dowel cutter jigIn woodworking, the making of jigs is a necessary element to help us work safer, quicker and more effectively. For some time I have been using the Dowelmax doweling jig and it has opened up a whole new world of woodworking for me because I can make things quicker, more accurate and just as strong as using mortise and tenon joints. One of the issues I face  on rare occasion is that the dowels I need to use are sometimes too long, which means I either have to re-drill holes, or cut the dowels slightly shorter. I hate re-drilling holes if I can avoid it because sometimes it can make the holes a bit looser than I like. I prefer the dowels to fit tightly in the holes to give me a better fit and to ensure I get an excellent glue contact. So ... the next issue is cutting dowels. I seldom have to tim more that about a dozen or so, but even that can take a while and cutting them by hand as I have been doing means they are often slightly different lenghts. I have been thinking about some sort of consistent dowel cutting device for some time and I finally came up with an idea that I like.

It is MUCH quicker than cutting the dowels by hand and each dowel is cut to the exact length and even better, it only takes a minute or so to set the jig up, which mean I will use it more often and get better results.


Like many jigs, prototypes are required and in this case I only had to make one to see where the critical areas were and then learn what I needed to do to make the jig better. I use both 1/4" dowels and 3/8" dowels in my projects, but I find cutting the 1/4" dowels with wire cutters works fine, it easily cuts the dowel and at the same time rounds off the ends. This is not the same with the 3/8" dowels. The wire cutters cut them but the ends are messy and broken and need to be re-trimmed or sanded, which takes even more time so cutting by had, although slow, was the next best alternative.

 The first part that I found to be important for size was the main dowel holding component. I found that 2" wide but 1-1/4: high and about 5" long worked best. I tried out a couple of drill bits before I found one that my dowels slid cleanly through but that was not too sloppy. I used this drill bit to drill through the middle of the main jig component, about an inch from the end and about half way through the depth or height of the block.

Next I took the block to my table saw and by using a circular saw blade in the saw, I made a cut that was near the middle, but about 1-1/8" from the the side. This cut is were my bandsaw blade would go through to  cut the dowels to length. The reason I used the circular saw blade rather than one of my 10" saw blades is that the kerf on the circular saw blade is only 1/16" compared to 1/8" or 1/4" kerf on the 10" blaes. I wanted the narrower kerf because it more closely matched the blade in my bandsaw and by doing that, I get a better cut on the dowels. I works the same way as a zero clearance insert.

Next the main jig component was mounted to a pices of 1/8" plywood and a plastic mitre gauge blank attached. I always use plastic for my mitre gauge blanks as they are always the same. Where I live there is a large difference in air moisture from summer to winter and when I try using wood, they are swell and shrink and never seem to fit correctly.

The final component for the jig is the distance setter, and it needs to be independent of the other part so that they slide by one another in the dowel cutting process. I first made a curved slider from wood, and it worked ok, but then I thought about trying a plastic one which worked much better. I simply attached the plastic square to the wedge using contact cement, then trimmed the top to be flush with the top of the block as this is part that needs to sit opposite the blade because this is where the sizing of the blade is done. I attached the wedge to another piece of 1/* plywood and set both components up on my bandsaw to try out the new jig.

It took me a couple of practice trys to figure out the best way to use the jig, especially with the shorter dowels, but after I did, I could see how much faster it was in cutting the dowels, and making a better and more consistent job too. Wow, a great little jig to speed up my dowel cutting.

Copyright Colin Knecht