Dowels are easily one of the favorite pins used by professional woodworkers. While there are other options like pocket screws and spring pins, dowels can easily score higher than them by providing more convenience, sturdiness and accuracy.
These short cylindrical pins – usually wooden – can help you to combine two planks or large pieces together without demanding much expertise.
While experience is always a good thing, even amateurs can start making projects based on this kind of joints with dowel jigs. But how to use a dowel jig? Let us walk you through it!
How Does Dowel Jig Work?
As you know, dowels are small cylindrical bits which are used to join two or more boards together. In order to ensure maximum efficiency for such dowel joints, woodworkers rely on dowel jigs which are specifically built for guiding the drill bits in these joints.
A dowel jig consists of one steel block bearing holes where the drill bits can fit. There are also some models where these holes are made to be threaded. The advantage of this additional design is to expand the range of drill bits. You can install bushing here for many sizes of bits.
You will notice that the holes are measured quite carefully so that they are placed exactly at the center. They are also drilled to be perpendicular to the steel block and there are lines for each of them marked on the block’s side. If you still haven’t identified them, try to look through the two windows.
To work with the jig, you will need to run a screw through the entire block. You can secure the piece of wood in work by turning the screw’s handle and clamping the jig on the log. This method particularly works for the self-centered jigs. Using fluted dowels will make the woodworking projects easier for you.
How To Use A Dowel Jig?
There is a wide variety of structures you can build with the dowel jig. However, since this set of instructions is aimed at beginners of woodworking, we will focus on only the simplest structures requiring minimum effort and skills. So these are the steps you should take while working with a dowel jig.
1. Loosen Side Bolts
A dowel jig comes with side bolts to secure them in place and to take accurate measurements of the raw log pieces. If you have ever tried to make these jigs by yourself, you know exactly what we are talking about! These are the two screws that go into either side of the jig for tightening and accuracy purposes.
To start using the jig in a professional project, you need to loosen up these side bolts first. Doing so will help you to ensure maximum utilization of the expandable functionality of your dowel jig.
2. Mark Hole Areas
Now it’s time to prepare the two pieces of a log which are going to be joined by you. This step is fairly simple so you don’t need to worry at all! Just take the two workpieces you are going to work with and mark the areas on them where you are going to drill the jig holes with a pencil!
3. Proper Alignment
To make sure that the prepared joint actually becomes functional and stays secure for a long enough time, you must make sure of all the precise alignments associated with these workpieces. Therefore, place the wood parts such that they align with the doweling jig perfectly and match their marks.
4. Tightening Bolts
In this step, you need to ensure that the wooden parts will not fall out of place once you start the drilling. Obviously, as any good woodworker would know, doing that requires tightening the bolts. So twist them into place to secure them and to make sure that the workpieces cannot move.
5. Start Drilling
This is where the fun finally starts! You now get to drill the holes into the jigs. So start your drilling machine and carefully put its sharp end into the black circular parts of your dowel jig. But before making these holes, make sure that the size of your drill bit matches that of those black parts.
6. Repeat For Second Plank
Prepare to make the holes in the second piece of log or wooden plank where the dowels will go. Take the new workpiece and repeat all the above steps for it. Mark the exact areas for holes, align it properly with the other side of your dowel jig, tighten the bolts and start drilling into them.
This time, the drilling needs to be horizontal and you may face struggles to ensure proper clamping here. One way to get the best results is by using a manual clamp for keeping the log stable and stop it from moving too frequently.
7. Join and Test
We are almost at the end of making a reliable dowel joint! All there is left to do is putting your dowels in the two holes of the first log and insert them into the other log or plank after checking the aligned marks. See if the joint is strong enough by moving the joined boards outward and inward.
To make the bond stronger and more reliable, you can use glue on the dowel surface of the first log and then join the second one with it.
As you can see, using a dowel jig is pretty simple and straightforward! If you have been wondering about learning basic woodworking skills, this can be a great starting point for your brand new hobby!
Beginner or experienced – any level of expertise can start building a structure with these dowel joints. They are one of the strongest joints, especially for woodworking purposes.
Since you know how to use a dowel jig now, you can finally start with those cases and tables you always wanted to build! Be careful while dealing with the driller and other instruments to keep yourself safe from potential injuries.