The 5 Best Dowel Jigs Reviews 2018 With Buying Tips
Dowel Jigs are one of the most simple and useful tools a woodworker can use. While a lot of craftspeople make their own jigs, this is often for self-satisfaction or to save money.
Homemade wooden jigs are ok for your own workshop, but if you make a lot of dowels, and not just for your own home, you can buy a high specification aluminum jig which will last you a lifetime for not a great deal of money.
There is quite a range on the market, so here to help you choose is our review of the best dowel jigs on the market.
Table Of Contents
- Top Picks Of Best Dowel Jigs 2018 Reviews
- How to pick the right dowel jig
- How To Use Dowel Jigs
- Final Note
Top Picks Of Best Dowel Jigs 2018 Reviews
1. Eagle America 445-7600 Professional Wide Capacity Self-Centering Dowel Jig
First up is a jig from the trusted Eagle America brand. Priced at somewhat the higher end of the market, this piece of kit is rock solid and will give you confidence to cut perfect dowel holes to make great dowel joints every time.
The adjustable screws mean this jig can handle widths of between ¼” and six inches thick.
Its design takes away the worry of having to measure your material to make sure the dowel holes are centered; the mechanism does this for you.
The jig can handle flat or rounded surfaces, so you can drill dowel holes in table legs as easy as shelving frames. Its aluminum plate won’t rust, keeping the calibration exact and ensuring this jig should last a lifetime.
2. Wolfcraft 3751405 Dowel Pro Doweling Kit
A great two piece offering from Wolfcraft, this dowel jig kit is superb value for money and very versatile. Made from cast aluminum, it stands out from other kits due to its unique design; do not let that put you off.
Most jig kits have two plates which grip the workpiece on either side and let you work in the middle.
The moving parts in this jig are configured to work in a slightly different way. For a start, there are only three holes in the downward facing part of the jig; but it has an upright with an extra hole which works in conjunction with this.
Used with the other piece of the jig, you can create T joints, edge to edge and corner joints. Very impressive once you learn how to use it.
3. Task Premium Doweling Jig
A high specification dowel jig from Task, this piece of equipment is designed and manufactured to be very tough and still work perfectly every time.
Its clamping plates are made from the highest grade aluminum with steel plating.
This not only means the jig will last a very long time, these plates will grip the workpiece smoothly and securely while in use.
The design includes lines which mark the centre of the hole, and the jig itself is self-centering. It is so well designed and made that you will be able to drill perfect dowel holes the first time you use it and every time after that. For an indestructible, consistently excellent dowel jig, this really takes some beating.
4. Grizzly G1874 Improved Dowel Jig
This Grizzly dowel jig is quite expensive for what it offers. Having said that, it does what a good jig should, and is versatile and tough. The jig is self-centering, and the plates are tall enough to cope with rounded as well as flat surfaces for drilling into.
Compared to other jigs, this one can only grip material up to a width of two inches.It has five drill holes, from ¼” through to ½”, but again this is pretty much standard compared to other, cheaper jigs.
Its markings are not as helpful as they could be, either, not always extending to the edge of the jig where they would be really useful.
The screws look nice but are not as well manufactured as those on other jigs, meaning that the self-centering feature does not work with absolute accuracy.
5. Rockler Dowl-it 1000 Self-centering Doweling Jig
Rockler has produced this dowel jig which, by its price, seems to be aimed at the higher end of the market. Like other good jigs, it is solidly made, well designed and easy to use.
The plates grip excellently, and it has the old fashioned look of traditional, trustworthy tooling, maybe from a pioneer hardware store. On the plus side, this jig has six drilling diameters, from 3/16” to ½”.
This is at least one more option than with other jigs. It also comes with a box of wooden dowels to help get you started.
Perhaps on the downside, it has a maximum grip capability of two inches. This is standard with some dowel jigs, but very limited compared to other models, some of which are quite a bit cheaper.
How to pick the right dowel jig
If you have not tried one before, using a dowel jig can be quite daunting. Maybe even the thought of making your own dowels is something you're not sure of. One thing can lead to another, however; if you do your research and pick the right dowel jig, you will find you have the confidence to take on more and more dowelling jobs.
Without a doubt, if you have the skill and confidence to make dowel joints, you could save yourself a fortune in bought window frames, shelving and a huge number of other wood products. When you think about it, buying flat pack furniture means using dowels; imagine if you could make your own furniture.
With that in mind, here are some pointers to picking the right dowel jig:
A lot of dowel jigs come with certain features as standard, and it is only when you are confident in using one that you will appreciate what some of them are for. If you are an experienced carpenter well used to making dowel joints, by definition you will know better what to look out for.
There are many different types of join you can make with dowel jigs. This can involve joining two or more pieces of varying shapes. For instance, you may want to use a dowel to join a curved leg to a flat table. In order to make sure the holes for your dowel line up correctly, you need to know what your jig can do.
Self centering is one of the most useful features on a dowel jig. This ingenious process means the two plates of the jig grip the workpiece with the boring hole exactly halfway between them. This saves you having to measure up and divide by two, something made much harder when working on a curved surface.
With many companies making dowel jigs, you will find that some live up to their advertised usefulness better than others. This is down to both the design and manufacture. While dowel jigs can differ in design, quality of manufacture must always be paramount.
This is important for more than one reason; not just because you want to make sure you get a quality product for your money.
Aluminum is the metal used most in making jigs, as it does not rust and is therefore long lasting. But some jigs have thicker plates which are better milled for a smoother grip, and they come in slightly different profiles. This is not always obvious and may be something you want to watch for.
A vital part of the manufacture of jigs is the accuracy of their measurement functions. As we have seen, some self centering jigs do not actually center as they should. Even 1/64” out of true can cause big problems when making dowels fit properly.
Then there is the accuracy and usefulness of the calibrations on the sides and tops of the jigs. These need to be cut into the metal with absolute accuracy and should go all the way to the edge of the plates.
How To Use Dowel Jigs
Once you've decided to use dowel joints (well done you!), here are the steps to take:
1) Measure the thickness of the pieces you want to join. While it is possible to use tapered dowels, generally the dowel peg with being the same with at one end as the other. If one of your pieces is narrower than the other, make sure you will not weaken it by drilling a dowel hole more than half its width.
2) After finding the right diameter for the joint, set your jig to that specification.
3) Whatever size dowel you are using will need to fit completely in both pieces. Divide the length of the peg by two and add 1/16”. Set the depth of your drill to this depth.
4) Cut small grooves down the length of the dowel to allow glue to escape.
5) Line up the pieces you want to join. Mark the distance from the edge of the piece you will be placing your dowel. This should be 1/4” from either edge. You may need another dowel in between these two if the join is more than 6” wide.
6) Using the marks you have made, clamp the piece into the jig, aligning it under the appropriate sized boring hole. Repeat for each position you have marked.
7) With these holes cut, insert doweling centers into them to mark the second workpiece. These will mark the exact places to drill your next set of holes, making sure the two sets line up perfectly.
8) Take your first piece out of the jig and carefully position the edge with the centers over the second piece. Press down so that these mark the material.
9) Using these marks, insert the second workpiece into the jig and drill out these holes.
10) Once you have both sets of holes drilled, glue the dowels in place, clamp and leave to set.
Dowel joints are very strong, durable and invisible. They are one of the oldest methods of woodworking and also very satisfying to make.
Dowel jigs might look complicated, but once you have the hang of them they are superb tools if they are made well. The accuracy you can achieve is amazing. With practice, the design features of jig sets will come into their own and you will be looking for new things to make, or old things to make better.
We hope our round up of the best dowel jigs available has helped make your mind up.