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Wooden dowel pins

A dowel is a solid cylindrical rod, usually

made from wood, plastic, or metal. In its
original manufactured form, a dowel is
called a dowel rod. Dowel rods are often
cut into short lengths called dowel pins.
Dowels are commonly used as structural
reinforcements in cabinet making and in
numerous other applications, including:

Furniture shelf supports

Moveable game pieces (i. e., pegs)
Hangers for items such as clothing, key
rings, and tools
As a core to wrap cable or textiles
Wheel axles in toys
Detents in gymnastics grips
Supports for tiered wedding cakes
Wood dowel
Manufacturing process

A dowel plate

The traditional tool for making dowels is a

dowel plate, an iron (or better, hardened
tool steel) plate with a hole having the size
of the desired dowel. To make a dowel, a
piece of wood is split or whittled to a size
slightly bigger than desired and then
driven through the hole in the dowel plate.
The sharp edges of the hole shear off the
excess wood.[1][2][3]

A second approach to cutting dowels is to

rotate a piece of oversized stock past a
fixed knife, or alternatively, to rotate the
knife around the stock. Machines based
on this principle emerged in the 19th
century.[4][5] Frequently, these are small
bench-mounted tools.[6][7]

For modest manufacturing volumes, wood

dowels are typically manufactured on
industrial dowel machines based on the
same principles as the rotary cutters
described above. Such machines may
employ interchangeable cutting heads of
varying diameters, thus enabling the
machines to be quickly changed to
manufacture different dowel diameters.
Typically, the mechanism is open-ended,
with material guides at the machine's entry
and exit to enable fabrication of
continuous dowel rod of unlimited length.
Since the 19th century, some of these
dowel machines have had power feed
mechanisms to move the stock past the
cutting mechanism.[8][9]

High-volume dowel manufacturing is done

on a wood shaper, which simultaneously
forms multiple dowels from a single piece
of rectangular stock (i.e., wood). These
machines employ two wide, rotating
cutting heads, one above the stock and
one below it. The heads have nearly
identical cutting profiles so that each will
form an array of adjoined, side-by-side
"half dowels". The heads are aligned to
each other and one head is shaped to
make deeper cuts along the dowel edges
so as to part the stock into individual
dowel rods, resulting in a group of dowel
rods emerging in parallel at the machine's

Fluted wood dowel pin

Dowel joint

The wooden dowel rod used in

woodworking applications is commonly
cut into dowel pins, which are used to
reinforce joints and support shelves and
other components in cabinet making.
Some woodworkers make their own dowel
pins, while others purchase dowel pins
precut to the required length and diameter.

When dowels are glued into blind holes, a

very common case in dowel-based joinery,
there must be a path for air and excess
glue to escape when the dowel is pressed
into place. If no provision is made to
relieve the hydraulic pressure of air and
glue, hammering the dowel home or
clamping the joint can split the wood. An
old solution to this problem is to plane a
flat on the side of the dowel; some
sources suggest planing the flat on the
rough stock before the final shaping of the
round dowel.[2] Some dowel plates solve
the problem by cutting a groove in the side
of the dowel as it is forced through; this is
done by a groove screw, a pointed screw
intruding from the side into the dowel
cutting opening.[3] Some dowel pins are
Fluted with multiple parallel grooves along
their length to serve the same purpose.

When two pieces of wood are to be joined

by dowels embedded in blind holes, there
are numerous methods for aligning the
holes. For example, pieces of shot may be
placed between the wood pieces to
produce indentations when the pieces are
clamped together; after the clamp is
released, the indentations indicate the
center points for drilling.[1] Dowel centers
are simple and inexpensive tools for
aligning opposing blind holes. Various
commercial systems, such as Dowelmax,
have been devised to solve this problem.

Alternative joinery methods may be used

in place of conventional dowel pins, such
as Miller dowels, biscuit joiners, spline
joints, and proprietary tools such as the
Domino jointer.


The word dowel was used in Middle

English; it appears in Wycliffe's Bible
translation (circa 1382-1395) in a list of
the parts of a wheel: "...and the spokis, and
dowlis of tho wheelis..."[10] Cognates with
other Germanic languages suggest that
the word is much older (deuvel in Dutch,
Dübel in German).

Wooden dowels have been used in

manufacturing and woodworking for many
centuries. One of the earliest documented
uses of wooden dowels was in Japanese
shrines in AD 690, which were constructed
using only wood, wooden dowels and
pegs, and interlocking joints. Around AD
1000, Leif Erikson sailed across the North
Atlantic in a ship that was largely
constructed of overlapping planks held
together by wooden dowels and iron nails.
The wooden dowels did not rust and thus
were more reliable than iron for long

Metal dowel
In machinery

Steel dowel pins

Dowel pins are often used as precise
locating devices in machinery. Steel dowel
pins are machined to tight tolerances, as
are the corresponding holes, which are
typically reamed. A dowel pin may have a
smaller diameter than its hole so that it
freely slips in, or a larger diameter so that
it must be pressed into its hole (an
interference fit).

When designing mechanical components,

mechanical engineers typically use dowel
holes as reference points to control
positioning variations and attain
repeatable assembly quality. If no dowels
are used for alignment (e.g., components
are mated by bolts only), there can be
significant variation, or "play", in
component alignment.

Typical drilling and milling operations, as

well as manufacturing practices for bolt
threads, introduce mechanical play
proportional to the size of the fasteners.
For example, bolts up to 10 mm (0.394 in)
in diameter typically have play on the order
of 0.2 mm (0.008 inches). When dowels
are used in addition to bolts, however, the
tighter dimensional tolerances of dowels
and their mating holes—typically 0.01 mm
(0.0004 inches)—result in significantly less
play, on the order of 0.02 mm (0.0008
inches). Manufacturing costs are inversely
proportional to mechanical tolerances and,
as a result, engineers must balance the
need for mechanical precision against
cost as well as other factors such as
manufacturability and serviceability.

There are a variety of specifications,

military, ISO, DIN, ASME that pins may be
made to. And size can even vary by dowel
pin material. Metric dowel pins are often
found in two size. In DIN 6325 standard
the dowel pins are slightly larger than the
nominal value. For example a 3 mm dowel
pin will range from 3.002 to 3.008. In the
ISO 2338 standard the dowel pins are
slightly smaller - 3mm nominal range is
2.986 to 3.000. The terminology (e.g.
"oversized", "standard") is not entirely
consistent across suppliers. In inch pins
"oversized" refers to pins that are more
significantly oversized for worn out dowel
pin holes. The most common inch sized
pins are slightly oversized, and
"undersized" versions are also available.

In automobiles, dowels are used when

precise mating alignment is required, such
as in differential gear casings, engines,
and transmissions.
Bolts in a bolted joint often have an
important function as a dowel, resisting
shear forces. For this reason, many bolts
have a plain unthreaded section to their
shank. This gives a closer fit to the hole
and also avoids some problems with
fretting wear when a screw thread bears
against an unthreaded component.

In woodworking
Cross dowel. Note that the slot is usually parallel to
the axis of the bolt hole, contrary to this drawing.

A cutaway view of a cross dowel in use. For illustrative

purposes the dowel's slot is shown perpendicular to
the bolt, but in practice the slot is usually parallel to
the bolt's axis.

A cross dowel is a cylindrically shaped

metal nut (i.e., a metal dowel) that is used
to join two pieces of wood. Like other
metal nuts, it has an inside threaded hole,
although the hole is unusual in that it
passes through the sides of the dowel.
One or both ends of the dowel are slotted,
with the slots oriented parallel to the
threaded hole through which the bolt will

In a cross dowel application, the two

pieces of wood are aligned and a bolt hole
is drilled through one piece of wood and
into the other. A dowel hole is drilled
laterally across the bolt hole and the cross
dowel is inserted into it. A screwdriver is
inserted into the slot at the end of the
cross dowel and the dowel is rotated so
that its threaded hole aligns with the bolt
hole. The bolt is then inserted into the bolt
hole and screwed into the cross dowel
until the wood pieces are held tightly

See also
Bar stock
Dowel reinforced butt joint
Dowel (juggling)
Dowel bar retrofit
Kinematic coupling
Spring pin
Threaded rod
Barrel nut

1. Ivin Sickels, Exercises in Wood-Working ,
American Book Company, 1889; see
Exercise 18.— Uniting with Dowels, pages
2. Dowel Making and Doweling, Scientific
American , Vol. XLIX, No. 6 (Aug. 11, 1883);
page 88.
3. H. H. Parker, Making Wood Dowels,
Popular Mechanics , Vol. 41, No. 6 (June,
1924); page 957.
4. William H. Whitlock, Improvement in
Turning Tool, U.S. Patent 83,573 , granted
Oct. 27, 1868.
5. Sanford A. Penny, Lathe, U.S. Patent
398,077 , granted Feb. 19, 1889.
6. Edward A. Cherry, Tool for Forming
Round Dowels and Rods, U.S. Patent
1,367,462 , granted Feb. 1, 1921; this is the
Stanley No. 77 Dowel and Rod Turner.
7. Abdul Aziz, Leonard G. Lee and Lloyd
Sevack, Dowel Maker, U.S. Patent
6,263,929 , granted Aug. 26, 2001; this is
the Lee Valley Veritas Dowel Maker.
8. Oscar H. Ordway, Dowel Making
Machine, U.S. Patent 603,965 , granted May
10, 1898.
9. George W. Davis, Dowel-Making Machine,
U.S. Patent 1,427,073 , granted Aug. 22,
10. 3 Kings 7:33 in Wycliffe's Bible.

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