How to Install a Dowel

Written by wade shaddy
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How to Install a Dowel
Dowel and drill-bit size must match perfectly. (dowel pin image by Jim Mills from

Dowel joinery is one of the most common woodworking joints. It is among the strongest of all wood joints, utilising dowel alignment, friction and glue to achieve a permanent bond between two pieces of wood. It is important for proper dowel installation to be done correctly, including matching the dowel to the drill bit, proper depth and penetration of the dowel, and appropriate glue coverage.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Safety glasses
  • 2 pieces alder lumber (2 by 6 by 3/4 inch)
  • Pencil
  • Tri-square
  • Dowelling jig (hand-held type)
  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bit, brad tip (1/2 inch)
  • Dowel (1/2 by 3 inch)
  • Glue
  • Dowel (3/16 by 6 inch)
  • Hammer
  • Hand clamp

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  1. 1

    Align both pieces of wood to be joined in the configuration that you want them joined as if they were already joined together.

  2. 2

    Draw a line perpendicular across the top of both pieces of lumber where they touch each other. Separate the two pieces and, using the tri-square, draw a line across the edge continuing down from the line on top--using the tri-square to get it straight. Measure down the line from the top on both pieces 3/8-inch to the centre of the lumber.

  3. 3

    Push the end of the pencil into the wood, creating a small divot at the exact centre of the wood, directly centred under the line you made on top. Do both pieces of wood.

  4. 4

    Clamp the dowelling jig over the edge of one of the pieces to be drilled. Align the corresponding indicating arrow on the dowelling jig with the line that you drew on top of the lumber.

  5. 5

    Measure down from the point of the drill bit 1 1/2 inches and mark the measurement by wrapping a piece of tape around the bit. Place the drill bit in the drill.

  6. 6

    Insert the drill into the dowelling jig bushing, and check to see if the tip of the drill bit aligns with the divot that you made with the pencil. If it does not, loosen the clamp and align the bit with the divot, and tighten the clamp again.

  7. 7

    Hold the lumber with one hand, turn on the drill and begin drilling into the lumber. When the bit penetrates the wood to the depth of the tape, stop drilling. Do both pieces of lumber.

  8. 8

    Squirt a small amount of glue into both of the holes. Spread the glue around inside the hole with a 3/16-inch dowel. If any excess glue runs out, wipe it off immediately.

  9. 9

    Tap the dowel into one of the holes with the hammer until it bottoms out. Fit the other hole on the other piece of lumber over the protruding dowel. Tap the piece of lumber onto the dowel until both pieces of lumber are flush and joined. Apply a clamp across the joint and wait overnight for the glue to dry.

Tips and warnings

  • Sometimes dowels are irregular. Dry fit your dowel before applying any glue; if the dowel is too tight or loose, discard it and try another.
  • Always wear safety glasses when working with wood.

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