Monday, February 13, 2012

Lie-Nielsen Dowel Plate ReDo

Lie-Nielsen Dowel Plate

      If you've ever needed a dowel that wasn't the whitewood variety from the Big Box store or even one of the more common species available on line you just have to make your own.  Another reason for making your own is that way they'll be the exact size you want.  That's what motivated my  decision to buy one.  Add to that, I'd just received a $50.00 certificate from Highland Woodworking -- they featured my scrub plane in their Show Your Stuff column of the February issue.
     A while back I borrowed a friends dowel plate for a project I was working on.  I decided to make him a nice holder as a way of saying thanks.  I made something similar for my own plate but had some problems.  While researching on the net, someone mentioned that they thought the dowel that is made got crooked because there wasn't any way to guide the dowel as it went through.  The suggestion was to use a hole beneath the dowel plate that's slightly larger than the dowel size to guide it as it's formed.  I took that to heart and here's what that process looked like:

Drilling the Guide Holes

I centered and temporarily screwed the dowel plate to a piece of Oak.  Next, each hole was drawn in using the plate as a guide.  The holes were then drilled through the block, each is about 1/8" larger than the size of the dowel.

Counter Bore, 2 Large Holes were Filed
     To make sure the dowel would go through easily I decided to counter bore each one.  If you're going to take the time to make a tool, might as well make it attractive as well as functional.  I had some Australian Lacewood, planed it down to match the thickness of the dowel plate then glued & clamped it on:

Lacewood Applied
     I wanted to achieve a good fit so I wrapped the dowel plate in wax paper, screwed it to the Oak, then cut the Lacewood pieces oversized.

After Glue-Up
     The Lacewood was planed flush with the Oak, slight chamfers with a block plane to ease the edges, Danish Oil, and a coat or two of my 3-part topcoat and we have a good looking tool -- but, how does it work?

Drawn Circle for Guideline
     For the test I got a square piece of straight grained Walnut and using a circle guide, shaded in a 3/16" circle.  You can't just take a square chunk of wood and drive it through the plate!  I experimented to find the best way to reduce the size of the piece with spokeshaves and planes.

Creating the Octagon

     Here's what worked the best; I took a scrap piece of 3/4" MDF and routed a shallow V-groove in it.  A little work with a chisel to create a stop in that groove was all it took.  Now that I had the visual circle at the end of the stick as a guide it was a simple matter of creating more of an octagon shape with a block plane.  One last thing to do to the stick is to create a chamfer at one end to help start it.

Dowel Plate in Use
     I clamped the tool over the vise and started to drive the stick through the plate.  You can see the shavings created.

Quality Check
     The proof is right here, perfect 3/16" dowel with very little roughness and much, much straighter than the ones I'd made previously without the guide holes.  The dowel plate is one of those tools that may only see occasional use but when you need that perfectly sized dowel of a specific wood this can't be beat.  I'll be teaching a class on making wooden planes and my students will be able to use this to make the short dowel pins needed from almost any species they may want.

      Oh yea, what happened to the first holder?  Well, here it is; at least the glue joint held and the wood failed!


  1. I'm glad I waited to make this. The second one looks better not only in the "looks" but also in the finished dowel you get.
    I have a some 8/4 poplar and some cherry that I'll use to make mine.
    Thanx for a nice and elegant solution.

  2. Excellent, John! Hope to see it at class.