Whats The Best way to do through and exposed dowels????

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Forum topic by anthm27 posted 02-20-2019 11:45 PM 1538 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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618 posts in 1408 days

02-20-2019 11:45 PM

Recently bought a dowelmax jig which is great.
I’ve done a few experiments with exposed dowels but I definitely have not mastered the technique.

Wondering if any body has any input into the best way to go about it.

Drill first obviously, hammer dowel in until its flush with the exposed surface?
Drill hole depth so the dowel can stick out to be cut off later?
How important is it to get hole depth right?
Is it ok to have the hole depth deeper than what the dowel will go?
Gluing technique is also variable? Tip glue in the hole or paint the dowel with glue?
Is it best to use dowels the same diameter as the drilled hole or slightly wider?
Thanks in advance.


8 replies so far

View LesB's profile


2004 posts in 3741 days

#1 posted 02-21-2019 01:14 AM

For exposed dowels I’m not sure you need that expensive jig. Just use a brad point bit and drill the hole. Jigs are great for drilling dowel holes in joints so the holes exactly match up and the finish joint is smooth and even.

For an exposed dowel I like to leave them “proud” and cut or sand flush.
The only problem with drilling the hole deeper then the dowel is the chance of sinking the dowel too deep, below the surface.
I use glue in the hole and here is one reason to have the hole slightly deeper then the dowel so any excess glue has some place to go…..hydraulic pressure can potentially cause problems.
Dowels should fit snuggly but not too tight or they can split the wood. Most of the time I find commercially made dowels are never exactly the right size. Undersize don’t work well and oversize need to be sanded down.

Now for “blind” dowel joints I prefer to use grooved dowels. You can buy them or make your own by creasing grooves in the dowel with a pair of pliers. These dowels give the glue a place to go and also expand slightly from the moisture in the glue to make a tighter fit.

-- Les B, Oregon

View bilyo's profile


562 posts in 1400 days

#2 posted 02-21-2019 01:46 AM

I do mostly what LesB said. With anything I glue, I like to apply glue to both surfaces. With dowels, I concentrate on getting the hole walls thoroughly wet with glue. I also make sure the dowels are wet with glue, but do so sparingly because driving the dowel into the hole will scrape off most of it and make a mess around the hole. As LesB said, holes with a little excess depth will allow someplace for excess glue to go as the dowel is driven in. If you take apart any old furniture that is assembled with dowels, you will find that most holes are over depth and there will be a glob of dried glue at the bottom.

View Woodknack's profile


12640 posts in 2678 days

#3 posted 02-21-2019 06:07 AM

Last time I used through dowels, instead of cutting them off I made the hole a few mm deeper than the dowels were long and drove them flush with a mallet. You’ll want to make sure the holes are perpendicular to the surface (drill press or jig) and the dowel end is cut true but I didn’t have any problems and I didn’t have to flush cut the dowels and risk scratching the wood.

-- Rick M,

View WoodenDreams's profile


505 posts in 209 days

#4 posted 02-21-2019 06:21 AM

When I use dowels, I like to spread glue in the hole and on the dowel. The dowel slides in easier this way. If you hit the dowel into the hole you chance splitting the wood. You notice some of the dowels in the package may seem to fit the holes tighter than others. If the dowel seems to fit too tight, use a different dowel for that hole.

View SMP's profile


460 posts in 204 days

#5 posted 02-21-2019 07:04 AM

Kind of depends. But usually will masking tape around hole, dry fit, , sanding if nexessary for easy fit, slather glue on dowel, tap into hole, if it bottoms out, pull back just a tad, Let dry a bit, peel off tape. Then either use masking tape or card scraper to space flush cut off with flush cut saw. I like to cut just a hair high so can plane/sand down so the dowel isn’t too too rough, its already end grain so will soak up more stain/finish. Then again i tend to do a complementary wood to make it pop anyways.

View pottz's profile


4462 posts in 1282 days

#6 posted 02-21-2019 03:10 PM

+1 for what les b said.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View runswithscissors's profile


2987 posts in 2323 days

#7 posted 02-21-2019 11:00 PM

To cut dowels flush, I find a fine tooth blade in an oscillating tool works very well. I just take a few seconds to sand off the tooth set on the underneath of the bit. I use my 1” belt sander for this. Don’t seem to get any scratching.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View anthm27's profile


618 posts in 1408 days

#8 posted 02-21-2019 11:09 PM

Thanks to everybody that has participated here, some great pointers and hints.
From Brad point drill bits, Hydraulic glue pressure problems to oscillating tool and everything in between.
Thanks to all for the comments.

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