Recently I put out a video of a desk I built and in the building process I used a dowels to attach the top and the sides of the desk together. You can purchase a dowel jig from Amazon for pretty cheap, but I was in a time crunch so I made one. In my desk build video, I said that I would make a video of the dowel jig if there was enough interest and sure enough, the people spoke. This is a quick project but it really helped me out when it came to putting my desk together. I hope you enjoy!
Step 1: Materials and Tools
Step 2: Cut the Wood to Size
This project only took me about 20 minutes to complete. The reason you use a dowel jig is to be able to use dowel joinery in your work piece. This gives the piece added strength where it is joined together with other pieces. The dowel jig is just used to help you drill the holes so your dowels are lined up correctly.
I started with a small block of scrap walnut and the first thing I had to do was to cut to the size I needed it to be. I cut it to a small block about two inches wide, three inches long, and one inch thick. There are some dowel jigs that have multiple dowel hole size options, but this one only has one size option. If you make this consider a couple things.
- How thick is the piece you are joining?
- How big is the dowel you are using?
This will let you know how big the block of wood needs to be and how big the hole for the dowel needs to be. After I cut it to size, I used the belt sander to sand off the rough edges.
Step 3: Cut the Plexiglass
Next I had to cut the plexi glass to size. First though, I would recommend using a thick piece of acrylic rather than a piece of plexiglass. The glass was ok, but I think a thicker piece would have been helpful over all. You can use a table saw or circular saw to cut your plexiglass.
I used a level and a utility knife to score a line in the plexi glass and then I bent it and broke it along the score line. Then I used a small piece of sandpaper to lightly sand around the edges of the plexiglass to get rid of the sharp corners and edges.
Step 4: Drill Out the Wood Block
This is a very important part of the process. The next thing to do is drill the hole in the wood block. I first found the center of the wood. The size of the hole for the dowels I would be using was ⅜”. Instead of just drilling a hole this size, I started with a small hole and then worked my way up to ⅜”. This way I wouldn’t blow out the hole and ruin the block of wood. If you have a drill press, this would be the perfect time to use it. I don’t have one, so I used a hand drill. Make sure you are extremely level when drilling this hole. If it is off the slightest bit, then your joints will be off as well when you use the jig. Really pay attention to make sure you get this part correct. It is worth redoing until it is correct.
Step 5: Assemble
Now that everything is ready to go it is time to assemble it all. I simply put the piece of plexiglass on the block of wood and pre drilled where the small screws would go and then used a screwdriver to screw them into place. The last thing you want to do is put a small mark on the plexiglass that lines up with the center of the hole. You will use this line when it is time to use the jig.
Step 6: How to Use
The jig is very easy to use. The first thing you have to do is mark the two boards you are joining. I made this jig for a desk I was making. You can check out that project to see all the details about how I prepped the boards to be joined. To mark the boards, I used made sure the boards were lined up properly then used a level and made marks where I wanted the dowels. Then I put the board on its side and lined up the line on the jig with the line on the board. (this is why I used plexiglass) When they were lined up, I clamped the jig to the board, and drilled the hole. I did this for each mark on both boards. Next I put dowels in the holes on one of the boards and then put the other board on top of it lining up the holes. It will be a snug fit which is good but if you drilled your dowel jig hole straight, the boards will join together nicely making the solid two piece board very strong as one piece. Once you dry fit and everything is good, you can add glue and clamp the two boards together.