My Line of Tools #1: My Dowel Plate, any interest?

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Blog entry by Kenny posted 02-14-2012 08:49 AM 18254 reads 3 times favorited 45 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I decided some time ago that I was tired of the inconsistent sizes found in commercial dowels, and hit-or-miss quality that was found at most suppliers. I needed to be able to make my own dowels and pegs. Since more often than not I only need a short section of dowel to use as a peg in furniture construction, a dowel plate seemed like the obvious solution.

However, they are not the most common tool made these days, seeing as many just opt to deal with the commercial doweling options. Lie-Nielsen was about the only place I could find a true quality piece at the time, and I was not about to pay the $50 they were asking for a simple steel plate with some holes drilled in it and tapered slightly from the back-side.

So like any resourceful guy would do, I found a way to make my own. My father just so happens to be a machinist, so this was an easy problem to solve: I called my father and asked for a favor.

I drew up a basic plan for what I wanted, basing the hole sizes on what Lie-Nielsen used, and took the ride to the machine shop.
We didn’t have any real tool-steel on hand, so we elected to use a heat-treatable 4140 steel, which has proved to be a very good choice.
This is the result of my first dowel plate:

I made a second plate as well and gave it to a friend of mine, who happens to be a well known woodworker from Virginia. He was impressed with the construction of it, and tells me it works very well. I asked him if he felt they were good enough to sell, and he said to give it a shot.

So, I’ve decided to put out a “feeler” to see if there is in fact interest in it. If enough of you all would like one, I’ll make a batch for sale.

Pricing isn’t 100% certain yet, but I’m thinking about $20-25 for 4140 alloy steel. I’m looking into a price on heat-treat, and if it’s feasible, I may offer an A-2 tool steel plate also.

I’m working on several other items right now as well, and I’ll be posting about them in the near future.
Thanks for checking this out! Be sure to check back soon, there is much more to come!

-- Kenny

45 comments so far

View David White's profile

David White

120 posts in 3788 days

#1 posted 02-14-2012 10:19 AM

Good idea. But on the basis that the US is the only country in the world still using imperial sizes, I suggest you make a metric size one too – it will quadruple your market.


View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4252 days

#2 posted 02-14-2012 12:32 PM

Nice job, Kenny. It looks just like the Lie-Nielsen one that I have. I guess you could make metric ones, like David suggested, but that’s the problem now, most of the dowels you buy are metric anyway. Cheaper to just buy metric drill bits. I bought my dowel plate to make dowels that would fit my drills. Don’t under sell yourself. This is made in the USA.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2496 posts in 4378 days

#3 posted 02-14-2012 12:46 PM

I personally have one of Kenny’s plate’s and a LN one, Kennys performs equally as well, you cant go wrong, just the facts

View Don W's profile

Don W

19331 posts in 3075 days

#4 posted 02-14-2012 01:23 PM

I think you could sell them. Make one or two and throw it on ebay and see. I made my own, but what I really want to do is make one that flutes the dowel. I just haven’t got around to that yet. You may find that would sell better because it is harder to make on your own.

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

View FirehouseWoodworking's profile


743 posts in 3780 days

#5 posted 02-14-2012 05:20 PM

I’d go for one at your suggested price. Good luck in your efforts.

-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

View lj61673's profile


265 posts in 2907 days

#6 posted 02-14-2012 05:28 PM

Good idea, as long as your holes tapered like they are on the plates LN sells….

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2955 days

#7 posted 02-14-2012 06:23 PM

Really, I haven’t seen much of a difference in tapered vs straight holes. I’ve used both, and now have both’ and I don’t see much of an advantage. If anything, the straight hole version is better IMHO, as it allows for more guidance through the plate and serves to smooth out the dowel a bit on the way out.

As for a cutting grooves in the sides, that is best done in a second operation using one of the low-cost plates that Woodcraft sells (if they still sell them).

To cut the holes for that type of plate in steel as thick as I use would require a broach, which would need to be custom made and require tooling I don’thave access to. As well, just the broaches alone would add so much cost that these plates simply wouldn’t be afordable. The cost to you all would easily triple, if not quadruple just to cover th extra cost of tooling, nevermind the extra labor.

As for metric, it’s something I’ll need to look into, as that will likely involove shipping overseas, customs and all sorts of other things that I’ll need to be educated on before I even consider it. As well, it will ad tooling and expense that I’m not sure I want to incur right now.


-- Kenny

View PurpLev's profile


8551 posts in 4156 days

#8 posted 02-14-2012 06:34 PM


Kenny – as opposed to broaching the holes (but isn’t that the reversed result you’d want?) how about notching the under side of the plate and installing a couple of nails/pins that would groove the dowel on the exit hole. so this would be the 2nd operation but it’ll take place all at the same time.


good luck

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4155 days

#9 posted 02-14-2012 06:40 PM

I have a handheld doweling machine that uses metric
bits. Metric is common in construction line boring machines
as well, so while dowels used in these applications are
usually hidden in the finished work, the need for accurately
sized dowels is still there. All the dowels I buy in bulk are
slightly off round and whacking them through a sizing
plate before use would help me get smoother glue-ups.

View X541's profile


29 posts in 3159 days

#10 posted 02-15-2012 04:58 AM

Awesome, count me in if you do a run.

View Sarit's profile


551 posts in 3647 days

#11 posted 02-15-2012 07:27 AM

What’s the process for prepping stock for dowel making? Is it as simple as shoving a square stick into a round hole?

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2955 days

#12 posted 02-15-2012 01:37 PM


Basically, yes. It depends on what type of wood you’re using to a degree, but it’s basically as easy as that.

If I need short dowels and I’m using a straight grained wood, I will use a large, heavy knife to split off sections of stock to be made into dowels. This assures the dowel is running perfectly with the grain.
Other times, I will simply rip the stock on a table-saw to a dimension slightly larger than the dowel I want.

Say, for a 3/8” dowel, I will rip a piece 1/2” square or just under.

Then, with either method, you simply whittle the end to a bit of a point to get the stock started into the plate, and using a hole a size or two larger than your final dimension, you pound it through the plate. You then keep moving down hole sizes until you reach the desired size.

You can, at times and with certain woods, take the stock down to size all at once and only use one hole, but going incrementally is often easier and doesn’t require as much hard pounding on your dowel plate.

The key is using a piece an inch or two longer than you need to give yourself room for the end you will taper, and also allow for a bit to be damaged in the hammering process.

Any other questions, feel free to ask!

Also, if you go to Lie-Nielsen’s site, I think they will have a link to their Youtube videos, and in the videos Chris Schwarz made for them on draw-boring, he demonstrates using a dowel plate properly.

-- Kenny

View Sarit's profile


551 posts in 3647 days

#13 posted 02-15-2012 05:15 PM

That sounds awesome. Yes count me in for one too.

View Bertha's profile


13567 posts in 3200 days

#14 posted 02-15-2012 05:52 PM

I’d buy one. PM me if you get them going.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2955 days

#15 posted 02-22-2012 03:08 PM

So, I have decided there is enough interest to make a run of these. They will be 4140 Pre-Hardened steel and will be priced at $20 plus $5 for shipping in a flat-rate envelope.

A-2 just isn’t feasible unless I get 25 or more sold, as the heat-treat and tempering would drive the price up beyond the point of being affordable.

I plan to make a batch of 10 or 12. Those who have replied to this will have first dibs, after that, it’s first come, first served.

thanks to all who have shown interest. it will be apprx. 2-3 weeks until they are complete, mostly as I have to wait for the steel to ship. I will let you know when they are ready.


-- Kenny

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