seated stool. When I measured the pegs they’re slightly over 1/4” but they went into the poplar just fine. The stool is Honduras Mahogany which shouldn’t give too much resistance. Keeping my fingers crossed!

-- John Visit my Blog:

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