Apr 10 2012

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Homemade Dowel Cutter

A few weeks ago, over on G+ Matt Ricketts posted a dowel cutter he made. This was a timely post for me because I was looking to make a few purple heartwood dowels for a toy car I’m in the process of finishing. His dowel cutter was a series of holes drilled into a piece of steel and “teeth” cut with a dremel. To make a dowel you simply chuck some square stock into a drill and push it through the hole. I decided to try building my own.

Building the jig is simple, so I won’t go into any more detail of the construction than I show in the slideshow. What I will share are some tips I found to get better results.

  • Use a pencil sharpener (or you could shave the end with a knife) to make starting the square stock easier.
  • Cut the stock to the same size as the dowel you plan on making. If you are making a 1/4″ dowel, rip your stock to 1/4″ by 1/4″. Sure you can make smaller diameter dowels by going down a size, but I found that the dowels I made this way weren’t even.
  • Some woods like purple heart probably aren’t ideal for small diameter dowels. While I was pushing a stick of purple heart through the jig it cracked and I was lucky I didn’t drive it through my hand. Later when I was pushing a purple heartwood dowel into a wheel, it snapped and I did drive it right into my middle finger. Luckily, it only left a clean hole where a chunk of my fingertip used to be — no deep splinters.
  • Be careful not to over sand the dowel after running it through the jig. I was leaving the dowel chucked into my drill, wrapping 100 grit sandpaper over it, and pulling the trigger. That removes material faster than you’d expect.
  • Matt mentioned it in his post, but I also found this works better on shorter dowels. Anything longer than a foot or so starts wobbling quite a bit and probably screws up the diameter of the dowel — it also can snap the dowel.
  • Use stock about 1-2″ longer than the ultimate length of the dowel. I tried several times to swap the dowel end for end and finish off the end that was in the chuck. The two ends usually didn’t meet perfectly, there was a disjoint in where the shank stopped.

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