Dead-on dowel joints
Although you can buy dowels in 1/4", 5/16", 3/8", 7/16", and 1/2" diameters, the 1/4" and 3/8" sizes handle most jobs. (See Sources at bottom of page.) Our favorite dowel pins: expandable fluted dowels like those shown in the Shop Tip that allow glue to escape through the flutes but swell to firmly grip the holes. Either 1 1/2" or 2" lengths will work; but the 1 1/2" dowels provide ample reinforcement for most joints in 3/4"-thick stock.
Fluted dowels expand to create a solid joint
You could cut your own dowels and score glue-relief grooves in the sides, but you'll save time using commercially available dowels. Like pressed-beech biscuits, the compressed wood in these 3/8" dowels expands about 1/32" on contact with moisture in the glue, as shown at right below, creating a tight fit.
Doweling jigs. 3/8" doweling jig no. 35242, Rockler, 800-279-4441, rockler.com. Self-centering, fixed-bushing jig no. 109-142, Woodworker's Supply, 800-645-9292, woodworker.com. Self-centering doweling jig no. 25K64.01 with interchangeable bushings, Lee Valley Tools, 800-871-8158, leevalley.com. Dowelmax Kit with 3/8" bushings, O.M.S. Tool Co., 877-986-9400, dowelmax.com.
Countersinks. Grizzly set of five countersinks no. G5729, from Amazon.com.
Dowel centers. Each come in packs of 5: 1/4" outside, 3/16" inside no. 66J45.01; 3/8" outside, 5/16" inside no. 66J45.02; and 1/2" outside, 3/8" inside no. 66J45.03; Lee Valley Tools.
Fluted dowels. 1/4 x 1 1/2", Rockler #70342.
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