Dowels

Round stock can throw you a fe<w curves. But here are some techniques we like to use when working with dowels.

Making Dowels

Make your own dowels — why go through all the work? Well, there are quite a few reasons. For the rocker and footstool in this issue, I had a hard time finding I'/Z'-dia. dowels, so making them was about my only option. Plus, I could build these projects out of any wood I wanted. I wasn't limited to what was "in stock."

Then while building the rocker and footstool, I ran into a couple other benefits. The real trick when building these projects would have been drilling the two sets of holes in each leg. But by starting off with square stock, I didn't have to worry about this. Laying out and drilling both sets of holes was a simple procedure.

Also, when routing the tenons on the ends of the dowels, you'll find that working with straight, round dowels is a whole lot easier than trying to wrestle with warped dowels or dowels that aren't truly round.

Safety Note: The technique shown here will work for '/¿"-dia. and larger dowels. If you try to make smaller dowels this way, the stock will vibrate too much as it passes over the bit.

MAKE SQUARE BLANKS. The first step to making a dowel is to make sure the stock is square. Both the width and the thickness of the blank should match the finished diameter of the dowel. So for a l1/il'-dia. dowel, you'll need a 1 x lW blank, see Fig. 1.

The other thing to say about these blanks is that I don't rout to the ends, see Fig. 2. Otherwise, the blank would tend to roll as the last edge was being routed. So to get the correct dowel length and still keep the ends square, I cut the blanks so they're 5" longer than the final length of the dowel.

SET UP ROUTER TABLE. The next step is to round over the edges of the blanks, see Fig. 2. If s easy to figure out which bit to use, just choose a round-over bit that equals half the diameter of the completed dowel. (For a iy2"-dia. dowel, you'll need a 3/4"-radius bit)

When setting up the bit, the key is to get its cutting edge flush with both the top of the router table and the fence, see Fig. la. If the fence isn't aligned or the bit is too high or low, youll end up with small shoulders or large flat spots on the dowel — and this translates into quite a bit of sanding (something I like to avoid).

Shop Tip: One way to help you "see" if the cutting edge is flush or not is to use a rule set across the open ing in the fence and the table. With the router unplugged, turn the bit by hand — the cutting edge at the ends should just "tick" the ruler.

ROUND OVER EDGES. To round the edges, set one end of the blank against the fence and pivot the other end into the bit about 2" from the left end, see Fig. 2. Then push the stock to the left, stopping 2" from the opposite end.

Now rotate the stock and rout the adjacent side, see Fig. 2a. Repeat this process on the other two edges. Then cut the dowel to finished length.

However, no matter how carefully you set up the bit there still are going to be small, flat edges to sand. But this shouldn't be too big ajob if you've set up the router bit carefully. E3

NOTE: Cutting edge must be flush with fence and table

NOTE: Cutting edge must be flush with fence and table

-Blank for V/2"-dia. dowel

Routing Tenons on Dowels

Cutting tenons on dowels is easy on a router table. And you can cut two kinds of tenons: square-shouldered tenons (with a straight bit) and ones with rounded shoulders (using a core box bit), see photos in margin.

The difference here is more than skin deep. A square-shouldered tenon is like a traditional tenon in that its shoulder-to-shoulder dimension is important. On the other hand, the rounded-shoulder tenon is more decorative. The tenon actually bottoms out in the mortise, so what's important is its overall length. This also means the tenon must be longer than the depth of the mortise. (On the rocker, for example, I cut W'-long tenons for the l"-deep mortises.)

SET-UP. The tenons are cut by pushing the dowel into the bit It's guided by a support block and butts against an auxiliary fence that covers the opening on your router fence, see Figs. 1 and la. Then clamp a support block to the table so the dowel is centered over the bit, see Fig. lb.

To set the bit, you'll need to sneak up on the final height, testing it in the mortise. I like to leave the tenon just slightly oversize. Then it can be sanded for an exact fit see Fig. 2a.

TECHNIQUE. To rout a tenon, first hold the dowel against the support block and slowly push it into the bit until it butts into the auxiliary fence, see Fig. 1. Now form the shoulder of the tenon by rotating the dowel clockwise. Then back the dowel out.

Next remove the waste around the tenon in small bites, see Fig. 2. Simply push the dowel in and pull it straight out. Then rotate the dowel slightly and repeat this procedure until the tenon is complete. C9

Square-shouldered tenons are routed using a straight bit.

Square-shouldered tenons are routed using a straight bit.

Tenons with rounded shoulders are routed with a core box bit.

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Wood Working for Amateur Craftsman

Wood Working for Amateur Craftsman

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