On a recent project I required some 4 mm maple dowels. I looked in books and on YouTube for some ideas about how to make them. There were some ingenious methods. One involves clamping a chisel which acts like a pencil sharpener as you drill the blank into it. Others used the tried and tested method of bashing a square piece of wood through a round hole in a thick steel plate and the wood comes out round! The one I chose has elements of each of these approaches. It also uses a hole in a steel plate, but the edges of the hole are modified to produce very sharp sections which slice into the wood.

I couldn’t find any steel plate so I used the corner of a large flat square washer, approx 2.3 mm thick. In the photos below please ignore the very large hole – that’s just because it’s a washer and has nothing to do with the dowel-making process! First I drilled a 4 mm hole in the washer, then used an automatic punch to mark three points about 1 mm from the edge of the hole and drilled a countersunk hole at those points just to the depth where the edge of the countersink overlapped the edge of the 4 mm hole

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Then I prepared some 4.5 x 4.5 mm square sections of maple

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.. and whittled the end to a size smaller than the 4 mm hole

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Then mounted the dowel blank in my cordless drill

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.. placed the whittled end into the dowel making tool (ie my modified washer), and pulled the trigger!

The result is a length of 4 mm diameter dowelling. It can be used as a dowel straight away, but it does have some marks on it, so if you wanted to use it for anything visible, such as masts on model boats, then you can easily sand it smooth by leaving it in the drill and just wrapping some abrasive around it while operating the drill

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While making the dowel-maker I tested the fit of the resulting dowel in a test hole in some maple drilled with a 4 mm wood bit. Initially the dowel was too loose. I progressively increased the size of the hole in the steel washer, which made the dowels slightly thicker. I reamed the hole with a small diamond-coated round file. I found that you need a bigger hole in the dowel-maker than the dowel size you want to make. So to make my 4 mm dowelling I needed a hole maybe 4.2 or 4.3 mm.

I was amazed at how efficient this design is. And it’s so easy to make. You can knock one up in a matter of minutes. It worked perfectly for the ‘feature’ dowels I used when making a Serving Tray

Tools used

  • Cordless drill
  • 4 mm HSS twist drill bit
  • Diamond needle file (to fine-tune dowel making plate)
  • Automatic centre punch

Materials used

  • Square Plate Washer 50 x 50mm, 2.5 mm thick

Notes

  • Need to make hole slightly larger than the dowel size required