|End of the Day|
I've done a blog before on making dowels with the dowel plate sold by Lie-Nielsen but thought it was worth repeating now that I think I have my system down. When I taught the class on plane making my students weren't all that enamored about forming their own dowels. It's a process and from everything I've read, you can't expect to get perfectly smooth and round dowels but you will get accurately sized ones out of pretty much any species of wood you want. In this picture is everything I used to make them other than the planer to get the wood down in size, in this instance 3/16". I plan to use them to peg large finger joints for the box series I'm currently working on.
When researching on the web much of what I found indicated that riving your wood and finding straight grained pieces was the way to go. Riving is similar to how you would split firewood. Well, I tried that but not too successfully -- ended up with quite a lot of wildly splintered pieces of wood! Since I don't have an unlimited supply of material I chose to make squared pieces with the planer instead. In the photo you can see that Cherry, Walnut, White Oak, and Purple Heart are the species used.
The dowel sled is made from some MDF and has a V-groove running down the center. With the stop on the bottom it functions just like a bench hook. As you start to take the four sided blank and make it an octagon it wants to start moving all over the place. The first edge is easy enough but as you take the corners off of the blank it gets a bit squirrely! You have to keep in mind that you're not going to end up with a perfectly shaped dowel like you'd be able to buy. Here's what I did; first of all I would place the blank in the V-groove:
|Beginning of the Cut|
|Shifting Hand Position|
You can actually develop a rhythm to this, I found that 6 passes on each squared corner seemed to get me a good size. Once the blank looks pretty decent the next thing I did was to use an old pencil sharpener:
|Tapering the End|
This made it much easier to get it started in the dowel plate which is the next step. I cut the blanks to roughly 5" or so and found that some would drive fine while others shattered. Surprisingly, the White Oak was the easiest to drive through the plate, probably because it's a hard wood to begin with.
|Driving them Through|
Through experience I've learned that a finish hammer works better than a rubber mallet. When you have driven the dowel almost through the plate you use the next one to drive the first one out. If you're interested in seeing how I made the holder for the dowel plate here's a link to that blog. It's my second version and I'm pleased with how well it works.