Dowel Joiner from the 1980’s

Many years ago, I went to The Woodworking Show in Columbus, Ohio and bought this Dowel Crafter jig after seeing it being demonstrated.

I can count on my hand how many times I used it over the decades. There’s really nothing wrong with it, I just never got excited about dowel joinery.

The concept is simple. You draw a line on two mating boards and use it as a guide for the jig. You mark one piece “X”and the other piece “O”.

You then line up your mark with one of the alphabet letters on the jig and clamp it down. Then you flip it over and drill your holes through the circular black guides. The two guides spin and lock in place with a nut depending on how big of a dowel you’re using. Once you drill your “X” hole you repeat the process for the “O” hole.

You now have four holes that correspond with eachother. Next you can either use dowels or in my case, make a dowel with my Stanley No77 Dowel Making machine. I then cut the dowels and punch them through my Lie Nielsen Dowel Plate so they are the perfect diameter. When sticking them in the holes, they line up perfectly, giving me a nice tight fitting and strong joint.

This jig can also make dowelled miter cuts but you have to do it bass-ackwards. You first take your two pieces and mark your line. Then you drill your holes just as before. The jig had plastic 90 degree dowels you could buy as a kit. You can see how many plastic dowels I have used over the past 35 years.

After the holes are drilled, you cut your 45’s on the miter box and glue them together. The joint is remarkably strong. By far the strongest miter joint I’ve ever made.

You can buy this jig on eBay for about $20 but good luck finding the 90 degree plastic dowels. I love using this jig so much that I went out and bought a Festool Domino. Go figure. I hate dowel joints!

Making a Bench from Dimensional Store Bought Lumber

When my wife Anita does shows, I’m always looking for something that I can make fairly quickly that she can sell in her booth to help pay for some of her fees. After helping her do shows over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that small benches are quite popular. They’re nice to stick out on front porches or foyers or even mud rooms. In fact, some people even use a bench as the seating for one side of their kitchen table.

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I designed this bench to be made from a 2″ x 12″ and a 2″ x 8″ that are eight feet long. However, if you change the dimension of the stretcher a little bit, it could be made form a 2″ x 12″ x 10′. The only issue doing that is you need to make sure your 2″ x 12″ x 10′ is choice wood with no splits at the end of the board because you’ll need nearly every inch of it. It doesn’t matter to me because I can’t fit a ten foot board in my car anyway, so I bought a 2″ x 12″ x 8′ and 2″ x 8″ x 8′ for under $20.00.

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The construction of the bench is super simple. I make the legs 9″ wide x 16″ long. I measure down 2 1/2″ from top and bottom on each side and use the lid from my garbage can to draw an arch connecting the two marks. Then I cut it off the arches on my band saw. I sanded the arches smooth on my oscillating spindle sander.

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The feet are 5″ wide x 10 3/4″ long. I draw a 1″ radius on both sides and remove the material with chisels, planes and files.

I want the bench to have four feet so I take two of the pads and cut grooves in them on my table saw. Once all the grooves are cut, I remove the waste with my bench router and plane everything smooth.

When designing the stretcher, I did nearly the same thing as the legs. I measured 2 1/2″ from each side and make a mark. Then I find the stretcher center and mark 2 1/2″ off each side of the center. I swing a compass set at a 12″ radius connecting the marks creating the arches for the stretcher.

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In order for the legs to attach tot the stretcher, I bored a 1″ x 4″ mortise through the legs with a 1″ forstner bit and cleaned it up with chisels. The tenons I cut on the table saw and band saw and cleaned them up with my rabbet plane.

After all the parts are sanded, I dry fitted everything together to make sure the bench looked right. I wanted the tenons to have a mechanical fastener along with the glue, so I drilled two 1/4″ holes through the side of the legs going through the tenons.

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I grabbed some scrap oak and split a few splitters of wood with a chisel. The pins run down the grain making them exceptionally stronger since the grain follows the strength of the wood. I sized the pins by punching them through my Lie-Nielsen dowel plate. I shaved the pins a little bit with my spoke shave so they would start to fit through the 1/4″ hole of the dowel plate. Once the pin starts to fit in the hole, I pound the hell out of it.

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After I was satisfied with the way the bench stretcher fitted to the legs, I started gluing and screwing everything together, I placed glue of the pins and inserted them into the tenons of the bench. I didn’t bother draw boring the holes of the tenon. I was already satisfied with the tightness of the joint.

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The bench was painted a duck egg blue and waxed over top. The next bench I make will probably be a different color. Maybe a black or grey as neutrals are always popular.

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You can see the detail of the top where the scrub plane left little ridges in the wood giving the bench a bit of detail. It definitely looks better than having a plain board for the seat of the bench.