"Dowel-evator" makes even short ones accessible
The tall, narrow box I used to contain my wooden dowels frustrated me because I'd have to dump the entire box to get at the shorter ones. So I came up with the Dowel-evator, shown above.
To make one, cut a 4" piece of PVC 32" long. Bevel the top end, as showtn, for easy access. Drill three or four 1⁄8 " holes around the bottom for the #8×3⁄4 " panhead screws that will act as stops for the lift block. Next drill a 3⁄16 " hole on the back top of the pipe for wall mounting. Then drill a 1⁄4 " hole on the front of the pipe, near the top, and epoxy a #0 grommet (find it at your hardware store) from the inside.
From a scrap of 2×6, cut a disc just under 4" in diameter, sanding if necessary, until it slides easily in the pipe. Then thread a small screw eye into the center of the disc and tie a 40" length of 1⁄16 " polyester cord to the screw eye. Make a knot about 8" above the screw eye and thread a washer onto the draw cord to limit the travel of the lift block.
Finally, slide the lift block down into the pipe and thread the draw cord through the grommet from the inside. Tie a washer to the end of the cord to act as a pull handle. Mount the holder to the wall leaving at least 48" above the top to allow removal of long dowels. Pulling the string lets you access even those short, bottom-dwelling dowels.
—Donald Whisman, Bremen, Ind.