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Make your own dowels on a router table

Often when building a project, you'll need just a few short lengths of dowel, or a dowel of a species that isn't commercially available. The first case hardly justifies a special trip to the hardware store, and the second leaves you high and dry. Don't worry. With wood scraps, round-over bits, and a table-mounted router, you can make your own. Here's how.

Cut stock 3" longer than the dowel length needed, plus 6" for a test piece. (If the length-plus-3" dimension is more than one-half the length of your router-table fence, clamp on a longer auxiliary fence.) Joint and plane the stock into a square the same dimension as the diameter of the dowel needed. Cut off the 6" test piece.

Install in the router a round-over bit whose radius is one-half the diameter of the intended dowel. Position the bit with the pilot bearing flush with the fence and the bottom of the radius flush with the table. Rout 1" in on each edge of the test piece, and check its fit in a hole of the desired diameter drilled in scrap. Adjust your setup as needed.

Stick masking tape on the table, and draw a start line 1" to the left and a stop line 1" to the right of the bit center. Now with the left end of the stock at the start line, and the right end against the fence, use a pushstick to plunge the stock into the router bit, as shown at right. Feed the stock past the bit until the trailing end reaches the stop line. Then pivot the trailing end away from the bit. Repeat on the other three edges. Cut the dowel to length, trimming both ends.

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