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Home » How to Use a Dowel Jig? (Complete Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Use a Dowel Jig? (Complete Step-by-Step Guide)

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Making certain wooden joints can be challenging and exciting at the same time, especially with modern tools like the dowel jig. Joining two boards before the invention of this tool was difficult as people had different stressful methods to make the joints.

Things changed for the better with the introduction of the dowel jig that creates holes and fitting pegs in the two boards that allow them to stay strong when lined with glue. A dowel joint made from a dowel jig is one of the most effective ways of making strong joints for two or more boards joined on the same plane.

These doweling jigs come in various sizes and are from different brands, but they all make holes and pegs that enable the joining of two or more boards. Because of the nature of the joints (holes and pegs), precision is of utmost priority when making doweling joints. Getting the right type of dowel jig from among the tens of available jigs is the first step.

However, that alone does not guarantee success if you do not know how to use the dowel jig.

Dowel jigs are easy to use if you know what you’re doing, but many people fumble with them and end up creating poorly fitted joints and condemning the boards in the process. If you’re among the people who do not know how to effectively use this joining tool, you’ll find this guide quite helpful. Before we look at the steps to use this tool, let’s see why you may need it in the first place.

Why You May Need a Dowel Jig?

Why You May Need a Dowel Jig
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Before you start worrying about the steps to using a doweling jig, you should first determine if this tool is what you need for your boards. Here are some reasons why you may need it:

  • Strength: If you require a strong joint, a dowel joint made from a dowel jig would be a perfect tool. The type of joints made by this tool brings durability and stability to your project.
  • Speed: When you quickly want to make a joint, a dowel jig is a tool to use. Sometimes you’re in a race against time and may not have time to make other complicated joints.

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Steps to Use Dowel Jigs

Steps to Use Dowel Jigs
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If you want to learn how to use dowel jigs in your woodworking activities to create joints for projects like tables, cabinets, and drawers, this section gets you everything you need. Simple yet effective steps that even a first-time dowel jig user can follow to create the perfect joint.

Step 1: Loosen the Bolts at the Sides of the Dowel Jig

Loosen the bolts at the side of the jig to expand it so you can align it with the workpiece. By expanding the bolts, you can fit the edge of the workpiece in for precise drills.

Step 2: Mark the Dowel Locations

Step 2 Mark the Dowel Locations
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To make the points to drill, you have to lay align the boards as though they have been joined and then mark the points to drill. Hold the vertical and horizontal pieces properly and lay the intended dowel locations.

Step 3: Clamp the Jig

Place the workpiece into the jig and clamp it tightly by screwing the bolts at the sides. This will prevent the wood from moving when drilling, which can affect its accuracy. You’ll find reference markers on the jigs that will serve as guides. Align these markers to the lines drawn in the previous step.

Step 4: Drill the Piece

Step 4 Drill the Piece
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Start the drill and make the holes along the marked lines. The number of holes you can make, depends on the type of jog and the maximum allowed. Typically the more the holes, the more the dowels and the stronger the joint.

Also, the sizes of the holes depend on the size of the drill bit used. You can change the drill bit size to the required hole diameter. You want to drill about ⅛ inches deeper than the dowel length to provide room for the glue that’ll be added. Drill each available hole location on the jig one after the other.

Step 5: Repeat Process for the Second Piece

Typically you’ll be working with two pieces of wood you want to join together. After drilling the first piece, you can drill the second piece by repeating the whole process on the other wood.

Start by clamping it with the other side of the jig meant for horizontal drilling. This side may not provide a tight enough hold on the piece, so it is advisable to use a manual clamp to hold the piece firmly to ensure precision when drilling. Ensure the alignment of the wood is correct, so your dowels fit. Start your drill and create the same number of holes as the first wood.

Step 6: Fix the Dowels

Step 6 Fix the Dowels
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It’s time to get the number of dowels as you have holes on the workpiece. The dowel sizes should match the size of the drill bit. First, test out the holes by inserting the dowels without glue to see how it fits. You can then remove the dowels and add glue to the holes.

Start with one workpiece by putting the dowels into each of the holes. The glue should be quick-drying, and you should quickly see how tough it is. Move to the second piece by adding glue to the holes drilled there, and then carefully assemble the two pieces by fixing the other end of the dowel into the holes of the second piece. Clamp the two boards together till the glue dries.

Step 7: Test the Integrity of the Joint

As earlier mentioned, the glue acts pretty fast, and you should be able to test the integrity of your joint within minutes of assembling the two pieces. You can test it out by trying to pull them apart. It should hold if the dowel joints were made with precision and quality glue is used.

If it holds, you can then go ahead with your project as you’ve successfully used your dowel jig to make a dowel joint.

Read More: What is Parawood? Here’s All You Need to Know

Pros and Cons of Using a Dowel Jig

Pros and Cons of Using a Dowel Jig
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Dowel jigs are quite popular now, but is it worth getting this tool, or are you better off with other methods of making joints for your wooden boards? Find out more in this section.

Pros

  • Strength: joints made from dowel jigs are one of the strongest joints, especially with more dowels fitted. Durability is quite important when making joints and dowel jigs deliver. 
  • Requires less equipment: unlike most other types of joints, dowel joints from dowel jigs do not require so many accessories. Things like nails, screws, screwdrivers, and more are not needed. This will make it more affordable and easier to use.
  • Ease and speed: the joints are both easy to make and take no time to complete. This way, you don’t have to spend all your time getting a precise dowel hole. Using a dowel jig is easy even for beginner woodworkers.
  • Neat finish: most joining methods will weaken the workpiece or make it quite rough with a lot of nailing, screwing, and the likes. However, dowel jigs create clean joints that can be used for classy projects.
  • The dowel jig is durable: it can stand a lot of pressure that will come from the drill without breaking.
  • Self-centering dowel jigs make it even easier: getting a dowel jig with a self-centering ability will make creating your joints easier and more accurate since you don’t have to manually mark the center of the wood to drill.
  • Affordable: there are different types of dowel jigs available, with some of the plastic variants going for as low as $10, which is affordable.

Cons

  • Alignment can be challenging: aligning the wood with the dowel jig can be an issue for a lot of people not used to the dowel jig. Luckily, there are alignment markers on the jig to make it easier for you to place it correctly.
  • There is no face-to-face contact with the grain: because of the drilling points, face contact with the grains is not possible, and this reduces some of the durability of the joint.
  • Some joints are stressful to make: even though using a dowel jig is generally easy to use, making some joints like mortise and tenon can be time-consuming.

You May Also Read: How To Distress Wood? 11 Easy Ways For Woodworkers

Summary

Dowel jigs are small tools that guide your drill into making precise holes for dowels. With the right guidance, the tool is easy to use for most joint types. It makes simple and clean joints in a short period while having one of the strongest joints around.