Dowel Maker

Today I needed some dowels (for a project I will hopefully post about soon), but didn’t feel like going to the store, so I thought I would try making a dowel maker.There are some awesome plans for dowel makers that use routers and produce fantastic results, so this is for any folks who may not have a router yet. Here’s what happened:

The goal was to make an over-sized pencil sharpener. Like a pencil sharpener, it is nice to have a cone shape that will guide the dowel blank as it is cut. I started with a block of hard wood (I think its maple). One end of the block was mitered to match the angle of a step drill that would cut the cone shape. This is so that eventually, the blade would be parallel to the faces of the block, although you could probably just as easily do this with a square chunk.

one end of block mitered to match the angle of the step drill

I wanted 1/2″ diameter dowels, so I drilled a 1/2″ diameter hole perpendicular to the angled face of the block.

1/2″ hole

Next I used the step drill to make the guide cone. To smooth out the steps you can use a Dremel or a rounded rasp. In the photo below you can still see some pencil marks where the steps use to be – I marked each step so I had a clearer visual indicator of whether or not I was smoothing out the steps evenly.

tapered hole

Next I make a cut parallel to the side of the taper. I just got a bandsaw, which was perfect for this, but you could easily use a handsaw. I ended up using a rasp to get the cut to the depth I wanted. Then I used a knife to just clean up all the edges.

make a cut parallel to the taper

Finally, just clamp a chisel to the block so that the blade edge is fairly centered. Unlike a pencil sharpener where the blade extends past the central axis of the pencil, the blade in this case ends at the diameter of the dowel size you are making (you might have to tweak the position of the chisel so this is true). You get much better results if the chisel position is adjusted so that the resulting dowel fits closely in the rest of the hole past the taper. That will give the dowel the best support as you cut it.

clamp a chisel as a blade

Finally, of course, you’ll need a dowel blank. If you have a table saw to do this, awesome! If you have a bandsaw like me, well, this jig is pretty tolerant to imperfect blanks. If you do this with a handsaw, respect!

I sized mine to be slightly larger than 1/2″ wide and then whittled one end down to fit in a drill chuck. You can leave the other end square, as long as all 4 corners fit in the cone and will touch the blade as soon as you start to spin it. I used a fairly low speed on my hand drill, mostly because the blank was not clamped in straight and the drill would oscillated considerably as the blank spun.

dowel blank with thinned area for clamping in drill chuck

Here’s what I got right out of the dowel maker. You can see that its pretty rough. I should probably feed slower. Ideally you probably want a curved blade that is tangent to the wall of the cylinder and flares out to where you feed in the blank.

the product

The easiest way to clean the dowel up a bit is to put it in the drill chuck again, and just hold sandpaper to it.

not to shabby after some sanding

Let me know if you have other cool ways of cutting dowels!

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11 thoughts on “Dowel Maker

  1. Pingback: Treescooter! (part 1/2) « Amy Qian

  2. I just made one based on this design, It works amazingly. Thank you for posting this. Im going to put pictures of the one that i made on my Business website and Facebook, with reference to where i got the deisgn of course.

      • i did use a step drill, then a piece of sand paper wrapped around a tapered dowel made quick work of the ridges. I am going to attempt different methods, if i discover something ground breaking you will be the first to know.

  3. They sell straight conical bits, or “stepless” that would eliminate having to smooth out the steps. This jig is great, thanks for the idea!

  4. I know this is a couple years old, but I’ve only just come across your blog (via bamboo bike). Great dowel maker. When I have dowels to make that don’t need to be too long, I drill a hole into thick steel to the diameter I want the dowel to be. I countersink it halfway through the stock, and put it in a vice. then, I cut square wood stock to be only slightly larger than the hole, and a taper the ends to fit in the hole. Then it’s mallet time. an awesome work out to make 60 dowels. I tend to use them as pins for timber jointed furniture.

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