Introduction: Making Dowel Rods With a Table Saw

About: 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 things along and continue to learn new things!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Epilog Contest VII

Participated in the
Epilog Contest VII