Seeking Dowel Jigs Advice

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Forum topic by Pezman posted 12-31-2009 07:10 AM 4869 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17 posts in 3579 days

12-31-2009 07:10 AM

Hello, I’m a total newbie at workworking and often don’t know what the proper lingo is. I do have a few questions about how best to join “border edging” to the side of a flat work surface via dowel pins.

I am building a work surface. The top is made of two sheets of 3/4” MDF that are glued together for greater thickness. This is the top of my work surface. Since MDF is very brittle around the edges and corners I’d like to add “border edge” of 1” x1 1/2” hardwood to avoid flaking and wear. I’ve already cut the edging and assume the best way “stick” it to the sides of the MDF surface is to drill dowel pins into the side of the MDF and then the backside of my “border edgine”. Finally I’d need to glue and clamp.

I worry about how I’ll know if my dowel pins are at a 90 degree angle to the MDF surface, and perfectly centered so my “border edging” will be completely flush. I assume I need to drill into the MDF side and into the backside of my “border edging”. In order to do this I purchased this dowel jig at my local HD. Upon getting home I read the online reviews on Amazon that said it is terrible product. Now, I guess I’ll return it but before I do I was wondering…

1) What are the steps to join a hardwood to MDF?
2) Is it possible to have accurate results without a dowel jig? Do you use one?
3) What is a good dowel jig to use? (what do you use?)
4) Should I know anything about joining this before I mess up the last step of a workbench I’ve spent weeks on?

13 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117532 posts in 3875 days

#1 posted 12-31-2009 07:33 AM

I haven’t used that type of dowel jig before. so it’s hard to say how well it would work. I’m not sure that using dowels is the best way to build your bench. you might do a search here on Ljs and see how other benches are made. The main focus should be how sturdy your legs will be. The top can be made with supports underneath instead of trying to join the apron to the top or have cleats around the apron . another source for plans is

View Pezman's profile


17 posts in 3579 days

#2 posted 12-31-2009 07:45 AM

Thanks for the quick reply. I got the plans from plansnow. You can view it here:

The legs and all other areas are sturdy, now I’m just wondering how to join that “border” around the MDF top so the edges doing flake.

Have you used another dowel jig?

View a1Jim's profile


117532 posts in 3875 days

#3 posted 12-31-2009 07:53 AM

Hey Pezman
I tried to look at your link I’m not sure whats supposed to be a bench in that photo.
I’m sorry to say a number of my students have shown me plans from this site and I have found them to be lacking in there joinery department.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6429 posts in 3492 days

#4 posted 12-31-2009 09:00 AM

Greetings Pezman: I don’t think I would use dowels on the edgebanding. You could have trouble with alignment of the banding and the MDF, and get a mis-match. I would just glue the hardwood to the MDF,
align all the edges good and flush, clamp it up, and shoot a few 18 gauge brads all around the hardwood.
The brads are just to hold it good while the glue drys, if you have a brad nailer. If not, that’s ok. The glue will
work by itself. Use lots of clamps to get a good bond. Oh—I’ve never seen a doweling jig like you got. I looked at the link, and that’s one I’ve never heard of. Your hardwood is only 1”x 1 1/2”, so your ok to glue. I’ve built about 5 benches, and all have been glued and braded. Just fill the holes, sand it down a little, put your favorite finish on it, and you’re good to go…... waalaa…... a new workbench…...........

-- " At my age, happy hour is a 2 hour nap".....!!

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3584 days

#5 posted 12-31-2009 05:06 PM

I used to have that jig. I wouldn’t recommend it . It’s a bit sloppy. I have the Dowel-It Model #2500. I use it quite a bit and like it. It’s self centering and easy to align.

You could also glue and screw the band on. Maybe not great for holding into MDF though. Countersink the screws (course threads) and plug with a contrasting dowel for effect if you like. Or glue and clamp the edge and go back, drill through the band, into the top, and drive dowels into the holes. That way you don’t need a doweling jig.


View northwoodsman's profile


245 posts in 4044 days

#6 posted 12-31-2009 05:23 PM

I purchased that same exact jig but with a “Craftsman” label on it 20 or so years ago from Sears. I wouldn’t recommend it. I would return it. It worked okay for what I was using it for, and at the skill and perfection level that I had back then. I agree with the other replies, I would skip the dowels in your project. If you should ever need a doweling jig for another project, spend the money and get a self-centering model.

-- NorthWoodsMan

View davcefai's profile


37 posts in 3694 days

#7 posted 12-31-2009 06:46 PM


Once the glue dries the edging will adhere perfectly well without any help from dowels so that the dowels’ main function is going to be to help you align the edging.

Normally I would attach oversize edging and then plane it down carefully with a block plane.

Given your generous 1” thickness have you considered biscuits?

If the work surface is for a workbench please bear in mind that you may end up clamping on the edging – ie you will be testing the adhesion to its limits.

FWIIW, for my workbench I went with 5mm edging simply screwed to the (wooden) top at 1’ intervals.

-- David

View SPalm's profile


5332 posts in 4180 days

#8 posted 12-31-2009 07:16 PM

I would think you could just glue on the edge banding and use clamps until it dries. I would make it oversize and then trim flush with a plane or router. After it dries you could just drill some holes in the side and glue and pound in some dowels for added strength. You would not need any jig for this at all. Drill the hole, glue up a dowel, tap it in letting some stick out, and then flush cut when dry. A flush cut saw from HD is cheap and a nice tool to have.

As Dave said, the edge of a work bench is used a lot to clamp things to it. So you would want it strong and flush on the top and bottom of the the top. The method I mentioned would be very strong.

Show us pictures along the way,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Pezman's profile


17 posts in 3579 days

#9 posted 01-01-2010 02:05 AM

I will return the jig I purchased and instead went to Woodcraft and picked up this bad boy:

I’m headed out to the shop to try it out now.

View a1Jim's profile


117532 posts in 3875 days

#10 posted 01-01-2010 02:09 AM

That’s a much better dowel jig .

View Abe Low's profile

Abe Low

111 posts in 4144 days

#11 posted 01-01-2010 04:59 AM

Ok, Now that you have a good dowel jig and have tried it out I am sure you are OK with this project. If you like, you could use the jig enough to become comfortable with it, then put it in a nice place and drill the dowel holes through the banding and into the top, then drive the glue and dowel in going through the banding. Hope that makes sense. Actually, the advice you got about not needing any fasteners other than glue is correct.
I would not use any type of metal be it screws, brads, or nails because at some time in the future you may wish to cut the banding off or reuse the bench top for another purpose.
Sawing through metal fasteners is hard on carbide.
Also, in the long run you will find biscuits to be as good or better for many applications and easier to align than dowels. For furniture joinery I switch between biscuits, mortise & tenon and dowels, depending on the type of joint. Where joining long grain to long grain, as in building up a table top, nothing is needed as this type of joint when using todays glues are only weakened by holes and slots.

-- Abe Low, Fine furniture, Sacramento, CA

View davcefai's profile


37 posts in 3694 days

#12 posted 01-01-2010 06:48 AM

I would not use any type of metal be it screws, brads, or nails because at some time in the future you may wish to cut the banding off or reuse the bench top for another purpose

Screws unscrew, which is why I used them for the edge banding on my bench. If we’re talking about covering them with plugs then I’m with you.

My first web post of 2010. Happy new year to all.

-- David

View Pezman's profile


17 posts in 3579 days

#13 posted 01-01-2010 07:57 AM

The new jig worked perfectly. My “border edging” (banding) wood was pretty warped. When laying it out I noticed it was a 1/4” under on the left, 1/4” up on the middle, and perfect on the right end (across a ~80” worksurface).

I used the jig which obviously self centered to find the center of the crooked board and my MDF, and when I pounded it together it lined the wood up perfectly. I’m very impressed with the results.

I hope to show the results of my work in a week once I have a chance to deft it.

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