Is there a way I can add a round end to 1⁄4"- and 3⁄8"- diameter dowels?

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Q:

Is there a way I can add a round end to 14 "- and 38 "- diameter dowels? I would like to do this for axles on toy cars and trucks.
—Norm Camire, WOOD Online

A:

You can produce a consistently rounded dowel end on your router table, Norm, using a round-over bit that's half the radius of your dowel. For a 14 " dowel, install a 18 " round-over bit with guide bearing. For a 38 " dowel, use a 18 "- or a 316 "-radius bit.

Start by raising the bit in your router table until the bottom edge of the bearing meets the center of the dowel as seen from the side. Then adjust the fence so that the center of the dowel, as seen from above, rests against the center of the bearing. Switch on your router and hold the dowel against the fence with one hand while you rotate it with the other. Slide the dowel against the bearing of the spinning bit to begin cutting. To avoid burning the end, back the dowel away from the bit slightly while you pause to adjust the hand that's rotating the dowel.

Finally, sand lightly by hand up to 180 grit to smooth and blend the rounded end with the rest of the dowel.