I love it when there are pleasant surprises in woodworking. Thanks to a few of our subscribers who have asked about using doweling jigs after a number of videos we released on using pocket hole jigs. Pocket hole jigs are great but, but there are alternatives. Not everyone loves pocket hole technology ... for a few reasons:
1) it leaves visible holes (that can often be placed in the back or underside of the build, or they can be "plugged")
2) on rare occasion the screws will crack the wood
3) it can be difficult to match the plugs colors to the main wood.
There are also advantages to pocket holes, like ... you can take the project apart to repair, rebuild or re-use. The alternative to pocket hole technology is doweling, which has been around in one form or another for, well ... hundreds of years, and it works as well now as it did then.
There are 2 main advantages of doweling technology
1) joints can be completely hidden within the wood
2) the strength of the dowels is every bit equal or exceeding pocket hole or in many cases even mortise and tenon type technology.
I thought it was high time I got up to speed on doweling jigs.
As a bit of a newcomer to doweling technology, and after un-packaging my Dowelmax jig, I was very impressed by the quality of the jig. The number of well thought out accessories and add-on components was also impressive. It did take me a bit of practice to really understand how the jig worked but once I got on to it, with each joint I made, the jig continued to impress me ... what a pleasant surprise ...
Although there are some similarities between pocket hole technology and doweling technology, they are different enough to that they can serve different uses. The one thing they are identical on is what I call "the cut". With either of these technologies, if your angles are off your project will be off. What I mean by that is that if you are cutting 90 degree cuts for example, they need to be very near perfect.
The first joint I made was one of the perennial tough joints we all make on an ongoing basis. That is to make an end grain to long grain joint, such as the corner of a drawer. Anyone who has tried to glue these joints will know that pretty much any glue used on end grain is subject poor holding power. This is one of the reasons we have box joints and dovetail joints because they are some of the only ways that these joints can be put together firmly ... well, now you can add the dowel joint to this mix too, and you can select how many dowels you want to use, depending on what strength you want on the joint. The only cautionary note to joining making joints like these, that is, those similar to drawer joints, you will need to watch that you do not drill through the wood. This will require a small adjustment on the collar of the drill bit or a similar adjustment. If you do this by mistake, it is one of those lessons you will learn quickly and likely never make the mistake again.
Another tough joint is the 45 degree joint on things like picture frames or similar applications. Not every picture frame material will lend it'self to use with a doweling jig, but those that do will allow for a very strong 45 degree joint.
Easily one of my favorite joints (if you can call it a joint) is using the doweling jig in keeping boards lined up when making glue-up of multiple boards. This is another perennial challenge for woodworkers - getting boards to but together evenly during a glue-up so you don't have to plane the boards so thin they become useless. The dowelmax jig did an outstanding job on keeping the boards perfectly aligned. All that needed to be done was to add some glue and some clamps for a perfect glue-up WOW.
I know this is the kind of tool that will very interesting to woodworkers concerned about making quality looking furniture and woodworking pieces. The jig comes in a couple of different configurations, something called the "Classic" which is the full blown jig and includes all the components to make almost any joint you want. There is also a more budget minded version called the "Junior" which does not include all the components ... some of which you could make yourself out of wood, or you can order them from Dowelmax.com I really depends what you are looking for and where you budget is at. For more information, check out the dowelmax website.
My introduction to dowel making and to using the Dowelmax was an enormously pleasant surprise. For those people who want excellent quality joints and are not using dovetails of box joints, the dowel is a perfect alternative. I must say I am looking forward to making some new project in the future with this technology.
Copyright - Colin Knecht