Making Dowel Rods With a Table Saw

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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!

Intro: 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

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!

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    83 Discussions

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    Tonyi8

    1 year ago

    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.

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    nduetime

    1 year ago

    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.

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    gadgetjimnduetime

    Reply 1 year ago

    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!

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    gadgetjimshatzi

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you, I really do use it a lot.

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    Lorddrake

    2 years ago

    very inventive

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    mshm99

    2 years ago

    thank you. great idea!

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    mudmann

    2 years ago

    now that is cool!

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    Paulojds18

    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing a great idea.

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    Nazar Essa

    2 years ago

    excellent
    great idea

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    Bettybstt

    2 years ago on Introduction

    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!

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    aebe

    3 years ago on Introduction

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

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    gadgetjimaebe

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

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

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    dave367

    3 years ago on Introduction

    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!

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    aebedave367

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    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 .

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    gadgetjimdave367

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    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.

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    kwhitacre

    3 years ago on Step 8

    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!

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    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.

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    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.