Help with Stanley 77 Dowel Maker

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Forum topic by Lazyman posted 01-25-2021 02:10 PM 613 views 0 times favorited 52 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6635 posts in 2396 days

01-25-2021 02:10 PM

I got a good deal on a vintage Stanley 77 Dowel maker a couple of months ago and I am finally getting around to fiddling with it. It came with a full set of Cutters (5/16-3/4). Two were missing the blades and one of the blades was broken so I ordered and just now receive the 3 new blades.

I am getting terrible tear-out when I make a dowel out of both hardwood and pine and could use some advice to see if I am doing something wrong or at least find out if I just have the wrong expectations.

I have used both the old and new blades that I just received with the same results. I have also tried different sizes but get the same results regardless. I tried to sharpen a blade with a slip-stone but that didn’t seem to help, though it is possible that my sharpening technique didn’t really sharpen them. The only real adjustment appears to be to position the blade in or out to fine tune the diameter. All of the wood I have tried so far is old and dry. Are you supposed to use green wood perhaps or is this just as good as it gets?

Also, any tips on the best way to sharpen the cutters would also be helpful.

EDIT: I forgot to add the requisite tool porn (gloat) for you:

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

52 replies so far

View RWE's profile


481 posts in 1612 days

#1 posted 01-25-2021 02:33 PM

About the only thing you can control other than sharpness is the type of wood you use. Pine that is quarter sawn would be better than flatsawn, but it is soft and would probably tear some even then. See if you can research the types of wood that were commonly used in dowel making. Green wood is going to move on you, but if you rive the blanks so they have good grain direction, that might work. Look for something straight grained and see if the results are better.

-- In my imagination all of my tools are sharp. (Andy Rooney in FWW article)

View recycle1943's profile


5048 posts in 2630 days

#2 posted 01-25-2021 02:48 PM

being quite challenged in many areas I only make dowels 3” to 4” long on my nova lathe and I only do that to make a specific diameter.
Anything longer like perhaps a dowel hinge, I just whimp out and buy whatever I need. If I can’t find a wood species to match my project I change the lumber to match available dowels.
Not much help at all for your problem but a simple solution for me.

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View Lazyman's profile


6635 posts in 2396 days

#3 posted 01-25-2021 02:57 PM

Yeah, I have several methods to make dowels, including this one with my vise, but the price of this machine was too good to pass up. The 3 new blades cost more than the the dowel maker. Just trying to see if I can get this to work better.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Aj2's profile


3670 posts in 2806 days

#4 posted 01-25-2021 02:59 PM

Those don’t look to bad to me. I rive all my dowels and use a Lie Neilson dowel plate.My dowels come out pretty rough If the diameter is good I think it’s a success.
Good Luck

-- Aj

View HokieKen's profile


16655 posts in 2147 days

#5 posted 01-25-2021 03:12 PM

They look rougher than I would expect Nathan but I have zero experience with a 77. My gut reaction is that you’re taking too heavy of a cut but I assume the cut depth is probably not adjustable. In other words, you cut from square to round in one pass whether you want to or not? Can you run it through the next larger size first then clean it up with the size you want?

I imagine it needs to be really sharp too. So if you’re not sure if it’s sharp enough, it’s probably not. Slipstone is about the best way I can see to sharpen them though so I can’t offer any better suggestions.

Beyond those two things, it’s probably just a matter of fettling. Hopefully somebody who has and uses one will pop in.

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile (online now)


17225 posts in 3627 days

#6 posted 01-25-2021 03:14 PM

First off, I guess it’s relevant to say you can count me in as one having a No. 77.

RE: tearout. I have not tried this, but it’s something that seems to work with my shaper (for example). Might you run stock through, first pass, at (perhaps) a 1/16” thicker that needed, then run it a second time to get a smoother final result? The additional run-through would be after a slight adjustment to the blade, inside the cutter head.

Just a thought.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View Kudzupatch's profile


118 posts in 2217 days

#7 posted 01-25-2021 03:23 PM

I have the Lee Valley dowel making tools, similar in cutting action and I get rough looking dowels too. I feed mine with a drill and have found that if I feed slower they are better but never great. Nothing like the smooth finish a pencil sharpener gives.

-- Jeff Horton * Kudzu Craft skin boats*

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Dave Polaschek

6843 posts in 1590 days

#8 posted 01-25-2021 03:25 PM

I’ve been looking at a 77, and reading up, but haven’t yet found one. One thing I’ve seen mentioned (also for hollow augers and making dowels on a lathe) is to make the initial pass a sixteenth larger, then oil the rough dowel with linseed oil and give it time to soak in, then do the final cut to get a good smooth surface.

Most of the time, rough dowels are good enough for me, as I’m using them for joinery or fixing a break (I have a set of dining room chairs that needed the arms repaired, and I made a bunch of 1/2 ash dowels to replace the 3/8 softwood dowels the factory used to join the arms. Much more solid, but almost completely hidden, so a rough surface probably worked better for gluing.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Lazyman's profile


6635 posts in 2396 days

#9 posted 01-25-2021 03:27 PM

The depth of cut is adjustable by sliding the blade in or out but I think that is mostly to fine tune the actual diameter you wind up with. I’ve tried planing down the blank so that it is technically too small (you get flat spots on the sides) to take the absolute minimum cut and the tear-out is still pretty bad. I did get one results right after I got it that was more like what I was expecting but when I tried just now to cut another inch on that same blank (the end was still square), it didn’t result in the same finish as the earlier attempt.

I don’t have a dowel plate Aj but the videos I have seen seem to yield better results than I am seeing here. These would probably be fine for hidden dowels or plugs but not for ones that would be visible.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Nubsnstubs's profile


1768 posts in 2738 days

#10 posted 01-25-2021 04:10 PM

I use a Veritas Jig adapted to use on my lathe. The finish isn’t nearly as good as the commercial dowels, but since they are always hidden, who cares what the finish looks like. The size is what is important, plus the rougher the finish, the glue should hold better. ....... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

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6635 posts in 2396 days

#11 posted 01-25-2021 05:51 PM

Thanks for the ideas. I head back out to the shop after lunch and try a few things.

BTW, does anyone have instructions for the 77 they could send me pictures of or perhaps knows where I can find a PDF copy. I could have sworn that I had located one on when I first got the machine but can’t seem to find it now. I could be thinking about the 46 instructions but I remember reading something about how to size the blanks. Wherever I saw that, it is lost to me now.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View bushmaster's profile


4119 posts in 3291 days

#12 posted 01-25-2021 09:57 PM

I think speed of the cutters may have something to do with it. Geared up hand crank seems to me the the speed may be a problem to. Routers give a smooth cut but turn very fast, like someone saind rate of feed to fast for the speed of the cutter.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View duckmilk's profile


4450 posts in 2333 days

#13 posted 01-25-2021 10:01 PM

Nathan, you might try contacting Kevin (theoldfart) who you should know from the SOTS thread. I seem to remember he has one also and may have a link for the instructions.

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View duckmilk's profile


4450 posts in 2333 days

#14 posted 01-25-2021 10:15 PM

Just watched a couple of videos and it seems the best method is to turn the handle fast and feed the wood slow.


and here

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View theoldfart's profile


12454 posts in 3459 days

#15 posted 01-25-2021 10:18 PM

Like Smitty I have a 77 and the 3/8” cutter. My results are inconsistent. Cutter speed, because of the gearing, seems to be adequate. My cutter had a bit of pitting right at the edge so I’ve been stoning it carefully. I do find keeping the stock steady helps but I’m still not there. Hopefully some hero will surface and give us the Holy Grail of advice and all will be well! Until then I’ll be getting stoned, oops, the cutter will be getting stoned.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

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