This is a great trick for making really small wood joints. Standard dowel joints are not the most durable, but work great for the right application. The key to dowel joints is proportion. Skewers are typically around 3/32" diameter, which works great for material that is 1/4" - 1/2" thick. I've been making these small wood water tower-like structures, and using skewers for dowels works great. The wood is about 3/8" square for reference. Any bigger and you should probably use a real dowel, not a skewer.
This Instructable goes over the basics of drilling and gluing the dowels, but not how to make the structures. If you come up with fun stuff to make using this method, please post photos of your project!
(I've added a photo of the lamp I made using this dowel technique to show an example project).
Step 1: Tools / Supplies You Need
You might need some specific tools not listed, depending on what you are making.
- Wood skewers**
- Wood for your construction (I milled some 3/8" square lengths of solid wood for the structure shown)
- Drill (cordless)
- 3/32" drill bit
- Hammer (small head is preferred)
- Pliers with built in wire cutter
- Wood glue
- Chisel (reasonably sharp)
- Combination Square (helpful for marking)
** Bamboo skewers have a stronghold on the market, so you might not be able to find solid wood without a lot of searching. Bamboo will work too, but I like the look of hardwood over the bamboo end-grain. I finally found solid wood skewers at an Ace Hardware on University in Berkeley.... after searching several other stores.
Step 2: Drill Hole.
Put the 3/32" drill bit securely in the chuck of the drill.
If you don't want to drill too deep, there is a trick to mark the depth on the drill bit. Use a ruler or eyeball the depth you want to drill and place a small piece of blue tape directly on the bit. When drilling the hole, make sure not to drill deeper than the tape.
To drill the hole, line up the drill and make sure you are holding it level and square to the thing you are drilling into. The trigger is probably variable speed, so easy in and out of your cut, holding the trigger as you both drill in and pull out of the hole.
Step 3: Glue and Hammer in the Dowel
The hole you drill is exactly the same size at the skewers, so to avoid getting the skewer jammed before you can get it in the hole, it can be helpful to quickly sand down the end. Put a little bit of glue on the dowel and quickly use hand pressure to push it as far into the hole as possible. Remember, wood glue is water based and wood expands with moisture, so the dowel will get stuck or not even go in if you don't work quickly.
Once the dowel is pushed in as far as you can get it with hand pressure, snip off the end with the wire cutters leaving about 1/4" - 1/2" sticking out. Then grab the hammer and tap it in the rest of the way until it won't go any further.
If the dowel breaks in this process and it didn't go in all the way, you'll have to drill it out and try again. This happens fairly often because a 3/32" dowel is pretty fragile. Try not to get too frustrated!
Step 4: Clean Up the Glue and Dowel
Once the glue is totally dry (if you jump the gun and do this before it is dry, you will probably break open the joint.
Also, wet glue is really bad for chisels.
First, snip off the rest of the dowel sticking out with the wire cutters.
Use the chisel (sharper will make this easier) to carefully flush trim the dried glue and skewer end.
You can use sand paper after you chisel to make it look real nice.
I've been making these wood structures with this method of joinery, just for fun. You can make lots of different things. Hope this helps.