How To Use A Dowel Jig

June 6, 2021

Steps on how to use the dowel jig correctly.

Woodworkers have various ways of connecting blocks of wood together, and one such method is via the use of the doweling jig and dowels. As a tool, the doweling jig allows you to make holes to attach the dowels and two stocks. Moreover, the holes created by the doweling jig come with great accuracy and precision. 

Instead of drilling pocket holes, you can use the doweling jig as an excellent alternative for your DIY projects that require the joining of wood. Nevertheless, the doweling jig requires accuracy, and for this reason, you need to know how to utilize this tool correctly.

How Does the Dowel Jig Work?

Dowels are tiny cylindrical bits that you can use to join two boards together. To make sure that dowel joints are sturdy and efficient, woodworkers use dowel jigs. The doweling jigs are designed to guide the drill bits to bore precise and accurate holes for the dowels’ insertion. 

At the start, it will be helpful to differentiate between the doweling jig and the dowels. The dowels, as mentioned above, are cylindrical bits that join boards together. The doweling jig, on the other hand, is the tool that guides the drill bits in drilling holes for the insertion of the dowels. 

The doweling jig feature a steel block that bears holes where you can fit the drill bits. Some dowel jig models come with holes designed for threading, which further expand the drill bit’s range. You can install bushings on the doweling jigs for different sizes of bits.   

When drilling holes on the boards, you need to measure the holes precisely so that they exactly fall at the center. Using the doweling jig, you can drill holes perpendicular to the steel doweling jig. On the block’s side, likewise, you will see marked lines. 

You need to insert a screw through the entire block when working with the jig. You can firmly secure the wood piece by turning the screw’s handle and clamping the jig firmly on the log. This technique works well when using a self-centered jig. Moreover, you can use fluted dowels to make your woodworking projects easy to achieve.

Step-by-Step Guide on Using a Dowel jig

The dowel jig allows you to make a strong joint in your woodworking projects. Of course, its use should be your primary option when joining blocks of wood because the result manifests a clean joint. Moreover, dowel joints formed using dowel jig are strong and sturdy. If you want to try your hand on the use of dowel jig, you can read through the following steps:

Step 1: Decide Which Size of Dowels You are Going to Use

At the onset, you will need to determine the dowel size you are going to use, depending on the board’s thickness. If you are going to use a 1/2-5/8″ board, you can use a 1/4″ dowel. For a 5/8″ to 3/4″ panel, you need to use a 5/16″ dowel, and for 3/4″ to 1 1/2″, you need to use a 3/8″ dowel.  

Step 2: Loosen the Side Bolts

A cursory look at the dowel jig would reveal that it features side bolts. The side bolts are there to secure the jig in place and to make accurate measurements of the wood pieces. The side bolts consist of two screws that go through each side of the jig for accuracy and tightening purposes. 

At the onset, you need to loosen up these bolts first. In doing so, you will ensure that you can maximize the use of the expandable functionality of the dowel jig.

Step 3: Mark the Hole Areas

Since you will be using dowels to join two pieces of wood, you need to mark the points wherein you will drill holes for the dowels on both wood pieces. This step, of course, might be the easiest part of the process of using the doweling jig. To mark both logs, you only need to take the two workpieces and mark the specific points to drill holes. You can utilize a pencil to mark the spots.

Step 4: Align the Logs Properly

To ensure that you get an excellent joint, you need to prepare the joints and set them or align them properly. Position the wood parts to ensure that they align with each other and the doweling jig accurately. Ensure that the marks correspond well with each other.

Step 5: Tightening the Bolts

You need to ensure that the wood pieces you will use will not fall out once you start drilling. So, it would help if you tightened the bolts. You only need to twist the bolts into place to keep them firmly in place and make sure that the workpieces will not move.

Step 6: Start Drilling Holes on Both Planks

The next step to do is to drill the holes of the dowels. Once you’ve set the dowel jig, you can start to drill by inserting the drill bit into the dowel jig. You should beforehand determine the size of the bits and the dowel jig. 

Once you got the right drill bit size, insert the drill bit into the guide bushing and drill the first hole. Then, repeat this process to drill the other spots. Afterward, repeat the drilling process on the other plank.

Step 7: Start Joining the Two Wood Pieces Using the Dowels

Once you’ve drilled the holes, you can place each dowel on each hole. At this point, you’re almost done with the joining of the two blocks of wood. Once you’ve put the dowels on the first woodblock holes, you can then align the next wood piece with the wood piece that has the inserted dowels. 

Make sure that the joint is strong by trying to move the joint boards inward and outward. You spread glue on the dowel surface of the primary log. Then, join the second log with the first one.

Safety Tips When Joining Woods Using a Dowel Jig

Using a doweling jig will help if you take the necessary precautions to ensure that you do your work safely. At the onset, ensure that you have carefully read the manual if it is your first time using the dowel jig. You can also follow the simple safety precautions: 

  • Wear non-slip footwear and thin clothing when using the doweling jig. 
  • Use glasses or goggles when drilling to protect your eye. 
  • Don’t apply too much pressure when utilizing the dowel jig. 
  • Use clamps and other tools to keep the log pieces from moving. 
  • Ensure that the working area is safe and clean.


There are various types of wood joineries such as basic butt, tongue and groove, mitered butt, half-lap, mortise and tenon, biscuit joint, and many others. Moreover, attaching wood is one of the primary functions of woodworkers and carpenters; thus, you need to master this task.

Dowel joints, however, come with concomitant advantages such as a speedy joining process with no need for screws or nails, neat finish, reliability, and strength. Besides, it doesn’t require many tools to make dowel joints. Hence, as an aspiring woodworker, you need to learn how to make dowel joint, and it would be an excellent skill to add to your woodworking skills.

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