Make your own dowels
Making your own dowels using a dowel plate allows you to size them precisely to the job in hand. You can match the timber used or use another species as a contrast. You can also use a dowel plate to create precise tenons on chair spindles. The process is straightforward:
• Mount the dowel plane with wood screws over a series of relief holes in a bench, or clamp it over a dog hole for temporary use.
Riving, or splitting your dowel stock along the grain will give strongest results.
• Short lengths are easier to handle, but any length is fine. For best and strongest results rive the material you wish to use. Get your blanks as close as you can to correct size with plane, spokeshave or drawknife. The blank does not have to be very smooth as small facets will quickly be removed. A bit of experimenting will tell you how closely to size your blank, depending on the type of wood, length of dowel and how smooth a finish you desire.
• Chamfer the leading end of the blank to make it easy to start the cut.
• Finally, hammer the blank through the chosen hole.
You can also use a dowel plate to size purchased dowels.
The dowel plate shown is available from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. It is 5/16" A-2 tool steel hardened to Rockwell 60-62, cryogenically treated and double tempered. If required the top cutting surface may be honed with waterstones. Keep the plate oiled to prevent rusting.