Dowel making

Machines and techniques used in dowel making. June 13, 2001

Can anyone advise me on the efficient production of doweling/pole making? I struggle with long lengths, around 6ft long by 2 inches in diameter. I own an Oliver lathe with saddle, 72 inch by 8 inch.

Forum Responses
True dowel making is not lathe work. An industrial dowel machine is actually simpler. It consists of a hollow chuck with cutting knives protruding inward, a motor, and some material guides fore and aft, and the mechanism is open-ended for infinite length dowels.

The beauty of this simple device is both consistency and speedy interchangeability of heads (1/4", 1/2", 2", etc). The best ones have feed devices, but hand feeding produces good results.

For massive amounts of dowels, manufacturers use wide moulders with the top head ground with half the dowel and the bottom head likewise. Pencil slats are made this way, sort of.

A moulder makes multiple dowels, side by side, to the max of its width capacity. The final bottom half round "gang" cutter parts each dowel by being ground slightly taller on the sides.

Two options come to mind:

1) Veritas tools (divison of Lee Valley) makes an affordable dowel maker that does 1/4" to 1" dowels.

2) If you need bigger diameter dowels, use the new timber framer's trick to mass-produce pegs on the lathe: set a router up on a sled sitting over the lathe at the precise radius of the dowel. Rotate the stock slowly in the lathe as you move the router down the stock.

Since you say you have a lathe and need 2" dowels, I think #2 should work for you.

Most larger dowels can be made easily on a moulder. As stated, multiples can be run. When running multiples, you are now required to run an anti-kickback device on the machine. This is simple enough to make.

Dave Rankin, forum technical advisor

You need to fabricate some sort of ring steady and mount it to your travelling tool carriage. There will have to be a pre-cutter, etc. I do dowels on my pattern lathe, and am the proud owner of a three inch (circumference, mind you) dowel of osage orange!

From the original questioner:
I think what I shall do is look out for a machine which is capable of producing dowel/poles, hopefully up to 8ft long, and up to 3 inches in diameter. I manufacture, among other things, architectural mouldings and have been asked to make curtain/ cornice poles. Spindling them out on my machine (Dankeart) is a little hairy, so I opted for the lathe.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
To produce a dowel of 1/2 or larger, a doweling machine is more economically feasible. Four adjustable cutter knives, traveling at 3800 RPNs "CAN" cut a 2 inch dowel at 180 feet a minute with a five thousands tolerance.