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?