Introduction: Making Dowel Rods With a Table Saw

Picture of Making Dowel Rods With a Table Saw

There are times when you may need a Dowel Rod made out of a particular variety of wood for a project, or an extra long length. Or maybe, like me, you like to make things yourself. This Instructable will explain how to make a fixture to make your own, custom dowel rods.

Step 1: Getting Started and Required Materials

Picture of Getting Started and Required Materials

Start by finding a suitable piece of hardwood for the fixture. It needs to be as long as your saw table and about 2 1/2" x 3". I had a piece of Oak I trimmed to size.

You will need a Pencil, Tape Measure, Square

Cordless Drill and Drill bits

Table Saw and Dado Blades

C Clamps

3/8 socket driver with hex shank to fit cordless drill and a 3/8 socket set.

Step 2: Cut Steps on Oak Board

Picture of Cut Steps on Oak Board

Cut a 1 3/4" x 2" notch out of each end of the board on the 3" tall side. (See picture) This will be a flat location where the C Clamps will attach the fixture to the Table Saw when finished.

Step 3: Find Center of Blade

Picture of Find Center of Blade

From the end of the table, measure to find the approximate center of the blade. On my saw the center is 10" from the edge of the table. Mark a line 10" from the end of the Oak Board. Make sure to include the food you just cut in the measurement. Make a line. I did this on both ends so I could make 2 different sides dowel rods depending on which end I used. Mark 2" from the bottom of the board. This is where we will drill the guide holes.

Step 4: Drill Guide Holes

Picture of Drill Guide Holes

For best results, this step should be done in a drill press. This will keep the holes in line and true.

I set this up to make 1/2" and 1/4" dowels. To make the 1/2" end of the fixture, I drilled a 7/8 hole 1/2 way into the oak board. (1 3/8" deep). I then finished the hole with a 1/2" bit. The picture shows the stepped hole. For the 1/4" dowel, drill a 1/2" hole half way through the board, and finish with a 1/4" bit.

Step 5: Cut the Clearance Slot

Picture of Cut the Clearance Slot

Set the dado blades up to cut a 1/2" wide slot. Set the depth so it goes about 1/16" into the 1/2" hole for the half inch dowel side. Make a slot about 12 inches long in the board. The bottom view shows how the slot just opened up the bottom of the guide holes a little bit. Do the same for the 1/4" dowel.

Step 6: Setup to Make Dowels

Picture of Setup to Make Dowels

I used a 60 tooth Blade to cut the dowels. Center the blade in the slot and securely clamp the fixture board to the saw. Then adjust the height of the blade. The blade should just skim the bottom of the dowel rod. An easy way to get close is to:

1. Unplug the saw

2. Put a piece of stock in the hole (In this case a 1/2" diameter stock) and spin the blade in reverse slowly by hand while raising the blade. When the blade just starts to "kiss" the material, you are close. This method also insures the blade is not hitting the side of the fixture. Remove the stock, lock the blade height and plug the saw back in.

Step 7: Run Stock

Picture of Run Stock

You need to have some square stock cut to make the dowels. For the 1/2" dowel, the stock is a touch under 5/8" square. The stock should fit inside the 7/8 hole without binding. The material for the 1/4"dowel is a touch under 3/8" square. It should fit inside the 1/2" guide hole without binding. To spin the material as it goes through the process, I put a 3/8 hex adapter on my cordless drill. I use a 12 sided socket to drive the square stock. I find the size which fits the tightest. I have metric sockets and sometimes I need to use those. It is now simply a matter of turning on the saw, starting up the drill and guiding the square stick into the guide hole. You may need to make small adjustments on the blade height. If the dowel is smoking and burning as it comes out, the blade needs to be raised to remove a little more material. If it is chattering, out of round and a terrible finish, the blade is too high and needs to be lowered. Make tiny adjustments. It does not take much! There will be some spiral marking on the dowel. I typically spin the dowel with the drill while holding some sandpaper to give it a nice finish.

Run the stock in as far as you can with the socket. I pull the socket off of the square stick, leaving the dowel in the fixture. Then chuck the drill up on the finished side and pull it the rest of the way through the blade. If everything is set up correctly, you can do this while the saw is running and it will not adversely mark up the dowel rod.

Watch the video of the process in action.

If the dowel is over 2 feet long you may need to stabilize it as it comes out on the finished end. It may get to flopping around quite a bit.

Step 8: Variations

Picture of Variations

With this fixture, you can make very long dowels and make them out of whatever wood you can work with.

This is an unconventional use of the table saw, but it is very safe.

1. The blade is completely enclosed.

2. The fixture is firmly clamped to the saw.

I have run hundreds of feet of dowel rod using this technique and never had an issue. The worst thing I ever had happen was almost catching a dowel on fire because the blade height was not correct and the dowel was very tight in the guide hole.

Enjoy making your own dowel rods. Let me know how it works for you!


Tonyi8 (author)2017-02-18

Good idea and jig. if you have a fixed saw blade height then drill your dowel holes assending in height all along your jig length , then you could have multiple dowel diamer size options by just sliding the jig to the size you want to make.

nduetime (author)2016-10-02

Can this method be used for making very thin dowels like 1/16". I can't find any of that size in anything besides Birch.

gadgetjim (author)nduetime2016-10-02

1/4" is the smallest I ever did. I imagine you may need to use a finer tooth blade and have a lot of patience. I never tried it. If you do, let me know how it turns out!

shatzi (author)2016-09-18

very nice great idear

gadgetjim (author)shatzi2016-09-22

Thank you, I really do use it a lot.

Lorddrake (author)2016-06-17

very inventive

mshm99 (author)2016-02-29

thank you. great idea!

mudmann (author)2016-01-03

now that is cool!

Paulojds18 (author)2015-12-24

Thanks friend.

Paulojds18 (author)2015-12-21

Thanks for sharing a great idea.

Nazar Essa (author)2015-11-28

great idea

Bettybstt (author)2015-09-27

Excellent 'able! I've been woodworking for 15 years and have never seen or imagined making dowel this way. So many times I have wanted dowels of a certain species to match the project, now I know how to do it! Thanks!

aebe (author)2015-09-19

Very good 'ibl . I'm using drawknife , spokeshave , plane in shaping walking sticks . Your method appears to be much easier .

gadgetjim (author)aebe2015-09-20

Your hand method of making the walking sticks probably gives them a lot of rustic appeal and character. I appreciate you looking!

dave367 (author)2015-09-03

How large a dowel would you feel comfortable doing this with? It's often hard to find 1.5"+ dowels, especially in odd wood species. For large dowels, do you recommend multiple passes or just slower rotation and/or feed with the drill? Thanks!

aebe (author)dave3672015-09-19

I've seen 12" columns 'turned' using a radial arm saw , a big Comet . gadjetjim's setup is a whole lot safer , and you likely could make as thick a piece as you wanted . Be a great way to start making wooden screws .

gadgetjim (author)dave3672015-09-03

The largest ones I have done to date are 5/8" I imagine if it gets to big, the amount of material on the corner might be larger that the depth of the saw tooth blade so it may require multiple passes and multiple fixtures. I would definitely use a larger drill. I want to make a heavy duty wood drying rack with 1" dowels here shortly. I will see how that works. Another option may be to have the hole at an angle. I will have to try it and see what happens.

kwhitacre (author)2015-09-05

I like this. I have some Ipe (Ironwood) that needs some plugs. Any cautions for such hard wood? I am capping the screws so will put the grain in the same direction. It should be almost invisible, but if one did notice it... no worries, it will look nicely finished. Thanks for this tip!

boffincentral (author)kwhitacre2015-09-12

For plugging holes, I wouldn't use dowels. Dowels show end grain when cut. I would cut plugs with a plug cutter you get face grain and not end grain. If you are careful with inserting the plugs you can match up the grain or you can use a contrasting wood for effect.

I know this is a DIY site but I like the Lee Valley snug plug cutters.The plugs are slightly tapered and create a tight gap free fit.

kwhitacre (author)boffincentral2015-09-13

Thank you for the advise. I was going to cut the wood more like a plug; his video just got me thinking about it. I've never tried Lee Valley and will look it up. Thank you, again.

gadgetjim (author)kwhitacre2015-09-05

From what I read about Ironwood, you would want to make sure to use a carbide tip blade. I have never tried it. The toughest stuff I ever did is Black Locust. Good luck!

boffincentral (author)2015-09-12

I've just come out of the workshop after doing exactly this because I needed some Cherry dowels. A few tips I learned:

1. I needed 3/8" dowels. I used 9/16" as the next size up for the larger starter hole.

2. I cut the blanks at very slightly larger than 3/8". They should be a moderately tight fit in the 9/16" hole.

3. Rotate the blank as fast as possible.

4. The more teeth on the blade, the better the result. I got the best result with a triple chip tooth blade.

5. Feed the blank as slow as you can manage.

6. Smaller diameter dowels like I made will whip around quite a bit on the exit side. Use shorter lengths on the blanks and support them on the exit with a hand. This is extremely safe (and I am captain of the safety patrol! ...) as the blade is impossible to touch.

The dowels I got are still fairly rough and would not be suitable for showing without sufficient sanding to significantly alter their diameter. However, for the purpose they I am using them for, they are fine. I am using them for pegging breadboard ends on tables..

midgard83 (author)2015-09-09

Magnificently clever ! Thank you so very much for sharing your method. It's the easy way of making dowels.

ronald.ferreira.39 (author)2015-09-08


bricabracwizard (author)2015-09-07

Now I know how to fit a square peg into a round hole!

You just need to make a round peg out of it! Thanks for looking!

ToolboxGuy (author)2015-09-06

I think you could use some support further out to keep to from spiraling as much. The bending and twirling is causing a fair part of it. Great idea for custom sized rods as well.

gadgetjim (author)ToolboxGuy2015-09-06

I agree with you that some support would probably help. I have thought of putting a PVC tube mounted to the saw as a support, I have not yet got around to doing that. Maybe the next time I run a bunch. Thanks for the feedback!

HardyN (author)2015-09-03

No point in wasting time like this !

asickles (author)HardyN2015-09-06

imagination and ingenuity are far from a waste of time.

gadgetjim (author)HardyN2015-09-03

I developed this method to make dowel rods because I build Traditional Chicken Crates. They have about 80 feet of Dowel rod in them and it gets quite expensive to purchase. I Make my own dowels out of discarded pallets. As a bonus, I get a lot of wood shavings to use for the Poultry bedding. I am able to take a waste product and get some use out of it. In all, it works for me and I find it enjoyable. Thanks!

anode505 (author)HardyN2015-09-03

Depends. Exotic woods, odd sizes, etc. I see a use.

But for pine/oak, yeah, Home Cheapo probably works best.

Eh Lie Us! (author)2015-09-05

Wow. Great tip.

gadgetjim (author)Eh Lie Us!2015-09-05

Appreciate the feedback.

gemgroup (author)2015-09-05


gadgetjim (author)gemgroup2015-09-05


coll2850 (author)2015-09-04

This is a very clever idea, you must be an amazing person, you really think outside the box, thanks for taking the time to share.

gadgetjim (author)coll28502015-09-05

Thanks for the feedback!

jmeronek (author)2015-09-04

Absolutely genius idea! I'll be using it very soon!

gadgetjim (author)jmeronek2015-09-05

Good Luck! I hope it works well

0zzy (author)2015-09-04

Hi there I really like this instructables as I use dowel rods quite often and thay are expensive to buy I have turned up sum on the lathe but it takes time and I can only make 3ft lengths as my lathe has only got a 3ft bed.

So I'm going to make one of your dowel jigs for my table saw.

Ps I also love old tools as my lathe is probably from the 1930s? or so and I have a few other tools that are very old too.

new tools just don't match up to the older ones.

Thanks again.

jan.benade (author)2015-09-04

Excellent idea! Really very useful and a brilliant retro application for a table saw!

madmaxismartin (author)2015-09-03

Genius boet!!!

CJM3 (author)2015-09-03

for the record your table saw is friggen awesome! Love to see people who still use their tools rather than buy a plastic one from a big box.

gadgetjim (author)CJM32015-09-03

Thanks! It is a Sears and Roebuk with a patent date of 1939. It is all cast iron and must weigh 175 to 200 pounds. A friend gave it to me because it was too cumbersome for him to use. I like the old stuff too!

shed469 (author)2015-09-03

Does the drill turn direction make a difference?

gadgetjim (author)shed4692015-09-03

It does not seem to. I usually try to turn opposite the blade spin to get more surface speed on the cut. I have not seen a noticeable difference though.

DanielR68 (author)2015-09-03

great instruct able!

gadgetjim (author)DanielR682015-09-03

Thanks! I appreciate you looking at it

stitchin (author)2015-09-03

Pure genius!

About This Instructable




Bio: I have worked in industry for 25+ years and have learned a lot from a lot of good people. I hope to pass a few ... More »
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