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post #1 of 37 Old 10-03-2012, 07:39 AM Thread Starter
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Using Dowels - Need Tips

Hey All,

Yesterday was the first time I ever used dowels to join wood. My current project is a pretty simple bathroom wall cabinet that I made difficult because instead of following the simple plans to glue and screw, I wanted to use some sort of advanced joinery. That was my first problem.

Second, I've never done dowel joinery before and because it's a fairly small project in terms of size and cost, I figured I'd try it out. I bought a dowel jig, drill bit collar stops, 3/8" pegs, etc.

My project is a mess. The brad point bits I used tore up the pine I'm using and left eye sores on the wood (you won't see them but still...). I thought I correctly calculated the dowel measurements for depth but some of them don't fit snug into each insert, leaving a tiny gap between the two pieces and requiring me to go back and drill deeper inserts. Lastly, some of my edges aren't squared. The whole cabinet, when put together, creaks and wobbles, which can be easily fixed by glue, but if I was going to do that I wouldn't have used dowels in the first place.

Is dowel joinery this much of a pain? Or am I doing something terribly wrong?

I need serious help, tips, anything. Thanks.

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post #2 of 37 Old 10-03-2012, 07:54 AM
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Pictures or a sketch of the cabinet, and where you used dowels would be a big help. I wouldn't consider "dowel joinery" an advanced joinery method, but rather an alternative method. As you stated, there are parameters that make for a good dowel fittings. For casework assembly there are better, easier, and more predictable joinery methods.





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post #3 of 37 Old 10-03-2012, 08:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OHNOIMONFIRE View Post
Hey All,

Yesterday was the first time I ever used dowels to join wood. My current project is a pretty simple bathroom wall cabinet that I made difficult because instead of following the simple plans to glue and screw, I wanted to use some sort of advanced joinery. That was my first problem.

Second, I've never done dowel joinery before and because it's a fairly small project in terms of size and cost, I figured I'd try it out. I bought a dowel jig, drill bit collar stops, 3/8" pegs, etc.

My project is a mess. The brad point bits I used tore up the pine I'm using and left eye sores on the wood (you won't see them but still...). I thought I correctly calculated the dowel measurements for depth but some of them don't fit snug into each insert, leaving a tiny gap between the two pieces and requiring me to go back and drill deeper inserts. Lastly, some of my edges aren't squared. The whole cabinet, when put together, creaks and wobbles, which can be easily fixed by glue, but if I was going to do that I wouldn't have used dowels in the first place.

Is dowel joinery this much of a pain? Or am I doing something terribly wrong?

I need serious help, tips, anything. Thanks.
The dowel joint is a age old method of joining wood. It is still widely used today and is still a perfectly acceptable method of joining wood. I don't understand why you didn't glue the joints. It's the most important step. Any joint you use will need to be glued.

Normally a brad point bit drills a very good hole. Perhaps the bit needs sharpening or maybe you need to go slower when starting the hole.
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post #4 of 37 Old 10-03-2012, 09:10 AM
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Perhaps the reason for the gaps is in the gluing method. If there's too much glue in the hole the dowel can't seat to the bottom. It's trying to compress the glue in the base of the hole much like a hydraulic piston..
A dry run for fit up is always a good idea. When you're ready to spread the glue go light on the dowel holes.
Just my .02
Good luck with the project & do post some fotos.
..Jon..
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post #5 of 37 Old 10-03-2012, 10:02 AM
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I have used dowels many times. They are for me an easy method for either aligning long boards, or reinforcing the joint for end grain to face/side grain.

For edge work, my jig sits on top of the edge of the piece and makes contact with the wood. I do not get tear out. I normally use twist drill bits, mostly due to my stop collars being able to screw to the bit better than my dual spiral brad point bits.

If the stop is set correctly, I get a consistent hole. I make my holes a little more than 1/2 the length of the dowel.

I always do a dry fit. I want to ensure the dowels will fit snug without the gap you observed, and if to ensure the dowel is not too snug which can impact the glue flow and strength of the joint.

I normally do a light hand sanding on my dowels.

For drilling on the face/side grain where my edge jig will not work, I drill the edge holes first, then insert dowel centers to mark the hole locations on the face/side grain board.

http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/pag...180,42288&ap=1

I drill the face/side grain holes on the drill press. I normally use the same twist drill, sometimes I may use my brad point drills.

I rarely use pine, but it is not uncommon to have some tearout. Sometimes slower works better than faster, sometimes faster works better than slower. Not easy to figure. Just test on scrap first.

Good luck with you next use of dowels. I would not let the first attempt put you off.
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post #6 of 37 Old 10-03-2012, 01:08 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Paine View Post
I have used dowels many times. They are for me an easy method for either aligning long boards, or reinforcing the joint for end grain to face/side grain.

For edge work, my jig sits on top of the edge of the piece and makes contact with the wood. I do not get tear out. I normally use twist drill bits, mostly due to my stop collars being able to screw to the bit better than my dual spiral brad point bits.

If the stop is set correctly, I get a consistent hole. I make my holes a little more than 1/2 the length of the dowel.

I always do a dry fit. I want to ensure the dowels will fit snug without the gap you observed, and if to ensure the dowel is not too snug which can impact the glue flow and strength of the joint.

I normally do a light hand sanding on my dowels.

For drilling on the face/side grain where my edge jig will not work, I drill the edge holes first, then insert dowel centers to mark the hole locations on the face/side grain board.

http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/pag...180,42288&ap=1

I drill the face/side grain holes on the drill press. I normally use the same twist drill, sometimes I may use my brad point drills.

I rarely use pine, but it is not uncommon to have some tearout. Sometimes slower works better than faster, sometimes faster works better than slower. Not easy to figure. Just test on scrap first.

Good luck with you next use of dowels. I would not let the first attempt put you off.
Dave, those dowel centers are probably exactly what I needed and why my boards aren't lining up. I was having issues getting my bit collars to rest snug on my brad points too. This post was a huge help. Thanks.

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post #7 of 37 Old 10-03-2012, 01:28 PM
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If your collars are fussy, I find some masking tape on the bit is just as good for judging depth.
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post #8 of 37 Old 10-03-2012, 05:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J Thomas View Post
Perhaps the reason for the gaps is in the gluing method. If there's too much glue in the hole the dowel can't seat to the bottom. It's trying to compress the glue in the base of the hole much like a hydraulic piston..
A dry run for fit up is always a good idea. When you're ready to spread the glue go light on the dowel holes.
Just my .02
Good luck with the project & do post some fotos.
..Jon..
A well fitted dowel can be like a piston in a cylinder. If you use spiral cut dowels, or fluted dowels, they give the glue and air a way to escape.

If you make your own from plain dowel rod, create some profile grooves for relief. You can do that with gripping the dowel with the teeth of a slip joint piers, and tapping the dowel through with a hammer.






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post #9 of 37 Old 10-22-2012, 02:52 PM Thread Starter
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Guys,

I'm going to open this topic back up. The last project I did (the messy one) I did with a handheld dowel jig that apparently is most of the reason why it turned out as bad as it did. I didn't even realize these $50-$60 dowel jigs that act as a vise exist.

How legit are they? Is there a specific brand that you recommend? I'm going to give it another shot on an upcoming project.

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post #10 of 37 Old 10-22-2012, 03:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OHNOIMONFIRE View Post
Hey All,

Yesterday was the first time I ever used dowels to join wood. My current project is a pretty simple bathroom wall cabinet that I made difficult because instead of following the simple plans to glue and screw, I wanted to use some sort of advanced joinery. That was my first problem.

Second, I've never done dowel joinery before and because it's a fairly small project in terms of size and cost, I figured I'd try it out. I bought a dowel jig, drill bit collar stops, 3/8" pegs, etc.

My project is a mess. The brad point bits I used tore up the pine I'm using and left eye sores on the wood (you won't see them but still...). I thought I correctly calculated the dowel measurements for depth but some of them don't fit snug into each insert, leaving a tiny gap between the two pieces and requiring me to go back and drill deeper inserts. Lastly, some of my edges aren't squared. The whole cabinet, when put together, creaks and wobbles, which can be easily fixed by glue, but if I was going to do that I wouldn't have used dowels in the first place.

Is dowel joinery this much of a pain? Or am I doing something terribly wrong?

I need serious help, tips, anything. Thanks.
Maybe I am miss-reading this. You say you were not planning on using glue?

You would most certainly use glue with the dowels and for any other joints.

George
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post #11 of 37 Old 10-23-2012, 06:08 AM Thread Starter
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I was planning on using glue but not until the dowels fit, which they didn't.

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post #12 of 37 Old 10-23-2012, 07:50 AM
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Even using a doweling jig it helps to use a brad point drill bit. With that type of drill bit is less likely to walk around and follow the soft part of the grain. Try one with your handheld doweling jig and see what it does.
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post #13 of 37 Old 10-23-2012, 08:06 AM
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Brad point bits do a great job, but the slightest starting eccentricity can throw off the hole's direction. There are a few tips. You could make a starter point with a scratch awl. You can start with a much smaller drill bit. You can set the bit to the point (not running) and physically rotate the bit backwards with your hand on the chuck to get a pilot. It all depends on how accurate you want the fit, and what you are willing to do to accomplish it.






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post #14 of 37 Old 10-23-2012, 01:00 PM
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An alternative to using a dowel jig is to use "dowel centres", buttons with points that fit into the first set of holes and mark the position of the matching holes.
http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=859&sid=AF078

Not sure what thickness your material is but generally the diameter of the dowel would be 1/3 the thickness so with 3/4" material 1/4" dowels would be used.

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post #15 of 37 Old 10-23-2012, 01:32 PM
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I think a point that is being left out is that using dowels requires super precision, and it is kind of difficult until you develop the mad skills that some of these guys obviously have. I have trouble with this on things where a hole needs to drilled EXACTLY where it needs to go not even 1/32 off. There are jigs out there that you can buy, and there are also jigs that you can make to ensure even spacing. Say you want your cabinet shelves to each have two dowels, you'd drill two holes in a piece of hardboard or scrap with a stop on the front and clamp it to each spot that you'll be drilling dowels so that you know they will be uniform the entire way down the cabinet. The drill press always increases precision as opposed to a hand drill...don't know what you're using. For me, drilling precise holes is much more nerve racking than any cut on the table saw because it can throw things so far out of whack. I'd be more inclined to cut some dado grooves for the shelves and glue them up that way instead of dowels.
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post #16 of 37 Old 10-23-2012, 02:09 PM
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I am also doing my first project with dowels in the next few weeks. I started a couple posts on here in the last week about dowels. Yesterday I went to the local woodcraft and picked up a few things to get started on dowel joints.

I got this jig based on a recomendation from another member here, http://www.woodcraft.com/product/200...eling-jig.aspx. It's made in the USA and looks to be a great tool. I tried it out on some scrap 2x4s and it seems to work great, of coarse the edges of the 2x4s are rounded so can't tell if they are perfectly lined up but I would say they are. I also bought some of the dowel centers, http://www.woodcraft.com/product/200...ers-14-10.aspx. I will be doing an edge to face dowel. I will use the self centering jig to drill into the edge of the first piece. Then I will insert a dowel center into that hole I just drilled. Then put the pieces together so the dowel center will mark the face of the other piece. Then I will use a drill guide, http://www.woodcraft.com/product/200...ill-guide.aspx to drill into the face of the other board perfectly straight. I also bought a brad point 1/4" bit for my dowels, I wanted a good bit that will only be used for dowels.

I did a lot of reading about dowels and asked a bunch of questions and I wanted to eliminate as much of the guess work as possible. The tools are worth the price in order to get everything perfectly lined up. Now if my project doesn't turn out I can't blame it on not having the right tools, it will be all my screw up!

Thanks for your help
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post #17 of 37 Old 10-23-2012, 06:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ponch37300 View Post
I am also doing my first project with dowels in the next few weeks. I started a couple posts on here in the last week about dowels. Yesterday I went to the local woodcraft and picked up a few things to get started on dowel joints.

I did a lot of reading about dowels and asked a bunch of questions and I wanted to eliminate as much of the guess work as possible. The tools are worth the price in order to get everything perfectly lined up. Now if my project doesn't turn out I can't blame it on not having the right tools, it will be all my screw up!
Terrific. It is nice to see a post to let others know that the collective advise was useful, and especially was used. So many posters asking for information and or advise do not come back and let everyone know how things worked out.
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post #18 of 37 Old 10-23-2012, 07:31 PM Thread Starter
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Okay guys, I bought the attached dowel jig this AM on Amazon. I also bought some of those dowel centers. I'm finishing up a separate project and will be starting a magazine side table this weekend. I want to get it right, so ill be taking pictures of my progress and posting it on here as I go.
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post #19 of 37 Old 10-23-2012, 09:29 PM
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Originally Posted by OHNOIMONFIRE View Post
Okay guys, I bought the attached dowel jig this AM on Amazon. I also bought some of those dowel centers. I'm finishing up a separate project and will be starting a magazine side table this weekend. I want to get it right, so ill be taking pictures of my progress and posting it on here as I go.
That's the same one I picked up yesterday, haven't used it yet except to test it out but it looks and feels like a nice tool. I also picked up a set of drill stops tonight. I was at fleet farm and while the better half was looking at some stuff I was walking up and down the aisles and saw a set of empire made in the USA for 6 bucks so picked them up. I don't think they are a must, can just use tape but for 6 bucks I thought it was worth it.

My advice and what I'm planing on doing is get some scrap or cheap wood and do some practice dowels before doing your project. This way you can work all the bugs out so you don't mess up on the real project!

Let me know how it goes since I will be doing the same thing as soon as I get the wood.

Thanks for your help
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post #20 of 37 Old 10-23-2012, 09:33 PM
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Terrific. It is nice to see a post to let others know that the collective advise was useful, and especially was used. So many posters asking for information and or advise do not come back and let everyone know how things worked out.
Thanks Dave. I try to post results and give advice when I can since I mostly soak up the advice from others knowledge.

Thanks for your help
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