Ever wanted custom dowels to suit the wood species and dimensions of a project? Today’s Quick Tip explains how to do just that.
Dowels are a great way to build furniture, secure joinery, and hide screws in a project.
But the poplar or oak dowels you buy at hardware stores might look jarring in a project made out of walnut — and the standard diameter of ⅜” might not suit your needs.
Here’s how it works:
1. MILL YOUR STOCK
Mill your stock to the square dimensions of the diameter you’re after. For example, if you want a 1” diameter dowel, mill your stock to 1”x1”.
Make sure to leave it at least 2” longer than the final length you’re after.
2. SET UP THE ROUNDOVER BIT
Grab a roundover bit that’s radius is half of the final diameter you’re after. If you want a 1” diameter dowel for example, use a bit with a ½” radius.
Once the bit’s in the router table, you need to adjust the height.
Place the blade of a square across the opening the bit protrudes from. Raise the bit until the bottom corner of the cutting edge (the section furthest from the shank) just barely touches the square.
Getting this right is critical to a perfectly round dowel.
3. SET UP YOUR ROUTER TABLE FENCE
You could just use the bearing on the roundover bit — but I like to use my router table fence for extra stability.
Adjust the position of the fence so it’s perfectly in line with the bit’s bearing. Again, the blade of a square makes this easy.
If your router table fence has adjustable faces, close the opening around the bit as much as possible.
4. LEAVE THE ENDS, ROUNDOVER THE MIDDLE
The critical part of cutting dowels on a router table is leaving square sections on the end of your workpiece (that’s why you cut in long).
This creates stability and accuracy when cutting the roundovers. You can set up two stop blocks on the router table fence to help or just eyeball it.
Start the cut by pushing the stock sideways into the router bit until it’s flush against the fence. Make sure there’s around a 1” section of stock that isn’t cut ahead of the bit.
Once your workpiece is flat against the fence, push it through the bit. Stop around 1” before the end of the workpiece.
Flip the workpiece and repeat the process for the three other sides.
When you’re done, you’ll have a dowel with two square blocks at both ends.
5. TRIM AND REFINE
Use a hand saw or bandsaw to cut off the square sections at either end of the dowel.
To test, drill a 1” hole in a piece of scrap and see how the dowel fits. You can always refine the shape with sandpaper.
Want to learn more about router tables? Read Router Table 101: Intro to One of the Shop’s Most Versatile Tools.
Need some roundover bits? The CMT Roundover Bits we carry come in ¼” and ½” shank versions, with radii from ⅛” to ¾”.
With brazed carbide blades, heat protective coatings, and anti-kickback designs, these are the only roundover bits you’ll ever need.