Troubleshooting dowel-joint problems

By Steve Maxwell

Photo by Robert Maxwell

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Problem #1: Joint doesn’t come together tightly, even under clamping pressure.

Cause: Holes are too shallow.

Remedy: Shorten the dowel pins or deepen the holes and reassemble the joint.


Problem #2: Wood splits under clamping pressure.

Cause: Dowels are not parallel.

Remedy: Remake the parts and drill the holes with a dowelling jog or drill press.


Problem #3: Joint is weak, with inconsistent workpiece alignment.

Cause: Dowel holes too large.

Remedy: Remake parts and drill holes of the proper diameter, or simply drill holes for next larger size of dowel pins.


Problem #4: Dowels won’t enter holes drilled to correct size.

Cause: Dowel pins are swollen with moisture.

Remedy: Heat dowel pins in a toaster oven at 325 F for 15 minutes.

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