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!

When good chairs go bad

So I’m sitting at the table one night with my wife when I hear a loud crack and a thud hit the floor. A look over to my right and my wife is sitting on the floor with a dumbfounded look on her face. Seems the windsor chair I made seven years ago finally gave in and failed. No way was I about to blame it on the cheese cake she ate 30 minutes earlier so I quickly grabbed the chair and noticed where I made my mistake. I turned to her with a red face and apologized. Talk about embarrassing.

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It was the tenon on the leg where it attached to the seat. I made the mistake of not tapering the leg all the way into the seat but rather, I turned a 3/4″ tenon at the end instead. At the time I was building the chair, it was an easier thing to do but that tenon created a weak spot in the joinery and the years of use as well as the changes in humidity in the seasons finally made the joint fail.

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I didn’t want to throw the chair away since the top half of it was still good so I decided to lick my wounds and make new legs for the chair. This time the right way and not the half-ass way.

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I drilled relief holes in top of the seat where the legs popped through and removed the remaining tenons from the seat. Next I took the four holes and tapered them with a tapered auger and some files and rasps.

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Then milling up some stock, I turned four new legs and three stretchers. Using my shaving horse, I trimmed the corners of all the parts before I turned them on the lathe.

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Once the legs were turned, I fitted them into the new tapered holes of the seat for a nice fit. Trial and error was key here as I constantly had to check the hole for the proper taper.

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Once all four legs were dry fitted I measured the distance between the legs and turned three stretchers. Two on the side and one in the middle connecting the two. Then I used hot hide glue and glued all the parts together. Hide glue gives me a lot more open working time than yellow glue and is the glue of choice for a lot of chairmakers.

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The chair was back in business. I just needed to clean up the top of the legs that poked through the seat and drive a wedge on top so they won’t move in the joint.

Then it was time to trim the bottom of the legs flush with the floor. Since the chair rocked a little bit from the unevenness of the legs, I took a piece of sandpaper, laid it on my table saw and sanded the longer leg even to the rest of them.

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All I have to do now is sand and repaint the chair and it’ll be good as new. Oh.. and remake the legs for five other chairs.

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