Shop Made Dowels The Easy Way & Two Useful Ways to Use Them

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by stefang posted 03-08-2010 10:09 PM 21095 reads 34 times favorited 44 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Why make dowels when you can buy them cheap? Well, you can’t buy dowels in every kind of wood. Also you might be working on a project and you don’t want to take the time to go to the store to get them, or maybe you like to be self sufficient like me.

Dowels made on a lathe or with a router jig take a lot of set-up time. With this method you only have to prepare the stock, do a little carving on each end and in about 30 seconds you have a nice long dowel. If you like that idea and want to learn how you can make them, read on.

This is the dowel maker. A piece of mild steel with holes for various sized dowels drilled through at 45 degree angles. This leaves a cutting edge on the top and the bottom. When the top becomes dull just flip it over and use the fresh edge on the other side.

I drilled the large holes by starting with a much smaller bit. I drilled in a little at 90 degrees to give a dimple for the bit to start the 45 degree hole so it wouldn’t slip. I then used progressively larger bits up to the final sizes. It takes more time, but you get a better and less stressful result. I did the same with the small sizes except I began with one size small than the final size. The drill should be set a slower speed and you should use a little oil as you go.

Take your time with the drilling. This dowel iron will last a long time. I’ve been using mine for about 8 years now, and I still haven’t had to use the bottom “fresh edges”. I don’t use it a whole lot though.

Click on photos to enlarge

Here is the dowel maker mounted in my tail vise and ready to use.


The dowel stock is cut square to the same dimension as the diameter of the dowel you want to make. Here you see it prepared to fit into the chuck of my hand drill. The ends are just quickly whittled with a knife. Try to keep the tenon centered as good as you can.


This end of the dowel stock is tapered to fit into dowel maker hole. Try to keep it centered as well.


Chucked up and ready to go.


Just getting started.


Almost finished


My target size was 13mm. The calipers show 13.6mm. After a little sanding it came down to 13mm.


Here is the finished dowel.


I made some more dowels in 8mm size for my little project. Note that I have cut a littlel “v” channel on each. This is so excess glue can escape. I just hold the dowel in one hand and use short bladed knife to make the two cuts needed to form the channel. A safer way is to hold them in you vise while you do the cutting.


Here is how I used them. As you can see I have drilled a hole on the side not too far from the end and glued my 13mm dowel into it on the back face of the workpiece, and I have drilled a screw hole from the end of the board and through the dowel. This was done to avoid screwing into end grain which would not have held the screw well. I have used the 8mm dowels on the end of the board instead of a mortise. This piece will be used as a stretcher. The “joint” I pictured here is very strong and durable and I don’t doubt it is just as strong as a mortise or nearly so when assembled. This is a great way to make a good joint with only a hand drill, some dowels and screws.


This blog is to show folks with a limited range of tools how they can still make a good joint that can also be taken apart for flat packing.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

44 comments so far

View degoose's profile


7284 posts in 4513 days

#1 posted 03-08-2010 10:18 PM

I like the idea of the drill to spin the timber through the dowel hole..

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4500 days

#2 posted 03-08-2010 10:18 PM

great idea and blog , mike .
take another steel bar and using the same drill bit ,
as the 45 deg. holes ,
drill 90 deg. thru it .
dimple the edge with a punch into the bored hole in a couple of places ,
bang your dowel (with a hammer ) thru it too ,
and it will cut the grooves for you !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4274 days

#3 posted 03-08-2010 10:47 PM

great toturial mike
thank´s for sharing
and if you had another stealbar
drill 90 deg. thru it
and punch the dowel
thrugh it and will come
out right on 13mm :-)

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4493 days

#4 posted 03-08-2010 10:49 PM

Thanks guys. Great idea David, thanks for the tip. It makes me think of just drilling the different sized holes in a piece of hard wood and then drilling small holes on the edge and then driving nails in just enough so the point will make the grooves. Same principal, less work.

Thanks to Dennis too. That is also a very good suggestion.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4500 days

#5 posted 03-08-2010 10:58 PM

i did that , mike .

the nail or screw tip makes the wood part ,
then close again ,
as it doesn’t ‘cut ’ it .
you need to ’ chisel ’ it out .
maybe a screw , then back it out and ’ sharpen ’ ,
the point or flatten it ,
then drive it back in .

let us know how that works .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View blockhead's profile


1475 posts in 4467 days

#6 posted 03-08-2010 11:07 PM

Thanks for the great blog Mike. And thank you David for your tips as well.

-- Brad, Oregon- The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4493 days

#7 posted 03-08-2010 11:28 PM

Thanks Brad, and thanks for for the sharpening suggestion David. I’ll give it a try.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 5286 days

#8 posted 03-09-2010 12:11 AM

I’ve always use a doweling plate and a wooden mallet.
The Whack-a-Peg technique takes seconds to make a dowel.

Here’s a good one: Lie-Nielsen

-- 温故知新

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4493 days

#9 posted 03-09-2010 12:21 AM

I tried the 90 degree holes first Randy and I found it was a bit hard to make a long dowel that way. Of course they can be cut shorter, but then the process takes longer. I honestly don’t know which way is best, but I’ve been making my dowels this way for some time and It seems pretty efficient to me. I guess the best system is the one you like the best.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 4445 days

#10 posted 03-09-2010 12:26 AM

Great blog Mike. This sounds very useful

Thanks for sharing with us


View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4462 days

#11 posted 03-09-2010 12:38 AM

thanks mike..this was a good one..i like being as self sufficient as possible also…and there have been several times ive needed a dowel piece in a different wood..thanks

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 5286 days

#12 posted 03-09-2010 01:08 AM


Here’s a dowel cutter that a friend of mine uses.

Lee Valley

-- 温故知新

View Loucarb's profile


2388 posts in 4604 days

#13 posted 03-09-2010 02:06 AM

Great blog. Thanks for sharing.

View dustbunny's profile


1149 posts in 4454 days

#14 posted 03-09-2010 02:16 AM

NO WAY !! This is totally awesome !!
Simple- even I could do it, and I will.
I wanted some walnut dowel, I turned it on the lathe.
This is a great alternative.


-- Imagination rules the world. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


21661 posts in 4835 days

#15 posted 03-09-2010 04:03 AM

Great blog Mike. Good ol’ Yankee ingenuity at work :-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

showing 1 through 15 of 44 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics