Woodworking Jigs & Fixtures
May 12, 2012
My most viewed video on YouTube, by far, is my "Make A Dowel Maker" video. I guess it has a broader appeal than just woodworking, as it appears that many are interested in it to use for making arrow shafts for archery. In it, I quickly show the steps I took to make the cutter and how it works.
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I have had a number of requests to go into this in more detail: material, measurements and drill sizes. Given the popularity of the video, I decided to make another dowel maker, this time documenting the project here, with a series of pictures.
I start with a piece of cold rolled steel, 1/4" thick and 3/4" wide. The length is 8", which will allow me to make one cutter (1/2" and 3/8") on each end.
The size of the stock is nominal and the only important dimension is the thickness - it should be at least 1/4" thick for dowels this size.
In the world of precision metal working, there is a product called machinist's dye that is used to lay out metal parts. This is typically blue in colour and sprayed on the part and left to dry. Marks are scribed through this to the metal below, giving a very accurate and high contrast layout line.
I don't have any of the actual dye, but I do have some regular spray paint that will work nearly as well. I gave the part a thin coat and let it dry. The blue colour is coincidence - any darker colour will work:
The calipers are set to 3/8" (half the width of the bar) and a line is scratched along the length of the steel bar.
A centre line is scribed 3/4" from each end of the bar, since I'll be doing two cutters, one on each end:
On this end of the bar, I'm marking for a 1/2" dowel cutter, as shown in the video. I set the calipers to 1-1/16" and scratch a line.
A second line is made 7/16 from the end:
This gives three layout lines, the outer ones are 5/16" from the centre mark.
Next, the marks for the 3/8" dowel cutter are made, at the other end of the bar. The centre mark is already in place 3/4" from the end and the caliper is set to scribe a line 1/2" from the end:
Then another 1" from the end. This produces two marks that are 1/4" from then centre mark.
The marks on each end are centre punched:
Each location is then drilled through with a 1/8" bit:
Both ends with the 1/8" pilot holes drilled. Getting these accurately located is very important, so extra time spent getting to this point will pay off in the end.
All six of these holes are then enlarged to 1/4":
In the comments following the video, I took some heat for not clamping the work down while drilling it. It is always a really good idea to follow the best safety procedures, not just for your own well being, but to improve the end result. Clamping the part takes away the chance that it will move while it is being drilled, and increases the accuracy of the operation.
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