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How Can I Make Wooden Dowels For Joinery?

If you’ve ever wondered how to make your own wooden dowels for joinery, you’re in luck! This article will guide you through the simple and rewarding process of creating your own dowels from scratch. Whether you’re a seasoned woodworker looking to add a personal touch to your projects or a DIY enthusiast eager to explore new techniques, making your own wooden dowels is an excellent way to enhance your woodworking skills. So grab your tools and let’s get started on this exciting journey of crafting custom dowels for your next woodworking project!

Choosing the Right Wood

When it comes to choosing the right wood for making dowels, it’s important to consider factors such as strength, durability, and diameter for joinery. Selecting hardwood is crucial for ensuring the strength of your dowels. Hardwoods like oak, maple, and cherry are excellent choices due to their denseness and resilience.

In addition to strength, considering the wood grain is essential for durability. The grain pattern affects how well the dowel will hold up under pressure and resist splitting. Straight-grained woods are ideal for dowel making, as they provide a smooth surface and minimize the risk of splitting.

Lastly, choosing the proper diameter for joinery is crucial. The diameter of the dowel should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the drilled hole to ensure a secure fit. This allows for the glue to bond effectively and creates a strong joint.

Preparing the Wood

Before you start making dowels, it’s important to properly prepare the wood. This involves cutting the wood into lengths, sanding it smooth, creating a tapered end, and flattening the ends.

First, cut the wood into lengths that are slightly longer than the desired length of your dowels. This will allow you some room for error and make it easier to work with when shaping the dowels.

Next, sand the wood smooth using sandpaper or a sanding block. This will ensure a clean surface for your dowels and help with adhesion when gluing.

Creating a tapered end is important for easy insertion into the dowel holes. Using a saw or a chisel, carefully shape one end of the dowel into a taper. This will make it easier to insert the dowel and prevent any splitting.

Lastly, flatten the ends of the dowels to ensure a snug fit when joining pieces together. This can be done using a sanding block or a flat surface, ensuring that each end is flat and even.

Creating Dowels with a Dowel Plate

A dowel plate is a useful tool for creating dowels with consistent diameters. It is a steel plate with various sized holes that correspond to different dowel diameters.

To prepare the dowel plate, start by ensuring it is securely mounted onto a workbench or a sturdy surface. This will prevent any movement while you’re working.

Using a drill press equipped with a drill bit of the desired diameter, drill a hole into a piece of hardwood to create a starter hole. This hole should be slightly larger than the largest dowel diameter you intend to make.

Place the hardwood piece with the starter hole onto the dowel plate, aligning it with the corresponding hole size. Lightly tap the wood with a hammer to guide it into the hole.

Next, use a drill press to drill through the dowel plate and into the starter hole. Gradually increase the drill bit size until you achieve the desired dowel diameter.

After drilling, remove the wood from the dowel plate and sand the newly created dowel to smooth out any rough edges. Use a piece of sandpaper to carefully sand the entire length of the dowel until it is smooth and uniform.

Making Dowels with a Dowel Maker

Another method for making dowels is by using a dowel maker. This tool allows you to create dowels of various diameters quickly and easily.

To use a dowel maker, start by understanding how it functions. Most dowel makers consist of a handle, a cutting blade or blades, and an adjustable fence.

Insert a piece of wood into the dowel maker, ensuring that it is straight and securely held in place. The wood should be slightly larger in diameter than the desired dowel size.

Rotate the handle of the dowel maker in a clockwise motion, feeding the wood through the cutting blade(s). The blades will shape the wood into a dowel, while the adjustable fence ensures consistent diameter.

Once the dowel has been created, remove it from the dowel maker and inspect it for any rough edges. Sand the dowel using sandpaper to achieve a smooth finish, and polish it if desired for an enhanced appearance.

Hand-Crafting Dowels with a Chisel

For those who enjoy more traditional woodworking techniques, hand-crafting dowels with a chisel can be a rewarding process.

Using a chisel, carefully remove excess wood from the dowel, focusing on shaping and smoothing the entire length. Take your time and make precise cuts to achieve the desired diameter and shape.

To create a tapered and chamfered end, gradually remove more wood from one end of the dowel, creating a taper towards the tip. Additionally, chamfer the end by angling the chisel and shaving off small amounts of wood.

Remember to frequently check the diameter of the dowel with a caliper or dowel gauge to ensure consistency and accuracy.

Alternatives to Traditional Dowels

While traditional wooden dowels are popular, there are alternative options available that may suit your specific needs.

One alternative is to use store-bought dowels, which are readily available in various diameters and wood species. These dowels are pre-made and save you the time and effort of making them yourself. However, keep in mind that store-bought dowels may not always offer the same level of customization as handmade dowels.

Another alternative is to explore steel dowels for extra strength. Steel dowels can provide added durability and stability for heavy-duty joinery projects. They are often used in industrial applications or when extra strength is required.

Joinery Techniques with Wooden Dowels

When it comes to joining two pieces of wood together using dowels, there are a few key steps to follow.

Start by marking the desired locations for the dowels on both pieces of wood. Use a marking gauge or a pencil and ruler to ensure accuracy.

Once marked, carefully drill the dowel holes using a drill press or a hand drill. The diameter of the hole should match the diameter of your dowels, ensuring a snug fit.

Apply a thin layer of wood glue to the dowel holes, ensuring the entire surface is covered. Insert the dowels into the holes, making sure they are fully seated in the wood.

Join the two pieces of wood together, aligning them carefully. Use clamps to secure the joint tightly and allow the glue to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Benefits and Considerations of Using Wooden Dowels

Using wooden dowels in joinery offers several benefits. Firstly, wooden dowels provide strength and stability to the joints, making them suitable for a wide range of applications. They can withstand substantial weight and pressure, ensuring the longevity of your projects.

Additionally, dowel joinery is relatively easy to assemble. The process of marking, drilling, and gluing is straightforward and can be accomplished with basic woodworking tools. This makes it accessible to woodworkers of all skill levels.

Furthermore, wooden dowels offer natural aesthetics. They blend seamlessly with the wood grain, creating a visually appealing joint. Unlike other joining methods that may require visible screws or nails, dowel joinery maintains the integrity of the wood’s appearance.

However, it is important to consider some potential considerations when using wooden dowels. Firstly, wood movement should be taken into account, especially for larger projects or when working with different wood species. Wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity, so allowances must be made to accommodate these movements.

Additionally, dowel joinery may require precision and careful measurement to ensure proper alignment. Accurate drilling and marking are essential for a successful joint, so attention to detail is crucial.

Tips for Successful Dowel Joinery

To ensure successful dowel joinery, consider the following tips:

  1. Accurate Measurement and Marking: Take your time to carefully measure and mark the dowel hole locations. Use precise tools such as a marking gauge or a combination square for accurate results.

  2. Proper Drilling Techniques: Use a drill press or a hand drill with a sharp drill bit to create clean and accurate dowel holes. Ensure the drill bit matches the diameter of your dowels for a snug fit.

  3. Securing Dowels with Clamps: When joining pieces together, use clamps to secure the joint tightly. This will ensure that the dowels are properly seated and allow the glue to bond effectively.

By following these tips, you can achieve strong and aesthetically pleasing dowel joinery.


Making wooden dowels for joinery is a rewarding process that offers strength, durability, and natural aesthetics to your woodworking projects. Whether you choose to use a dowel plate, dowel maker, or hand-crafted dowels with a chisel, the key is to select the right wood, prepare it properly, and follow precise joinery techniques.

By carefully considering the wood grain, diameter, and strength of the wood, you can ensure the longevity and stability of your dowel joinery. With accurate measurement and marking, proper drilling techniques, and attention to detail, you can create strong joints that withstand the test of time.

So, embrace the art of dowel making and explore the world of wooden joinery. Your woodworking projects will benefit from the strength, ease of assembly, and natural aesthetics that wooden dowels provide. Happy doweling!

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