How to Drill Holes for Dowels Joints in Woodworking

Holes for the dowels can be made either with a hand drill or an electric drill. In each case, obviously, the bit used must match the diameter of the dowel. The main difficulty is that you must ensure the bit is truly at right angles to the timber you are drilling, or a dowel that protrudes from one hole will not fit snugly into the hole in the matching timber. You can use an electric drill held in a drill stand to guarantee that the bit is truly at right angles to the timber. Or where the timber is too large for this you can use a dowelling jig to ensure accuracy. Where you are cutting a through dowel joint, you can avoid this problem by cramping both pieces of wood together in a vice and boring through both.

 How to Drill Holes for Dowels Joints in Woodworking

For stopped joints, the hole you bore should be slightly deeper than the depth to which the dowel penetrates, to leave a small reservoir for any excess glue that is not squeezed out along the groove. A depth gauge ensures this. Various types for both hand and electric drills are available but you can improvise by making your own. Either stick a bit of tape on the bit’s shank, carefully positioned so that the distance between its lower edge and the end of the drill exactly equals the depth of the hole required. Or you can take a length of timber 25mm (1 in) or 38mm square according to the diameter of the dowel and bore a hole right through its length. Cut this timber to length so that when it is slipped onto the bits shank, the part of the bit left protruding will cut a hole of the right depth. In both cases you should take your measurement to the cutting end of the drill only not to any threaded or shaped lead-in point.

Drilling holes

1 To ensure that holes will be in exactly opposite positions on a through joint, drill both pieces of wood at the same time.

2 The depths you have to go to for a dowel joint can be marked on the bit with a piece of tape, allowing a little extra at both ends for glue.

3 Another way of making sure you don’t go too deep is by making a depth gauge from a scrap of timber. Or you can buy a proprietary gauge.

4 A dowelling jig has holes for different sized bits. When you cramp it over the wood use spare timber to prevent the screw marking the wood.


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