How hard is it to make dowels quickly?

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  • How hard is it to make dowels quickly?

    The wood lathe is the least used piece of equipment I’m my shop so my lathe skills suffer. I have a need for dowels, 3/4” x 14” that I can turn from various wood from my scrap pile. i don’t want to spend a lot of time cutting these dowels. My lathe, an old Craftsman, has a Super Nova 2 chuck and drawers full of different centers.

  • #2
    start off with squares slightly over 3/4", take them to the router table and run them through the 3/8" roundover until it is almost there, chuck and center it, finish off to final size / smoothness with sandpaper on the lathe, done, low chance for error. Lather, rinse, repeat.
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    • #3
      I could probably do it, not that quickly, but hey, running down to Lowes or Home Depot or even ACE is a lot less trouble for a couple of bucks, They have both softwood and hardwood dowels in three foot lengths as well as steel and aluminum plain and threaded rod if those work better for you.
      Loring in Katy, TX USA
      If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
      BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

      Comment


      • #4
        On second thought, I could do it pretty fast.
        I spent a few minutes thinking as a mental challenge,

        First cut a long piece about 18 inches long that is 3/4 x 3/4" exactly.

        THen you need a router table and fence.

        You can do it with a 3/8" roundover with four passes or with a 3/4" bullnose bit in two passes. Most everyone will have a 3/8" roundover but you may have to buy a 3/4" bullnose (see below picture of MLCS Woodworking catalog)

        The secret is that you leave square ends on the stock piece so it doesn't roll on you.

        Set the bit so it is partially buried in the fence and the tangents of the arc are flush with the table top and flush with the fence.

        Then feed the stock into the spinning bit about 3/4" past the left end and feed left until there is 3/4" left on the right end. Then remove the stock.
        Rotate the stock 90 degrees if using a roundover or 180 degrees if using a bullnose and make an identical pass cutting another side.
        This will take 4 passes with the roundover and 2 passes with the bullnose.
        After you are done cut off the ends until you have your needed 14 inches.

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        Wonder why the 1/4" shank costs less than the 1/2" shank??? Anyway I'd much rather do this with the 1/2" shank. I suggest making shallow passes - don't push the stock all the way to the fence; make a few extra passes so as not to take too large a bite.
        If you really need it precise the bullnose and the roundover radii will be very accurate. You just need to adjust the spacing of the opposite side cuts.
        If using a bullnose make the second cut set the fence to cut a little oversize widthwise and then check the diameter with some calipers and move the fence a tiny bit to make small diameter adjustments until it is right spot on.
        Last edited by LCHIEN; 04-20-2022, 03:47 AM.
        Loring in Katy, TX USA
        If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
        BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

        Comment


        • nicer20
          nicer20 commented
          Editing a comment
          "The secret is that you leave square ends on the stock piece so it doesn't roll on you."

          This is the wisdom !
          Thanks - always learning from you all folks.

      • #5
        Here are a couple of links that if I were to make my own dowels, I would use these methods, probably the first one.


        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPha1NLIGW4

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rObUAXrmYyE
        Hank Lee

        Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!

        Comment


        • #6
          Thanks for the fast replies. I hadn’t thought about the router table….. duh…. My project is this. I carve quite a few Tiny Trees using tree limbs. Recently I picked up 18 3-4’ long, with 3” to 6” diameter Olive limbs for $5 ea. Tiny Trees sizes are from 9” to 18” so I will get quite a few trees from this material. The problem is that Olive dies from thr center out leaving a cork soft pith from 3/4” up. Normally I can work around a soft spot in the wood but this 3/4” center is just too much to avoid. It soaks up thin CA glue like a sponge but it doesn’t penetrate the pith evenly because the pith has some moisture in it that quickly sets off the glue. The first tree that I cut turned out nicely, the CA seemed to be the answer….. until I dropped the tree and it broke in half. I re-glued that area and resanded the tree, breaking it somewhere else. That won’t work.
          Yesterday I thought about drilling out the pith and pounding a dowel up the limb. I had some 3/4 pine dowels so I gave it a whirl. It took a small amount of CA to fill in the voids after the rough cut, but this may work. I don’t want to have to buy walnut and other woods when I have better wood like spalted maple, ambrosia maple curly walnut etc. that I can use.

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          • #7
            I know that I posted this here! Leehjlp’s suggestion triggered my mind, I’ve got one of those… somewhere, I dug through the lathe cabinet and found a 1” to 3/4 rounder. I squared up some Walnut and some feathered Black Gum then started rounding the corners a bit. Then…. I haven’t seen that before….. the router motor started lowering on its own while it was running full speed. I didn’t manage to get it turned off before it fell out of the router lift. That will make you use words that you haven’t used in a long time as the router bounces around in the lift box while it tries to eat all the corners off my new SawStop router lift!!!! So much for making dowels quickly. I went in the house to clean out my pants and lunch was ready, so I’ll try again later.

            Comment


            • dbhost

              dbhost
              commented
              Editing a comment
              Yeah I am thinking you might want to make another contribution to the language thread I started... LOL... I bet the neighbors kids learned new words...

            • capncarl
              capncarl commented
              Editing a comment
              Boy what a mess it made on the inside of the router lift motor holder. It’s a multi segmented wrap around aluminum fixture that accommodates several sizes of motor barrel adapters. My router with the barrel adapter slipped out and fell a few inches to the bottom of the box. It would have been a lot better if the box was deeper, but the router bit never left the inside of the aluminum fixture. There must have been 20 or better router bit strikes all the way around! It cleaned up ok with a die grinder with a small sanding drum (Dremel tool) . The 1/4 round router bit didn’t bend the shaft, as I expected but it did knock out a chunk of its carbide. The router is noticeable louder now? Maybe it’s just me listening for problems. I will definitely install some kind of router motor stop ic case this happens again, and would recommend it for others.

              This puts new respect in the amount of damage a router can do. Imagine if someone stupidly wore a pair of gloves and the bit got ahold of a piece of it.

          • #8
            Curiosity got to me, I had to try it.
            I found a 1/2" bullnose bit I had. So I made 1/2" dowels.

            Took me about 45 minutes to make one dowel - setup time. Squaring the stock and then cleaning off the router table and then setting up the bit which was a pain.
            The finished dowel measures 0.495 to 0.502" after I sanded the little seam line.
            The last photo shows the end on which I did and tested the adjustments - ugly..

            After that I could have made a bunch in a short time.
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            Attached Files
            Last edited by LCHIEN; 04-22-2022, 12:02 AM.
            Loring in Katy, TX USA
            If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
            BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

            Comment


            • leehljp
              leehljp commented
              Editing a comment
              Keeping the router table clean and quickly accessible is my problem too. BUT, you have piqued my interest in a bull nose bit sets. I am often in need of a dowel or two but usually find a way around it. Thanks for posting it Loring!

            • capncarl
              capncarl commented
              Editing a comment
              I’m glad you posted the bullnose comment. It reminded me that I may have one of these stashed away somewhere! A good many years ago I snagged a number of sets of high end router bits sets from cabinet shops closing and selling their tools. All are 1/2” shanks and my router in my tablesaw lift is 1/4” collet only. My next tool will be a 1/2” router…then I can get out the “real router bits” but anyway, I didn’t have the Bullnose bit

          • #9
            I found I had 2 bullnose bits, both 1/2" diameter, not previously used (still had the rubber dip coating).

            I made another one on the setup that was still on the router table and it took about a minute and a half to make a 2-foot long dowel.

            Here's a couple more hints observations:
            1. Mark the top of your stock (arbitrary which of the four sides) but you will want to keep this side up when swapping to the second side which means swapping ends and not rolling it over. This is to keep the height the same, otherwise small deviations in bit height or stock thickness will make the two sides not match perfectly. If you don't mark it it will be very easy to lose track and hard to find.
            2. Using a bullnose and 2 passes is a LOT easier than using a roundover and four passes. Half the passes plus much easier to set up with less degrees of freedom!
            3. I found adjusting the forward-backwards of the router fence to be the most difficult. you have to get the deepest part of the bullnose to line up with the face of the fence. Using a straightedge was problematic, I had the most luck sighting down the fence from the side. Even then I had to bump it to get it right on. Getting the vertical height is simpler, like getting a roundover to meet the top perfectly.
            4. The stock width has to be perfect... the diameter of the dowel on this direction will be set only if the width is exactly 1/2. And the router depth in the fence has to be perfect or it will leave flats or make it too narrow.
            5. The stock height can be oversized, the bullnose diameter will make the diameter in the vertical direction right.
            6. I ripped the stock both ways. In hindsight I should just rip some one-by material to exactly .500 thick and take advantage of the height being set by the bullnose. So from 4 and 5 above, the dowel diameter width is set by your stock width and the height of the diameter is set by the bullnose diameter.
            7. You end up with two square ends to cut off, limited by the opening in the router fence. The square ends make sure the stock does not roll as you route. This limits the length of the dowel to about the width of your router fence.... you can always put a longer fence on it. But the fence has to be long enough to keep at least once square end on the fence somewhere.
            8. A bullnose bit is an expense that could make it cheaper just to buy premade dowels, but if you need a specific species dowel, then this may be for you.
            2 routed cedar dowels and one purchased 1/2" dowel
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            Last edited by LCHIEN; 04-22-2022, 04:08 PM.
            Loring in Katy, TX USA
            If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
            BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

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            • #10
              One more idea.

              Instead of a square piece of stock, I make 2 at a time on a rectangular section 0.500 thick and roughly 1.5" inches wide.
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              Then make four passes; I can go all the way and skip leaving ends because there is enough workpiece to support the passes. Because I don't have to leave square ends, I can have relatively unlimited lengths.

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              Second pass flip top to bottom. Third pass front to back, fourth flip top to bottom.


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              Now I can just cut that thin membrane and sand those seams.

              Not perfected but its a way of doing them faster and easier. You need some good pactices using push blocks these pieces are a bit thin.

              I cleaned up the outer edge with an edge pass.

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              I'll leave the rest up to your imagination.
              Attached Files
              Last edited by LCHIEN; 04-22-2022, 07:12 PM.
              Loring in Katy, TX USA
              If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
              BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

              Comment


              • dbhost

                dbhost
                commented
                Editing a comment
                Doesn't that method leave the dowl slightly oval? That goes back to the concept of how accurate is accurate enough....

              • LCHIEN
                LCHIEN commented
                Editing a comment
                Read post #9, it details how to adjust the diameter in two axis which is the ovality.

            • #11
              These dowels I’m needing don’t have to pretty or particularly accurate. All I’m going to use them for is to pound them in a piece of tree limb that I’m going to hog out the center pith with a spade bit on an extension. There will likely be a slight curve in the limb so I don’t expect the hole to be straight. I’ll coat the dowel with titebond so the dowel finish should be rough. After I cut the tree I’m carving out of the limb I’ll fill any void that I see with CA thick glue.

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              • #12
                So for this purpose where its hidden inside another piece, I think a 3/4" Dia pine dowel 48 inches long at Home depot for $4 seems like a better choice than making one.
                Loring in Katy, TX USA
                If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
                BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

                Comment


                • #13
                  For all practical purposes a pine dowel is fine but 90% of the wood I carve is highly figured, cracked, worm eaten, knotty or distorted in some nature and dowels from other highly figured wood or different color is more desirable

                  This tree made of sinker Dogwood really needed a dowel, probably one made of walnut or something dark…… yes it sold for $175, the first day in the gallery.

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                  This tree was broken in shipment and possibly could have been saved from damage if it had a dowel? Maybe not because it would have distracted from the burned out center.

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                  This Walnut tree really would have benefited from a Walnut dowel as the center was dangerously small and soft.

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                  • nicer20
                    nicer20 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Wow - very nice
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