I remember joking with other woodworkers at guild meeting about "wouldn't it be nice to have some sort of a machine or jig that can give you perfect joints without a lot of fuss, that are super strong and precisely located" then I discovered the Dowelmax and it became my only joint-making tool for all the reasons I just listed.
I made this article and video to use as a reference for those new woodworkers who to know more about this tool can do, and for those experienced woodworkers as a reminder for new things they may not have thought about.
I often talk about this jig as the tool that changed my life in woodworking, and it's the truth. Before discovering this jig, like everyone else I made mostly mortise and tenon joints ... and hated it, I could never seem to get them to fit perfectly, the reveals were frequently not different thicknesses and they are tedious to make ... especially for something nobody ever sees except the woodworker because the mortise and tenon joints are buried and glued deep into the wood.
On one of my YouTube videos way back in 2014, I received feedback from viewers who suggested "can you make a video on doweling jigs?" A topic I had never covered and something I knew little about, so I did some investigation and finally settled on the Dowelmax Doweling Jig. When it first arrived, it didn't look all that complicated so rather than read the instruction manual I decided to made a couple of quick joints with it. In less than 5 minutes I was completely sold, it was easy to use; the jig was very accurate, which means consistency in joints, and without even testing I knew the joints would be at least equal in strength to the mortise and tenon joints I was making. THEN I read the manual and realized just how adaptable this jig was and from that point on, never looked back. I am happy to report my last mortise and tenon joint in long since behind me.
I need to state here that if you are currently making mortise and tenon joints, and you are having good success with them AND enjoy it, carry on doing that, always do what works best for you ... but if are like me and struggled with the process and time, the Dowelmax will solve your problem. Oh and by the way, don't bother to look for used ones, I have NEVER seen a used Dowelmax for sale ... anywhere ... I guess this is a statement for those who buy them, that they never give them up.
I do not sell them or even have an affiliate program for selling them at this time, they are available direct from the manufacturer who also has a small suite of quality re-sellers listed on their website where you can buy them - if interested, here is the link - https://www.dowelmax.com/
There are a few configurations of the jig but the most popular is the version with the 3/8" doweling guides, but you can also get 1/2", 5/16" and 1/4" and can switch from one to another simply by replacing the center block with a different guide size.
Most Common Use
Is the standard configuration where you create dowel holes in the edge of the wood by aligning the jig with the end of the board using your finger to align, or you could use a flat block of wood, either works fine.
By using the measuring gauge adapter, which comes with the doweling jig you can make super accurate dowel holes in the edges of boards to align them for glue ups. When I discovered this option, I abandoned my biscuit joint (which never gave me even tops) the Dowelmax takes a tiny bit more time to accomplish this, but what it saves later on in sanding, planing and jointing is well worth the effort.
Check out how flat the tops of those boards are, perfect alignment, and all that is needed is a wee bit of sanding, not planing, or jointing !!
And below is what the measuring gauge adapter looks like and how it is used. The blue tape is to help remind me which end of the rod I am using for measuring, which is particularly handy when the bar is near the middle.
Cabinet Making (and face edge use)
For me, the second most common use is is reconfiguring the jig to make face side holes the match the end holes so that I can make strong, accurate cabinets and use the dowels to align and hold the edges together. You can see in the picture how the side of the doweling jig has be re-set so it clamps the wood in order to make face side dowel holes.
Anyone making tables, dinning tables, coffee tables, end table, night tables and more, will appreciate how accurate the Dowelmax is when it comes to setting the "reveal" for how deep or shallow the inset the table skirt can be set. As you can see in the picture below, all it takes is releasing the thumb screws on the leading edge side of the jig and inserting either on of the pre-made aluminum shims, or making your own custom sized shim. Such an easy way to postion the skirting on all 4 legs so they are all perfectly aligned.
Picture Frame Making
Making picture frames is a very popular woodworking theme, with the Dowelmax you can easily use the 1/4" drill guide and use that for assembling your corners to make very strong picture frames and you can use pre-make picture frame material, or make your own.
45 Degree Edges
Making any furniture component using 45 degree corners has never been easier. With the optional 45 Degree plate. Just replace the leading edge flat plate with the 45 degree plate and you are that quickly in business for making accurate holes in 45 degree edges.
Anyone who is making cabinets will also be making doors from time to time and the Dowelmax allows you to make them a couple of ways. The first way, as shown directly below is to assemble the door as you need it, you could even glue it up or just clamp it together dry. The next step is to take your router or trim router with a rabbeting bit installed and set to the proper depths and height, and rout out the inside of the door. This works great for any wood or composite panel you are putting in. If you are wanting to insert glass, you may want to cut the corners to 45 degree with a chisel or knife.
The second and more traditional way to make doors is to rout out a dado on the inside of the door frames. The Rails (the horizontal pieces) you can rout through, end to end, but the Stiles (the vertical pieces) are best using the "stop" system on a route table using an up-twist, carbide 1/4" router bit. The stop and start of the cut is pre-set up on the router fence, then the stile is "plunged" on to the spinning router bit, then pulled slowly through the bit to the end stop.
The dowelmax is then used in it's standard configuration to drill dowel holes into the facing pieces. If you make sure you keep your face sides aligned in the jig the face of your cabinet frame will be perfectly aligned.
What's More ...
Yes there are even more uses for using the Dowelmax for specialty kinds of joints that I will not cover here because most of us will not use them, but if you have a dowelmax, you will figure them out for yourself pretty quickly.
Copyright Colin Knecht
- - Taylor Tools Affiliate Store - https://lddy.no/18zkg