Introduction: Dowel Flute Jig Plus+++

About: If a tree falls in the woods...make things!

Jigs for making dowels are numerous. Do a quick search on YouTube and you'll find several different clever ways to create a cylindrical wood shape of any size of your choosing. I'll admit, I've had my eye on a few of my own designs, but that's not what we're going to do today in this instructable. Instead, we're going to work backwards. We're going to pretend you have a stack of beautiful dowel rods begging to be fluted.

But why flute your dowel rods? If you haven't watched the attached video, I'll summarize with 3 reasons.

  1. Easier install.
  2. Better glue insertion.
  3. Stronger joints.

More explanation is in the video, as well as quick bite size clips to show how each process of this instructable is executed.

On to the instructable!

Step 1: Gather Materials / Tools Needed and Used

Material List

Wood Needed:

  • 2 1/2" x 3/4" (or thicker) Square block of hardwood (I used hard maple but the harder the better)
  • 4" x 4" x 5/8" Square block of hardwood (I used oak)
  • 4" x 4" x 1/8" Square block of hardwood (I used walnut)

Other items:

  • 1" Black Pipe Floor Flange
  • #8 x 1 1/4" Stainless Steel Hex Drive Self Drilling Screws (VERY important)
  • #10 x 3/4" Phillips Drive Flat Head Sheet Metal Screw
  • Stick Glue
  • Wood Glue

Tools Used

  • Drill press
  • Awl or a nail
  • Bandsaw or a handsaw
  • Sander or sandpaper
  • Scroll saw or a coping saw
  • Range of Forstner Bits (more information later)
  • 1/2" or slightly small drill bit
  • Hex drive bit (that matches the size of your self drilling screws. Mine was a 1/4")
  • Round file (optional)
  • Clamps
  • Hot glue gun
  • Bench Vise

Step 2: Creating the Flute Plate

Let's first define what a 'Flute Plate' is. This jig is designed to have interchangeable plates for whatever size of a rod your looking to flute-i-tize, up to 1”. With mine, I created a 1/4”, 5/16”, 3/8”, 1/2” and a 3/4”. Later, I quickly made a plate in as little as 15 minutes for a 1” rod size that I needed to glue a table top to a base with.

OKAY! We know what a Flute Plate is. Now let's dig deeper. The wood I used for the plate was a block of 2 1/2” x 3/4” hard maple. It is crucial to get the hardest wood as possible as there's a lot of pounding force that will be needed to drive the dowel through the opening. If possible, I would highly recommend using a thicker piece of material. The 3/4” hasn't failed me as of yet, but I think a thicker piece would add longevity to this jig and also keep the screws from hitting the base.

Now then, download the included template attached to this step in the form of an image and print it off. After it prints, measure across one of the hexagons and be sure it is 2 1/2" in length. You can definitely resize this jig however you want, but none of my sizes will match otherwise.

Once it's downloaded, you've checked the size, cut each out and attach them to your 2 1/2" square piece of hardwood with the stick glue I listed in the materials section.

Hey, cut it out! And glue it too...

Step 3: Crafting the Plate(s)

Now it's time to cut the block of wood to size. It's important to cut the shape out exactly. I would highly recommend using a bandsaw, but if a handsaw is all you have, be absolutely sure you make as accurate of a cut as you can make. Head over to the sander (or grab your sand paper) and clean things up. Accuracy is a premium here.

Afterwards, grab an awl or something that can make a puncture mark, like a nail, and hit the center mark on the pattern. You'll need that mark to drive your Forstner bit into.

Now you could use a drill, but I wouldn't. If you don't have a drill press, find someone that will allow you to use there's. Because of the accuracy that's crucial, I've thrown all frugality out of the window when I say that (and I'm as cheap as they come).

It's time now to determine the dowel rod diameter size we will be making flutes in. If you are using the imperial system, I recommend going a 1/16th of an inch above each dowel rod diameter size. That is, if you have a 3/8" dowel rod, use a 7/16" Forstner bit. Of course, you probably don't have Forstner bits in 1/16" sizes, so you can do what I did and just move up by an 1/8th. For example: if you have that same 3/8" dowel rod, drill out a 1/2" hole.

Donning the Forstner bits...

Step 4: Drawing a Line Around the Perimeter and More Drilling

I drew a line around the absolute center of my dowel plates. Since my dowel plates are 3/4" thick, that means I drew a line 3/8" in the dead center. After that had been accomplished all the way around the hexagon, I drew a center line perpendicularly on each face. This gave me a perfect center on each face of the hexagon to puncture a mark on.

After each mark had been made on each face, I once again headed over to the drill press, this time using an 1/8" (or slightly smaller) drill bit to drill through the face and into the hole we drilled in the last step. This was done on each face of the hexagon.

Be careful as you drill to only go through the face of each hexagonal side and not back through the hole into the other side as you could cause damage to the opposite side. After all is done, use a round file and clean out the inside diameter. This is optional but not a bad idea.

Drawing, drawing; drilling, drilling...

Step 5: Screw Screwing! Let Them Do It Themselves!

Yeah, maybe a misleading title. I got your attention, right? I hope I did, this is important. Nothing like a little clickbait in an instructable you had already started reading, right?

I felt like an excellent explanation of the screws needed to cut the flutes was important enough to be its own step, so here it is.

If you haven't gathered from either the video, or pictures, or, dare I say a little common sense, we'll be using screw points to leave impressions on our very impressionable dowels. That's what was expected, right? Well, no, not really. Initially I started with screw points, but I was extremely dissatisfied with the end product. Scratching the surface and leaving a thin line or really gouging the line out with extra force seemed less than ideal. So I jumped up to self drilling screws which have a much larger head on them allowing both a wider flute cut and more durability to the tip.

But that's not all!

Not just any self drilling tip will do. I stepped away from the plain zinc covered ones as well as the galvanized and headed over to the stainless steel aisle. Sure it was more expensive, but the move is for good reason. While I cannot know what the exact composition of the stainless steel (self drilling) screw I used was, I can tell you that generally, in my own experience, stainless steel is far stronger and less likely to break. This is something I really wanted to make sure I addressed as I want this to last as long as I can make it last.

But wait! There's more!

I chose to go with hex heads as there's less of a chance to strip the head out. These screws will be easier to remove later should we ever need to replace them.

Step 6: Screwing Teeth Into the Flute Plate

OKAY, we got it! We know what screws are preferable by this author already, jeez!

I did mention in Step 4 that I used an 1/8" drill bit and that you could use one slightly smaller. The truth is, those self drilling drill bits are hogs. They don't care what size drill bit you use, so long as there's something left for them to chew on. We'll now run the #8 x 1 1/4" Stainless Steel Hex Drive Self Drilling Screws in through the holes we drilled the last time on each face of the hexagon, keeping in mind they'll only need to be drilled in until the very tip pokes through the other side.

All 6 screws screwed in so just the very tip pokes through? Now it's time to gauge how far in the screws need to go. Place the appropriate rod through the center of the hole (no potty jokes here please), and tighten each screw until they just barely pass the rod, on all 6 sides. It is, of course, important that each screw is far enough in to cut the wood, but not so far that it takes a hydraulic press to get the rods through.

Getting toothy...

And...we're done!

Well, kinda. At this point we've made the device necessary for the rod to go through to do the cutting. You could chuck it into your vice right now and all would be least, for the first 2 or 3 dowels you passed through. What will inevitably happen, in time, is that the screws will deform and damage. You could just push it down as seen on the video, but that takes an awful lot of effort. Just not fun.

What we need to do now is build a jig for the jig. You dig?

Step 7: The Base, Aka the Vice End

The last part (Flute Plate) was fairly simple and this one will be just as equally easy. After creating the simple jig in the last 4 steps, I thought, how am I going to pound a dowel through this without crushing the Flute Plate or damaging the back end of the screws? I knew I needed something that I could grip in the vice that would be strong enough for a good clamping but that would also allow me to pass something through.

Enter the 1" Black Pipe Floor Flange. From its side it you can see it has 2 platforms, a wide 4" platform and a platform a pipe is meant to screw into. It'll be that smaller, pipe platform that will sit in our vice and allow us to really crank down on it. It's like a tank!

We'll take this piece of heavy duty steel and use it as a pattern over our piece of 4" x 4" x 5/8" piece hardwood. We'll trace both the outer diameter of it as well as the screw holes (there should be 4 all together).

After we've done this, we'll obviously want to trim the corners off...or heck, leave them on, it doesn't much matter. Be trendy, leave those corners on! The only really important part of this, obviously, is that we carve out a hole in the center for our rod to go through.

Before we chop the corners off, or don't, let's put a line diagonally both ways either by connecting the screw holes you just traced out or the points of the 4" square block. Either way, we're looking for the center

I used a 1" x 1/4" Forstner bit at this point as the actual hole of the Black Pipe Floor Flange was wider than an inch. No point in shortening our capacity. After the deed was done, I chucked up an 1/8" drill bit, used my awl to hit the centers of each of the 4 screw holes and drilled them out. Before doing so I set my depth stop on my drill press so that I'd only go down about a half of an inch, avoiding drilling through the other side.

Finally, I attached the plate with the #10 x 3/4" screws. Be sure to use flat top screws that have a cone on the head. This will conceal the screw in the flange holes and keep the surface flat so that it'll sit flat on the vice.

The cold, hard base...

Step 8: Another Pattern, Inside Not Out

We'll take another hexagon pattern that I've included back in step 2 and cut it out. We'll take our 4" x 4" x 1/8" piece of wood and trace the base over top of it. We'll find the center by diagonally drawing lines between the corners, or, doing as I have done in the video by using a ruler and finding the fattest part of the circle and drawing a line (the first option should be the easiest). Use an awl (or nail) and punch where the cross meets in the middle.

Note: You'l notice that the wood I used in the video was thicker than an 1/8". Through the creative process I find better ways to do things as I progress, which makes instructables the perfect way to finish the explaining process.

We'll add glue to the hexagon pattern after we punctured the center and then put the awl/nail through the hole of the pattern and into the punctured hole of our 4" x 4" x 1/8" piece of wood. Once that has been accomplished, flatten the pattern and drill a hole anywhere inside the pattern, making sure it's large enough to fit the blade of either a coping saw or the scroll saw.

Once that has been done, use a cutting method of your choice and cut along the lines, removing everything inside the pattern. In this stage, cutting slightly larger than the hexagon is ideal as our Flute Plate will be sitting inside of it.

A real cut up...

Step 9:

Now let's finalize this project by gluing the top (what was just cut out) to the base. This step is...well, not that exciting. You'll need some clamps and maybe a little hot glue to keep it from sliding around while you clamp it. Allow it a day or so to dry and cure.

And you're done! You'll notice that your end result doesn't look quite like mine, but the added pieces are for aesthetics as it doesn't do anything in terms of functionality.

So how do you use it? You'll clamp the black pipe floor flange pipe insert end into a vice, find the appropriate size dowel rod and use a mallet to hammer it through. Use a smaller rod to push the end all the way out...and bam! Flutes!

Step 10: Thank You's!

Thank you so much for looking at this idea of mine. Please leave a comment, give this a like and let me know if you've constructed it. I'd also love to see pictures!

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