Sell your Biscuit Joiner and your Pocket Hole Jig and buy the DowelMax.

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Review by tedth66 posted 11-12-2010 04:15 PM 22170 views 2 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Sell your Biscuit Joiner and your Pocket Hole Jig and buy the DowelMax. Sell your Biscuit Joiner and your Pocket Hole Jig and buy the DowelMax. No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Like most of you LJs, I too LOVE tools. I especially love the tools that make me look like a professional craftsman. Years back I fell in love with the Kreg Pocket Hole jig due to its simplicity and ease of use. After building a few cabinets with the jig I realized that creating a flush joint was very challenging and sometimes impossible. The difficulty of creating a flush joint is due to the screw causing the mating board to wander when you drive ithe screw into the board; this is despite my best efforts of clamping the workpieces. A year later I purchased a Porter Cable Biscuit Joiner. I loved how quick and simple it was to create the biscuit slots and best of all you didn’t have to be dead on for it to work because the biscuits allow for some slop. Again I built a few cabinets and learned that if there is a slight bow in the lumber or the lumber wasn’t sitting flat chances are the joints will be skewed. My love for these two tools/jigs soon turned into disappointment.

And then I read about the DowelMax Joinery System. At first the price scared me so I started out by sending for the FREE DVD so I could better acquaint myself on how to use it. After viewing the DVD I was pretty much sold on the idea but the price had me waffling. I continued surfing the internet for reviews and I never once read anything negative about the jig. I finally decided to buy the tool and I’m so glad I did. After test driving the jig on a few simple french cleat shelves for clamps I then moved on to a 7ft tall cabinet with fixed shelving. WOW; I can’t tell you how amazed I was when I joined the pieces together. The cabinet much to my surprise was dead square and ALL of the joints were as flush as they can be. I never once got this kind of satisfaction when using the biscuit joiner or the pocket hole jig.

As awesome as this joinery system is, I was able to find a very minor con. The DowelMax’s drill stop collar is not highly reliable. Despite cranking down on the drill stop set screws, twice the collar slipped and because of the configuration I was using at the time the drill bit started drilling into the clamp pad. This killed me as I like my tools looking brand new. I emailed DowelMax and asked them if I could purchase a set of clamp pads to replace the one I ruined. Much to my surprise, DowelMax sent me a new set of clamp pads free of charge. WOW!!! Not wanting to drill into the pads again or accidentally drilling all the way through a piece of lumber I purchased an extra set of stop collars from Rockler and doubled up on the (3/8ths”) stop collar. The new stop collar clamps the drill bit which is different than the DowelMax stop collar which relies solely on the two set screws to hold the stop collar. Using both at the same time has given me the confidence that I won’t ruin my all-time favorite jig or ruin a piece of lumber ~ minor con solved.

The bottom line is this jig is Top-Notch and the customer service is amazing. If you’re obsessed with accuracy like I am, than this jig is for you. I’ve since purchased the 1/4” kit for frames etc. Someday soon I’ll be selling my biscuit joiner and pocket hole jig as I really see no reason to have them other then looking good on my tool shelf.

-- Ted

View tedth66's profile


458 posts in 3963 days

7 comments so far

View Builder_Bob's profile


161 posts in 3833 days

#1 posted 11-12-2010 07:48 PM

Regarding pocket screws, the first few turns into the mating wood also push back on the work piece because there are a few threads of the screw in both pieces.

Have you ever tried to first run the screw through the pocket hole while the piece is not mated so that the screw can fully clean out the pocket, including the very bottom. If this operation is done before the mating, the screw will not push back on the workpiece, and life becomes easier!

-- "The unexpected, when it happens, generally happens when you least expect it."

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3848 days

#2 posted 11-12-2010 08:25 PM

Like many, I have been also looking for simple, easy and reliable joinery system. I already have a Kreg pocket hole system and a biscuit joiner. I took a hard look at the DoweiMax but ultimately chose the MortisePal. I think they are both good systems. However, for me the big issue is the ability to make a mortise a little longer to accommodate wood movement.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 4259 days

#3 posted 11-13-2010 06:12 AM

I installed about 20 3/8” dowels this afternoon in a clamp rack. Not fine furniture, but good for this application. Dowels are one of many in the toolbox. Sorry to hear you had bad luck with biscuits and pocket hole screws. I can’t get along without them nowadays. Properly used, they have revolutionized even fine furniture building, much less your functional benches and bookcases. As said above there are tricks to make the joints flush. Most furniture makers use a hand plane to clean up joints in face frames and such. That last 1/32or 1/64” is usually for hand work, not power tools. Norm just sanded the crap out of them.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View tedth66's profile


458 posts in 3963 days

#4 posted 11-13-2010 04:05 PM

Thanks LJs, you offer some great tips for the biscuit joiner and the pocket hole jig. I’ve never seen the Mortise Pal but now I’m very curious about it.

@Builder Bob – I’ve never tried what you described but I will give it a go the next time I decide to use the pocket hole jig. I always thought it was the screw itself that was pushing the workpiece out but what you explained above makes total sense. Thanks!!

@Davidroberts – I use to purposely raise the biscuit joiner on the face plunge so it would leave a 32nd extra and then I’d trim the excess with a flush trim bit. That turned out great for the most part but when I’d work with the end plunges (in most cases plywood), if there was a slight bow in the board and I wasn’t able to press down hard enough to flatten the board before plunging, then it would throw things all out of whack. Maybe I need more practice and patience.

In the end I’ll most likely NOT sell my BJoiner and PHole Jig. Like Deke and others have mentioned there will always be a use for them in certain applications. The DowelMax is still my favorite between the three and maybe the Mortise Pal is in my future.

thanks LJs

-- Ted

View rimfire7891's profile


123 posts in 3676 days

#5 posted 11-14-2010 06:14 AM

Hi ted,

Couldn’t agree more about Dowelmax. Great tool, very easy to use once you get the process down and remember to swap sides. Haven’t had the problem you mention with the drill stop. I think i tightened mine on to the drill when I got and it hasn’t moved since. Use 3/8” dowels exclusively.Had it about 5 years now and it is just great for building furniture. Face frames are a piece of cake for this tool. M & T’s are stronger, however they take much longer and for most applications the dowels are totally adequate.
Great review on a great tool.
Made a box for mine, to keep all the pieces in one place. Made from scraps of spruce, white oak, red oak, maple and doug fir

Thanks for the review. jb

-- Playing with wood and metal for the last 50 years, driving and building Land Cruisers for the last 40. Experience is what you get when you don't know what you are doing.

View tedth66's profile


458 posts in 3963 days

#6 posted 11-14-2010 07:04 AM

Thanks Rimfire,
The home you built for your DowelMax is incredible. The DowelMax deserves a home like this. Very Nice!!

-- Ted

View goethert's profile


20 posts in 2981 days

#7 posted 05-10-2012 11:26 PM

It is 2012 now. The Jessem dowel jig released about two years ago and I think it is great too. I could not justify Dowelmax’s price and went with Jessem. Very happy with it.

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