When building furniture, it can often be difficult to find dowel rod of the right size and diameter for the application, especially when working with exotic materials. Most commercially available dowels are made of pine, spruce and other soft woods. Although exotic hardwood dowels can be purchased from some suppliers, they are very expensive and hard to come by in bulk. If you have access to a router and router table, however, you can make your own dowels out of virtually any type of lumber.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Protective goggles
- Router table with adjustable fence
- Bull nose router bit
- Wooden board
- Masking tape
- Push stick
Select a bull nose router bit that has the same diameter along its cutting edge as the dowel rod you wish to make (a bit with a 1-inch diameter cutting length will make a 1-inch diameter dowel rod).
Set the bull nose bit of your choice in the router chuck and then connect the router to the bottom of your router table. Adjust the height of the bit so that the bottom edge of the cutting surface is flush with the table.
Adjust the fence on your router table so that it is flush with the very edge of the cutting surface. Be very careful not to set the fence too far back or your dowel will not be perfectly round--only the cutting surface's half-circle curve should be protruding.
Mark a point with masking tape on the surface of the router table exactly 1 inch in front of the router bit.
Preparing the Router Table
Measure a piece of your wooden board to the length you want the dowel to be. Add about 3 inches to the total length to act as a buffer and then cut the board at this point.
Place your board on its side on the top of the router table and line the edge up with the fence. Slide it up to the piece of masking tape 1 inch in front of the blade and turn on the router.
Ready your push stick in one hand and begin to slowly slide the board through the router blade, maintaining contact between the board and the fence. When the end of the board reaches the far edge of the masking tape, pick up your push stick and use it to push the board through the rest of the way.
Turn off your router blade and examine the routed board--one side should be flat and the other should have half of a cylindrical dowel cut out of it. Clean off any excess sawdust produced by the router, as it may interfere with the final cut.
Turn your board around so that the side opposite to the one you just cut is up against the fence. Slide the edge of the board up to the edge of the masking tape line and turn on the router blade.
Slowly push the board through the router blade, carefully maintaining contact between the board and the fence at all times. As soon as the edge of the board reaches the edge of the masking tape, use your push stick to force the board through the blade the rest of the way. Push the board all the way through the blade, being careful not to let it fly out of control when the dowel breaks free from the rest of the board.
Examine the dowel for roundness and sand any burrs or extra material that was not removed by the router.
Routing the Dowel Rod
Tips and warnings
- You may want to use a partner to receive the dowel on the other end of the table when cutting longer rods.
- To ensure an even, round dowel, always use wood that has been planed and jointed to a uniform size.
- Routers are dangerous power tools and can cause serious injury if not handled properly. Keep hands and fingers away from moving router blades and always use a push stick when pushing the last few inches of wood through the moving blade.
- Always wear safety glasses to protect from flying debris.
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