Routing Dowels

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I tried making dowels out of oak. ash, cherry, soft maple, poplar, walnut.and mahogany. All these woods run through the dowel-making fixture without a hitch, so long as the blank is straight-grained. Any twists, dips, or waves lead to chip-out and splintering. Examine your stock carefully, and l)e selective for best results.

1. Cut the dowel blanks. Check the dowel chart for the specs of the dowel you want. Rip a test blank to the dimensions specified for the desired dowel diameter. Now check its fit in the htfeed hole. It must be snug, but not so snug that you can't turn it by hand.

If it is too tight, re-rip the blank, making it slightly smaller.

If it is too loose, rip another blank, making it slightly larger.

Countersunk XA"-dia. hole for mounting bolt



\ Dowel diaT




Diameter desired DOWEL




Dowel V diameter

Diameter desired DOWEL



Dowel Blank/Feed Hole Sizing










W sq.

"Ai" dia.

'/<" dia.

W dia.

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W dia.

W dia.

/2m dia.

W sq.

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fc" dia.

VtT dia.

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•y.b" dia.

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V* dia.


l^e" dia.

7/8m dia.

1" dia.

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Ifc" dia.

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When you've established the correct blank size, rip all the blanks you need, plus a few spares, to that size. Hang on to the correctly sized test blank, too. so you can use it to tune and fine-tune the fixture setup.

Be sensible about the length of the blanks. 1 cut them •i to 6 inches longer than what I absolutely need. There's usually an unusable section at the end that gets chucked in the "power feeder." But 1 also endeavor to keep them as short as possible. Trying to rout a several-foot-long ' i-inch-diameter dowel is overreaching.

2. Set up the fixture. Chuck the bit in the table-mounted router, and raise it just enough to capture the


BIT TOO LOW The bit is not removing material from the blank; the blank can't fit into the outfeed hole.

Dowel V diameter

Dowel dia.

Dowel dia.


Dowel dia.

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fixture on it. Next, set the fixture over the bit. center it,an clamp it to the router table.

Adjust the bit height by sighting through the outfet\ hole. Raise the bit until its tip is flush with the bottom sur- ] face of the outfeed hole.

3. Fine-tune the setup. Rout a section of the tcs blank to check the bit height setting. Switch on the route* | and feed the blank into the fixture. As you do this, turn the; blank by hand. You'll find that it "threads" itself through the fixture. In other words, you don't have to push it. hec as you turn the blank, it will feed itself.

When the leading end of the blank emerges from the outfeed hole, switch off the router. Pull the blank out of the fixture. Don't be overly concerned with the test dow finish at this point, since a hand-fed dowel tends to be rough. Rather, focus on how it fits the outfeed holc.The tighter the dowel's fit in the outfeed hole, the better the finish you'll get.

If the blank can'/ be fed through tije fixture at all, the bit is too low. It isn't reducing the blank's diameter to equal that of the outfeed hole.

// the blank binds in the outfeed hole, the bit is too] low. Raise the bit very slightly. (Remember, there's a doo-bling effect at work here. If you raise the bit U>t inch, )\n reduce the dowel's diameter by '/« inch.)

If the dowel is less than snug in the outfeed bole, tbej bit is too high. It is removing too much material. As the disparity between the dowel's and the hole's dia

BIT TOO LOW The bit is not removing material from the blank; the blank can't fit into the outfeed hole.

BIT TOO HIGH The bit is removing too much material; the dowel is smaller than the outfeed hole.

PERFECT SETUP The bit is removing just the right amount of material, so the dowel is the same diameter as the outfeed hole.

Diameter - Diagonal^ INFEED HOLE DIAMETER

Bit rotation

Making Dowels With Router
Bit rotation

Bit rotation

Box 360 Made From PaperPower Feeder Routervtable

To keep a long, slender dowel from whipping, feed its finished end into a steady rest block clamped to the back of the router table top. The steady rest is no more than a block with a hole the diameter of the dowel drilled through it.

Router And Drill Dowel Making Jig

The fixture's power feeder is your electric drill. Spinning the dowel blank with the drill as the bit cuts it produces the best finish on the dowel. To fit a large dowel blank in the drill chuck, you have to whittle the end.

increases. the dowel starts to chatter and whip. The spiral texture of the dowel's surface gets more coarse. If these effects arc evident, lower the bit.

Retest the setup. And keep testing and adjusting until you're satisfied that it is as good as you can make it. And you'll feel it when the setup is right. The blank will seemingly disappear into the fixture, no chatter, no binding.

4. Set up the -power feeder." The best finish is achieved by increasing the speed that the stock turns as it moves past the bit. The way to do this is to chuck the blank in a power drill, and spin it at 600 to -800 rpm

I use a '/2-inch portable drill for this. It provides maximum chuck capacity, and its speed is limited—according to the spec plate on it—to 800 rpm. Small dowel blanks fit right into the chuck. Large ones must be whittled down to fit. You only need to whittle a short section on one end of the Wank. After the dowel is formed, you trim that pan off.

5. Rout the dowel. It goes quickly, once you have the fixture set up and fine-tuned. Here's the drill:

A.Chuck a blank in the drill.

B. Switch on the router.

C. Insert the end of the blank into the infeed hole.

D.Squeeze the drill's trigger and simultaneously feed the blank into the hole.

E.When you've fed as much of the blank through the fixture as you can. cut the power to the router, then to the drill.

F Extract the dowel from the fixture.

G.T&kc it out of the drill chuck and fit a new blank into the chuck. Return to A.

The nature of this routine is such that a foot-switch on the router is a big plus. You get the drill with the blank all ready, then step on the pedal. And when you are ready to cut the power, you don't have to let go of the drill to do it.

Rout just the end before chucking the blank in your "power feeder." You'll then be able to get the dowel started more easily if you shape just about the length shown here. Turn the blank by hand to do this.

Yes, it's magic! Switch on the router, and insert the blank's tip in the infeed hole. Quickly trigger the drill to spin the blank, and simultaneously push the blank into the hole. With a little experience, you'll develop a feel for the best feed rate.

To keep a long, slender dowel from whipping, feed its finished end into a steady rest block clamped to the back of the router table top. The steady rest is no more than a block with a hole the diameter of the dowel drilled through it.

3 CD

gowel-Turning Jig

Here's a turnabout on the woodworking convention. Turn the workpiece by hand in this jig while using your router to shape it round and smooth.

Dowel Making Jig Saw

Fat dowels, simple round tapers, and even modestly ornamented spindles can Ik- produced with a router and this primitive lathe. It is simple to make (as all good jigs arc), yet it has a lot of potential.

I've called it a r/owtV-turning jig because that's what the woodworker who told me about it used it for making dowels. And it is a turning operation. You turn the spindle blank as the cutter moves along its axis. This makes it round.After I made the jig to try out. I realized that it could be customized for some other operations as well.

'litis jig got its start when San Francisco woodworker Yeung Chan needed a l-inch-diamcter dowel for a table base. When he couldn't find what he needed ready-made, and because lie didn't have a lathe. Chan turned to his router. The version of the jig shown is my interpretation of Chan's jig.

In brief, what he did was to screw together a four-sided plywood box. In the center of each end. Chan drilled a ^H-inch hole. He mounted a blank for his dowel inside the box by driving lengths of threaded rod through the holes and into the ends of the blank. He also mounted an improvised handle on one rod so he could turn the blank.

Then Chan made a new plywood baseplate for his router, one wide enough to span the width of the box.

To fix the router over the axis of the blank, he attached guide strips to the plywood baseplate.

To turn the dowel, all he had to do was set up the router with a straight bit. switch it on, and very slowly feed it along the top of the box while he simultaneously cranked the blank around and around.

Chan's jig, it seems, is a job-specific solution to an immediate problem. But it holds potential for a somewhat more flexible jig. one that's a little less improvised, one that's i keeper. After noodling with the basic design and trying i few ideas that didn't pan out. I came to the conclusion that you can't really design a dowel-turning jig that will accooJ modate every job. You are going to have to move the end pieces to accommodate different spindle lengths. You will want to drill the end pieces specifically for tapering jobs. I In other words, keep the jig, but figure on doing a little J cutting or drilling to adapt it to the job at hand.

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    How make rounding cutters dowel?
    7 years ago

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