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Are dowels affective in plywood?

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Forum topic by Jimothy posted 12-16-2020 07:07 AM 668 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Jimothy

67 posts in 1955 days


12-16-2020 07:07 AM

I was wondering, are dowels affective in plywood? I am mildly confused due to the fact that the grain direction alternates rvery layer. Gluing plywood together is essentially gluing a surface which is partially side grain and also partially end grain.

I am building a dresser and plan to use dowels for assembly. Is there a benefit to using dowels in this case? Is it redundant considering I’m creating a hole, and that dowel isn’t even adhering to side grain only. Just not sure if it’s worth it or will actually make a different or possibly cancel itself out.


9 replies so far

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jkm312

77 posts in 418 days


#1 posted 12-16-2020 01:02 PM

Yes you can use dowels in plywood successfully, but.
Nothing less than 3/4” You need some structure and surface area on the circumference of the dowel and dowel hole to be effective. Uniform dowel size and drilling the right size hole accurately for the dowel is critical. The plywood hole will soak up a lot of glue and the dowel may swell some. Too much glue will cause more problems than too little. Not all plywood is equal. Use a good grade with as many layers as you can find. 11 ply baltic birch has very few hidden voids. I use 1/4 dowels in plywood. 3/8 seems to split the ply’s apart if you get carried away with clamp pressure pulling the joint closed. Don’t ask me how I know that. It’s important to get a good dry fit before you temp fate with glue.
Not knowing how you have designed the dresser, have you considered frame and panel construction? That solves a bunch of problems in connection the front frame to the dresser.

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bilyo

1311 posts in 2117 days


#2 posted 12-16-2020 07:18 PM

I will second what jkm312 said. Let me emphasize what he said about the right size hole; particularly when using plywood. Remember that your dowels are like pistons. Particularly when glue is applied, clamping the joint closed can put a tremendous amount of pressure on the sides of the hole and can easily de-laminate the plies. Make sure your dowels have grooves to allow excess glue to escape and make your holes slightly deeper than the dowel by perhaps 1/8”.

IMO, splines in plywood are easier and less apt to cause problems but there is nothing wrong with dowels.

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runswithscissors

3128 posts in 3040 days


#3 posted 12-17-2020 05:11 AM

Biscuits work well with plywood, and are very easy to do.

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

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Walker

453 posts in 1487 days


#4 posted 12-17-2020 05:52 AM

I’m currently working on a kitchen cart (my 2nd of this particular design). It’s basically a plywood lower cabinet on wheels. I use dowels to attach 3/4×3/4” hardwood trim to cover the plywood edges. For various reasons throughout the build it’s nice to dry fit the trim, like measuring and test fitting adjacent parts.

I use high quality 3/4” ply, a cheap Milescraft doweling jig, dowel centers to line things up, and fluted dowels. I’ve used 1/4” and 3/8” diameter dowels without any issues.

Also, you mention you’re building a dresser. What parts are you using the dowels for? If you’re talking about attaching the horizontal pieces (bottom/top/shelves) to the sides, I think a dadoe and glue would be stronger. But if you’re talking about things like stretchers or face frame then go for the dowels or biscuits.

-- ~Walker

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Jimothy

67 posts in 1955 days


#5 posted 12-30-2020 11:12 PM


Biscuits work well with plywood, and are very easy to do.

- runswithscissors

After watching some strength testing videos, apparently biscuits are not particularly good at adding much strength

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

7254 posts in 1589 days


#6 posted 12-30-2020 11:48 PM

This may be a very good read for this question. The author asks how strong is a dowel joint, but tests all of the usual suspects.

https://www.canadianwoodworking.com/get-more/how-strong-dowel-joint

It used a M&T, which many will say is the same strength as a Domino loose tenon, it didn’t fare as well as some other similar studies which often has the Domino first. I do know a Domino is as easy as a biscuit, but a darn site tougher.

It’ll be interesting to see what other tests are brought up. But I can say from experience a dowel is a LOT tougher than a biscuit.

-- Think safe, be safe

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

6320 posts in 3828 days


#7 posted 12-31-2020 12:03 AM

Show some pictures of what you intend to build, so we can give you the best possible answers for your situation. I can’t say I’ve ever used dowels in plywood. Usually my plywood panels go inside a hardwood frame.

Corner joints? What are we talking about here?

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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Jimothy

67 posts in 1955 days


#8 posted 12-31-2020 12:20 AM

okay basically it’s all butt joints which I am planning to reinforce with dowels. But my question isn’t really regarding what joint is the best in this scenario, the question is more does the alterating ply’s aka alternating grain directions every other layer kind of defeat the purpose of using dowels or some other reinforcement which is intended to add a face grain to face grain gluing surface(s) whereas otherwise it would be end to end.

A plywood edge is partially end grain and partially face grain because of the plys alternating. so gluing two plywood edges together would be basically halfway between the standard face to face grain glue joint and an end grain to end grain glue joint. If we added dowels to the equation, the dowel inside the dowel hole will also be bonding with both a combination of face and end grain, exactly like if we hadnt added dowels at all.


Show some pictures of what you intend to build, so we can give you the best possible answers for your situation. I can t say I ve ever used dowels in plywood. Usually my plywood panels go inside a hardwood frame.

Corner joints? What are we talking about here?

- pintodeluxe


View HarveyM's profile

HarveyM

159 posts in 3037 days


#9 posted 12-31-2020 01:19 AM

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