Create precise round stock from any wood species you want with these easy-to-use tools.
As woodworkers, we generally feel proud when we can look at a finished project knowing that each component started out as a raw piece of lumber. When it comes to dowels, though, we often just purchase whatever is available at our local supplier.
The trouble is that dowels are rarely sized accurately. And they generally only come in limited, domestic wood species. There are options available, however, for making your own dowels. I ll show you a couple from Veritas that I ve used, plus a traditional tool from Lie-Nielsen.
When it comes to versatility, the Veritas Dowel Maker (photo at right) has no rival. It s capable of making dowels in any diameter from 1/4 to 1″. The precision-cast body of the Dowel Maker contains two blades that can be resharpened after repeated use. One blade is for rough cutting the workpiece to shape, and one is for the final, finish cut. Each blade also has a micro-adjuster for fine-tuning the cut.
A square socket drive (left margin photo) comes with the Dowel Maker and is used with a hand drill to turn and guide your blank stock past the blades. The photo above shows it in action.
Once you have the cutting depth of the blades dialed in, making dowels is straightforward. Prepare your blank by cutting it square and slightly oversized. Then insert the end of the blank into the square socket. Use your drill to slowly feed the blank through the center of the unit.
You can make dowels of any length, but the finished end may have a tendency to “whip” around once it gets long. A good solution to minimize this is to use a V-block as shown in the main photo on the opposite page.
Another great option for making accurately sized dowels is the Veritas Dowel Cutter ($28.50 each). Shown in the photo in the upper right comer, these cutters are quick to set up and easy to use. Three different sizes are available. Each one is designed for making a dowel to a specific size (3/8″, 7/16″, or 1/2″).
The method for making the dowels and the end result is the same as with the Dowel Maker. You start with a square blank cut slightly larger than your finished dowel size and feed it through the cutter using a square socket chucked in a power drill.
The curved blade of the cutter leaves a nice, smooth finish on the resulting dowel. And these blades can also be resharpened as needed. For best results, feed the stock through the unit slowly. If you need to make a dowel slightly smaller than the nominal size of the cutter, you can use the included hex wrench to adjust the blade depth.
Either of these solutions can open up new possibilities for making custom-made, accurately sized dowels.
simple but effective Dowel Plate
The tried-and-true method of making short dowels has always been with a dowel plate. This tool is nothing more than a steel plate with a series of different sized holes.
The one shown here is from Lie-Nielsen and is easy to mount to a plywood base. To use it, center the hole for the size dowel you need over a dog hole in your bench.
With the base clamped to the bench, drive a roughshaped blank through the hole with firm blows from a mallet. You ll be surprised how easy and effective this method is for making short dowels.