Dowel Joinery Question - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 08-27-2015, 03:13 AM Thread Starter
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Question Dowel Joinery Question

Apologies in advance if this seems like a long post. I'm building a red oak project that joins some of the parts together with dowel pins. There are up to fourteen 3/8" dowels. I used a Jessem doweling jig and the holes seem to line up quite well. However, the dowels fit so tightly in the holes I drilled with a 3/8" drill bit that even during a test fit using only two pins I needed to pry the pieces apart and then remove the pins with pliers. I'm concerned that the fit is so tight I don't dare dry fit with all 14 dowel pins or I fear I'll never get the pieces apart. Even if I do, I worry that I won't get good glue coverage when I force the pins so tightly into the holes during final glue-up. I've already tried baking the dowels in the oven to dry out any moisture that might be swelling them, but no luck. I also tried re-drilling the holes using a brand new HSS drill bit in case that helped, but not noticeably. I didn't think the dowels were supposed to be THAT tight because they're supposed to expand when in contact with water-based glue (I'm using Lepage's yellow). When I tried joining some lumber yard softwood (standard construction lumber) with many pins I had to use pipe clamps to squeeze them shut, so I wonder if it's that hard to join two pieces of softwood how hard will it be to join hardwood.

So then I tried a test using a 25/64" drill bit to make the holes 1/64" inch bigger. I couldn't use the jig for this because the bit wouldn't fit through the bushings, so I made 3/8" holes in some red oak scrap and then widened them with the larger bit. This allowed the dowel to go in and out very easily with only finger strength. Then I was concerned that the fit was TOO sloppy, so I tried to join two test pieces by gluing only the dowel holes for the single pin and leaving a small gap between the boards (i.e. no glue on the surfaces of the joining boards). The joint seems very strong, or at least I couldn't pry the pieces apart with a big flat-head screwdriver. So, on the face of it it is seems like a good idea, but obviously I/m concerned about the overall strength of the joints. What do folks think of this strategy? Is there any other advice?

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post #2 of 13 Old 08-27-2015, 07:08 AM
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You could try using a 1/4" or 5/16" dowel with some sand paper or emory wrapped around it in a pistol drill, or drill press if the part is small enough, to slightly open up the holes. Saw a slit up the dowel & insert the emory in it and then wrap the emory around the dowel. The size of the dowel would determine how much emory you wrap around the dowel. Using a fine grit emory will result in a small increase in the diameter of the holes.
Good luck with your project.

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post #3 of 13 Old 08-27-2015, 07:38 AM
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it's about the dowels

Today's dowels are not all that consistent in diameter. Your idea of using a 1/64" larger bit will work fine. The glue will bridge any looseness when it's dry. Use a long "open time" glue so you won't have to panic during assembly. Make sure your clamps are ready to go and if needed have a helper to assist. Also make the dowels a bit shorter than you hole depths to allow for squeeze out when it's all assembled.

You can make a glue squeeze out groove in the dowels before cutting them to length using a jig on the router table or table saw. If you have a bandsaw, use a thin blade and a jig to hold them vertically and make a shallow kerf for the glue.

Or use pre-grooved dowels:

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #4 of 13 Old 08-27-2015, 07:39 AM
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Miller dowels....... The only way to go
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post #5 of 13 Old 08-27-2015, 09:58 AM
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With that may dowels I would be using the pre grooved type and making sure they were only a snug fit. Without an escape groove for the glue you can run into a hydraulic situation which will make clamping very difficult.

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post #6 of 13 Old 09-13-2015, 11:25 PM
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Pre grooved dowels are good. I get mine on Amazon. I love using dowels for a lot of my projects and I use the Dowel Max. It's expensive but it's easy and fast.
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post #7 of 13 Old 09-14-2015, 12:01 AM
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You're alright with the larger bit. I used to do that all the time. Then I made my own tooling to make dowels and I made them a little undersized. I think what happens is at the factory the dowels come out of their machinery exactly 3/8" and afterwards perhaps sitting in the store for months or years the dowels swell up slightly going oversized. With all the rain we had this spring the 23/64" dowels I made are now 3/8" and I'm having to sand them a little. Once you use the oversize bit if you still have difficulty when you put glue in the hole the dowel is building up pressure like a piston preventing the dowel from going in. You still may have to cut a groove in the dowel to releave the pressure.
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post #8 of 13 Old 09-14-2015, 07:49 AM
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I use the dowel jig from woodcraft and for the most part the dowels I purchase fit good (grooved) I had one batch that was a tad smaller than usual. The way I normally put glue on the dowels is put it on my finger tips and roll the dowel on them. If the dowel is not snug enough I use a smidgen of saw dust to make it snug.
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post #9 of 13 Old 09-17-2015, 12:48 PM
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I made my own dowel sizing plate out of steel but, Lie-Nielsen sells one to cut each dowel to size before use.

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post #10 of 13 Old 09-17-2015, 06:19 PM
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When I use dowels, I cut them to length rather than using pre-grooved dowels, but I cut a spiral around my dowels by hand on my bench top disc sander. If you don't cut a vent in the dowels, they can lock up before they reach the base of your hole. The vent allows the pressure to escape as you drive the dowel home.
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post #11 of 13 Old 09-20-2015, 02:52 PM
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Dowels should go in the hole to a point but yet take a hammer to be seated all the way in. Don't buy dowels in length, then cut to size, There no consistent from purchase to purchase. If you like doweling as I do, I buy a 1000 to 10,000 at a time for consistency. Buy the dowels according to your needs and find the correct drill bit. A doweling jig as I use works fine but sometimes they need a bit of manipulation between dowel and drill bit. Don't be afraid to try millimeter drill bits for a perfect fit and once you find the correct drill bit and dowel your set....
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post #12 of 13 Old 09-20-2015, 05:04 PM
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When I used dowels that were a bit too tight, I grabbed the dowels in my vice grips to not only compress the dowel diameter, but it also added grooves in the dowel from the teeth of the vice grips. It worked very well for me.
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post #13 of 13 Old 11-16-2015, 10:34 PM
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I've had a similar problem! I have a dowelmax and love it, but when I first started using the dowels from dowelmax the fit was way to snug. It took me forever to pry apart a dry fit. As stated above,not all dowels are the same size. The 3/8th dowels from woodcrafters seem to be a bit smaller then other brands and fit great

Drill a test hole in a piece and go to a few of your local shops to test fit to find the best fit.

Good luck!

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