Dowels are one of the easiest joints to use and are especially useful when you don’t want to use hardware, such as screws. Dowels are also an obvious choice if you don’t have the time or the experience to make fancier joints, such as dovetail or mortise and tenon.
Although the use of dowel joints has diminished with the rising popularity of the biscuit joiner, dowels offer very sturdy joinery for a variety of projects. Besides, all you need to make a dowel joint is a drill.
There are two types of dowel joints: through and blind. The difference being that in the blind joint the dowels can’t be seen, whereas in the through joint they are visible. Which you use will depend on what you are making and whether you want to hide the joints or not.
The key to a successful blind dowel joint is ensuring that the dowel holes line up perfectly in the two mating pieces.
There are a number of jigs available to make matching the mates easier. One type of jig clamps to the wood with a bushing that guides the drill bit. The one shown (fig 1) is a simple one that has three different sizes that have to be re positioned for multiple holes.
The simplest way to match mates is to use a dowel centre or plug. First, the plug is inserted into the holes of the first piece. Then the piece to be joined is pressed against the point of the plug, marking the centre spot for drilling the matching dowel hole.
The through dowel joint is even easier to make, since you add the dowels after the pieces have been glued together. Through dowel joints also add visual interest to the joint, especially if you use dowels of contrasting wood.
To make a through joint, simply drill holes for the dowels in the previously glued mating pieces. Then insert the dowels and cut them flush.
The Miller dowel is a variation on the through dowel, and also replaces the traditional screwed joint and plug. With the Miller dowel, you simply drill the holes with a specially designed drill, insert the Miller dowels and cut them flush.
Using dowel jig
Using dowel centres
Drilling for Miller dowel
Inserting Miller dowel
Hammering Miller dowel