How to Cut Wooden Dowels in 2 Ways

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Woodworking projects often require precise cuts, and dowels are no exception. If you’ve ever experienced frustration trying to achieve a clean, straight edge on a wooden dowel, you’re not alone.

Our pro woodworkers will discuss how to cut wooden dowels with ease, ensuring a smooth finish and a perfect fit for your next project.

What are the Methods For Wooden Dowel Cutting?

There are two primary methods for cutting wooden dowels: using a saw or opting for alternative tools. The most popular and efficient method involves saws, with table saws being the preferred choice.

However, miter saws, band saws, and circular saws are also effective. If you lack experience with saws or don’t have one, fret not.

Alternatives like cutting jigs, serrated knives, or garden shears can effectively cut dowels, with cutting jigs offering the highest accuracy.

2 ways of cutting wooden dowels

Cutting With a Saw or Without a Saw

Sawing A Wooden Dowel

Wooden Dowel Cutting Without a Saw

Quickest approach

Slower technique

Requires advanced abilities

Ideal for novices

Tools must be properly honed

Sharpened tools are essential

Table saw is the primary instrument

Main implement is the cutting jig

Woodworking expertise necessary

Precision-cutting abilities needed

Effortless cutting

Capable of swiftly cutting multiple pieces of equal length

How To Cut Dowels With A Saw

Supplies You’ll Need

Step #1: Prepare Your Wood

First, obtain a square stock of wood larger than the dowels you plan to create, ensuring sufficient space for drilling and cutting. Opt for hardwood due to its structural strength, which allows for cutting without tearing.

Purchase square wood stocks from local stores, selecting a length that provides ample allowance for clamping onto the table saw sled – at least 6 inches is recommended.

Step #2: Cut Slot/s in Wood

Create a flush cut or slot in the chosen square stock wood by drilling a ¼” hole all the way through for the wooden dowel. The slot dimensions depend on the dowel’s diameter and longness.

cutting wooden dowels

For instance, to cut 1½” long dowels, position the cut 1½” from the stock’s end. In this example, a 6″ long, 2×2 hardwood stock was used to create a ¼” wooden dowel hole. Aim for a height of at least 7/8″, with 1″ being a safer choice for accurate measurement.

Step #3: Drill the Hole

It’s time to drill the hole according to the wooden dowel dimensions. For instance, to create ½” dowels, use a ½” drill bit to make a hole of the same diameter at the cutting jig’s center.

Utilize a drill press for stability and to ensure a clean, tear-free hole in the jig. Repeat this process for dowels of various sizes, ensuring the square wood stock has adequate space for the desired hole size.

Step #4: Cut the Wooden Dowels

Align the slot edge with the table saw blade, ensuring the blade is well-sharpened to prevent wood splitting. Clamp the wood securely onto the table saw sled and set the blade height slightly below the slot’s height, typically 1″ above the surface.

Insert the wooden dowel until it emerges from the other end, applying pressure for stability during movement.

Begin cutting, using a small piece to hold the dowel in place after the first cut. This same method allows for quick, accurate cutting with minimal waste.

cutting wooden dowels using blade

Ensure blade sharpness and accurate measurements, as readjusting is difficult once the wood stock is fixed. This technique works for both small and large dowels, with proper stock selection and clamping.

Maintain consistent alignment throughout the process. Similar procedures can be followed for miter saws, band saws, and circular saws, with minor adjustments.

How To Cut Dowels Without A Saw

What You'll Need

Ax

For a time-tested method of cutting wooden dowels without a saw, consider using an ax. Simply mark the desired spot on the wood, angle the ax at 45°, and apply pressure to make the cut or chop.

Machete

This method is suitable for thin dowels. It functions similarly to using your hands but requires slightly less pressure to achieve a clean cut. Watch your fingers and make sure the long end is clamped before you cut.

Knife

The first option for cutting dowels is using a sharp knife, which is likely available for most DIY enthusiasts. A knife can effectively slice through thin wood pieces. Make sure the long end is clamped before you cut.

cutting wooden dowel using chisel

Chisel

A chisel is another traditional tool that remains valuable for numerous projects, especially for carpenters. To cut dowels using a chisel, clamp the wood, set the angle at 20°, and rotate it 360°, repeating the process until achieving the desired cut result.

Your Hands

In some cases, your own hands can be the most suitable tool. If the wood is thin and you have the necessary strength, simply break the dowel by hand. Watch your fingers and stand with proper posture to avoid getting cut.

Other materials you might need:

Step #1: Look for a Long Dowel Rod

Begin with a long rod of greater diameter and length than the dowels you plan to cut. You can purchase dowel rods from local stores or create one yourself, although the latter requires a table saw.

If avoiding saws, opt to buy a hardwood rod from a hardware store, as hardwoods offer the necessary strength to withstand drilling and cutting without tearing.

Dowel rods

Step #2: Put the Dowel Into the Jig for Measurements

The cutting jig should resemble a long rectangular wooden box. Insert the long dowel rod into the jig, cutting through a slit created on the jig.

Measure the diameter and length of the cutting end, ensuring it matches the desired length. For instance, if you want a 1″ dowel, the cutting end should also be 1″ long.

Step #3: Drill the Hole on the Jig’s Top & Bottom

Create holes at the top and bottom of the jig with a slightly larger diameter than the intended dowels to ensure they fit.

Avoid making the hole too big, as this may lead to instability during cuts and potential inaccuracies. Use the appropriate drill bit size, equal to the dowel size, for consistent hole alignment and stability.

Step #4: Cut the Wooden Dowels

With the setup passed completely, insert the dowel into the jig and carefully position it before cutting dowels through the slit. Ensure the dowel remains steady during cuts for consistent sizing. 

All the dowels will share the same length and diameter, with no readjustments needed unless changing dimensions. 

cutting wooden dowels using jig

Accurate measurements and marking ensure successful cutting using a jig, making it the fastest method to cut without a saw.

What’s The Quickest Way To Cut Dowels?

The quickest method for cutting dowels is using a table saw, which yields superior results compared to a band saw, miter saw, circular saw, or cutting jig.

Select a square wood stock, mark the desired dimensions, cut the wooden dowel carefully, drill the wood, align the slot edge with the table saw blade, and make the cuts.

This process allows for numerous dowels with consistent shapes and sizes. To maintain structural strength without tear-outs, use hardwood and a sharp table saw blade.

What’s the Ideal Length of Dowels?

Dowel length is determined by the number of dowels that can be inserted into the joint between two pieces, with the dowel’s length being twice this amount.

Generally, dowel lengths range from 36″ to 48″, but this may vary depending on the project. It is proportional to its diameter.

Ideal length of wooden dowel

Cutting Wooden Dowels In Half: How to Do It?

To cut wooden dowels in half, either use a pair of V-blocks secured with the best wood glue or screws while running a table saw or create a square lumber stock with the same dimensions as the dowel for the front and rear.

Attach the dowel using glue and pins, then use a table saw or band saw to cut it in half.

Cutting Wooden Dowels For a Cake

Utilize wide straws to cut wooden dowels for cakes. These straws are easy to cut and can handle the task without stress.

To complete the project, it’s important to cut wooden dowel pieces precisely so they would fit seamlessly within the structure.

Tip:

To understand the strength of straws, try this experiment: Place a straw vertically between your palms and press them together.

You’ll find it doesn’t crush easily, demonstrating the strength of a hollow cylinder. We suggest opting for wider straws with thick walls for better results. If using thin straws, simply use more of them.

cutting wooden dowel for a cake

What Are Wooden Dowels Used For?

Wooden dowels serve various purposes, such as filling holes in gun stocks, repairing screw holes, cracks, and gaps in furniture, strengthening lumber joints, and cabinet making. They are essential for securely connecting two wooden parts and ensuring robust bonds.

However, several dowels require glue to maintain the connection over time, as a lack of adhesive can compromise the joint’s dimensional stability.

What Alternatives to Use Instead Of Wooden Dowels

As alternatives to wooden dowels, consider using:

However, it is strongly recommended to use wooden dowels for their precision and sturdy connections. They are easily accessible at most local hardware stores.

What’s the Strongest Wood Dowel?

Hickory wooden dowels are the strongest due to their high density and robust hardwood composition. 

hickory wooden dowel

Capable of withstanding significant stress and pressure, hickory dowels are utilized in large construction projects and high-end furniture production. 

Boasting a Janka hardness rating of 1,820 lbf [1], hickory demonstrates superior wear and tear resistance, outperforming other wood types in strength.

Suggested Readings For You

Conclusion

Mastering how to cut wooden dowels is a valuable skill for woodworking projects. By exploring various cutting methods and equipment, you can achieve precise and strong dowel connections.

Remember to select the appropriate wood type and dimensions for optimal results. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle any project that requires cutting wooden dowels efficiently and accurately.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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