Introduction: How to Perfectly Cut Dowels

Picture of How to Perfectly Cut Dowels

No matter what power tool I use, I can never get clean, flush cuts on wooden dowels.This 5-minute dowel cutting jig will give you perfect cuts every time.

The problem with cutting dowels (especially small ones) on a chop saw is that the bottom of the dowel always chips out. The table saw usually makes for slightly better results, but the same problem occurs. On the band saw I can sometimes get a cleaner cut since the teeth are much smaller, but there’s still some degree of chipping and they’re never perfectly flush.

With a dowel cutting jig, not only can you avoid chipping altogether, you can cut multiple pieces the same length very quickly.

Step 1: Cut a Slot

Picture of Cut a Slot

Get a piece of square stock that’s big enough for the dowel you want to cut. I’m cutting 1/4” dowels, so I used a piece of 2X2 (1 1/2” X 1 1/2”) hard wood.

I wanted to make sure there was enough stock leftover to clamp the stock to the table saw sled, so I made the piece 6” long. I’m cutting several dowels that are 1 1/2” long, so I measured 1 1/2” from the end of the stock to cut the stock. This cut is going to pass completely through the 1/4” hole for the dowel, to it has to be at least 7/8” high through the middle of the stock. I made it 1” high for good measure.

Step 2: Drill a Hole

Picture of Drill a Hole

Since my dowels are 1/4” Ø, I drilled a hole with a 1/4” bit on the center of the jig. It’s important to use a drill press for this hole to make sure you’re getting a perfectly flush hole in the jig.

This same method would work for dowels of any diameter provided there's enough material for the

Step 3: Make Some Cuts

Picture of Make Some Cuts

Make sure the edge of the slot is aligned properly with the side of the blade, then clamp it to the table saw sled on the long end. With the height of the blade set to 1” above the surface of the sled, insert the dowel from the long end and stop it at the edge. You could probably be more sophisticated with stopping the dowel at the end, but I just used my finger and put some pressure on the long end of the dowel to keep it from moving. When the cut is done, just put the small piece through the hole.

Once you get the hang of it, you can crank these out very quickly. The cuts are prefect every time because the hole in the jig keeps the wood fibers together while the saw does the cut. This would work with larger dowels as well, but it's especially useful on smaller ones.


plazz (author)2017-08-29

Clever idea! Nice one.

bratan (author)2016-10-30

Nice! I need to make this! BTW here's an idea. If you add a small flat piece of wood at the end, you'll make an end-stop so you don't have to stop dowel with your finger. And you can hinge it on a screw so you can lift it up to push thru dowel...

JON-A-TRON (author)bratan2017-01-19

That's a good idea. I'd love to get more sophisticated with stuff like this.

Maplewoodshop (author)2016-01-26

That is great! I had to cut 320 dowels for 40 pegged tenon footstool kits and did them with a tenon saw using a similar jig. A tablesaw would be much easier at this level of production!

JON-A-TRON (author)Maplewoodshop2016-01-26

So glad it worked out!

shedman335 (author)2016-01-16

Neat idea, thank you

NVRider46 (author)2015-12-28

Similar jig works for cutting metal all-thread to specific lengths with little or no thread damage. Clamp the jig in a vise and make the cuts with a Sawsall or hacksaw.

pmshah (author)NVRider462016-01-05

What I have found useful is to screw on a very hard nut beyond the point where you want to cut the threaded rod. When you unscrew the nut after cutting the rod it cleans up whatever little irregularities happen at the cut point. The nut MUST be of harder material than the rod itself.

FlorinJ (author)pmshah2016-01-06

Or just screw on a thread die before cutting. After the cut, when unscrewing the die, it will cut away whatever damage was done to the thread.

JON-A-TRON (author)NVRider462015-12-29

Good trick! I never thought of that. My metal cuts are always crazy messy.

jeanniel1 (author)2016-01-05

Brilliant idea - and perfect for those many dowel projects like for basket weaving for the form to start, as well as basic gear teeth!

tgirard (author)2016-01-05

I LOVE Projects that are so simple and effective you stand in wonder asking why I didn't think of this. I can't tell you how many times I've cut dowels and always have them moving around. I am definitely making one for a couple of sizes :)

JON-A-TRON (author)tgirard2016-01-05

Glad to hear it!

foglemam (author)2016-01-05

I would like to see a blade guard that would work in this situation. Using a sled, especially one with a raised up hand hold out of the blade path as it exits the back of the fence, keeps your fingers away from the blade. The majority of hand/finger injuries from table saw blades involve kick back and resulting movement of the hand/fingers into the spinning blade. I don't see how crosscutting on a sled w/o a guard could result in a problem unless you have your hand/fingers in the blade path in a normal table saw. The fact that it's a SawStop makes all of this a moot point.

If you don't have power tools a shooting board and a sharp block plane will work for precise, square, chip out free dowel ends if you rough cut them first with a crosscutting handsaw.

fred_dot_u (author)2016-01-05

I just finished cutting 90 dowels of 1-1/4" diameter. Some were 3/4" long and were tricky to manage on the miter saw, but I made it through without destroying any of them. Your method is perfectly simple and would have made a big difference in my project. I hope I can remember this for the next time I have to cut dowels. Nicely done.

JON-A-TRON (author)fred_dot_u2016-01-05

Thanks for saying so! What were you using your dowels for?

fred_dot_u (author)JON-A-TRON2016-01-05

I'm going to keep that in the dark for now, as I hope to have an instructable from the project within the year. Lucky for me, the year has only just begun! That gives me almost 12 months to meet my deadline. General description: an organizer. Specific description: see above. If I am able to build an instructible from the project, I'm going to link your work within, for the benefit of others.

SusanH75 (author)2016-01-05

Great idea

mdeblasi1 (author)2015-12-28

Thank you.
I do lapidary and I am forever swearing because my dop-sticks are not perfectly flush!

JON-A-TRON (author)mdeblasi12015-12-29

Oh cool! I've always been interested in lapidary. What kind of work do you do? Got any instructables on it in the works?

mdeblasi1 (author)JON-A-TRON2015-12-30

Here's a photo of one of my rings.
I made the ring base too.
Right now I'm working on a jewelry instrucaible.

JON-A-TRON (author)mdeblasi12016-01-02

Awesome! Send me a message when it's up and I'll make sure it's homepage featured.

joebaby1953 (author)2015-12-28

I really like it. I think I will make one with a series of sized holes for different size dowels. As far as guard are concerned, they are good for those that need them. My father warned me of the dangers if power tools when I was just a boy. If I ever hurt myself with them he would never let me use them again.

JON-A-TRON (author)joebaby19532015-12-29

Good idea. I was thinking about doing something like that for making dowels. Have you seen this technique?

MadeByGloria (author)2015-12-29

Great idea! Thanks!

mxx (author)2015-12-28

Great idea! Will build one myself. Thanks!

discgolftrainnut (author)2015-12-28

Gotta make one!

joebaby1953 (author)2015-12-28

I really like it. I think I will make one with a series of sized holes for different size dowels. As far as guard are concerned, they are good for those that need them. My father warned me of the dangers if power tools when I was just a boy. If I ever hurt myself with them he would never let me use them again.

mlawing (author)2015-12-28

Great instructions.

steve12 (author)2015-12-27

I like the idea, but it scares me, have you ever been in a workshop when some cuts off part of their finger, this is why in some countries it is illegal to use any such tools with the safety guards removed. This is really dangerous even more so when you are doing repetitive tasks so close to an open blade.

JON-A-TRON (author)steve122015-12-27

Your fingers stay well outside the safe zone with the clamp in place. In any case, this is a Sawstop, so the chances of injury are slim to none no matter how careless you are.

oconnellkj (author)steve122015-12-27

you could always make the jig 'L' shaped or with the length covering the blade with enough on the end to clamp to the sled

mickgalt made it! (author)2015-12-26

great minds think a like. I thought of doing this very thing last week when I need to cut some 16mm dowel into 12mm lengths.

JON-A-TRON (author)mickgalt2015-12-27

Nicely done! Yours is better- having more material on the top makes for better clamping purchase.

kylegilbert (author)2015-12-26

I've always had this same problem. Nice instructions!

JON-A-TRON (author)kylegilbert2015-12-27

Thanks! It works like a charm.

mikeasaurus (author)2015-12-26

The animations explained it perfectly!

JON-A-TRON (author)mikeasaurus2015-12-27

Thanks Mike!

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Bio: I'm a full-time Designer at the Instructables Design Studio (best job ever). My background is in residential architecture, film set design, film animatronics, media ... More »
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