Problem Solving Products: Issue 20Comments (0)
This article is from Issue 20 of Woodcraft Magazine.
Accurately Size Dowels in any Species
THE PRODUCT: Dowel Plate
MADE BY: Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, Inc.
WHAT IT DOES: Makes perfectly round, accurately sized dowels for plugs and accents
AVAILABLE AT WOODCRAFT: #823413
TESTER: John English
The dowel plate is a beautifully made, very simple tool that reflects the extraordinary quality that we have come to expect from Tom Lie-Nielsen. It is made from cryogenically treated tool steel, and is available in both inch and metric versions. Simply tap a slightly oversized dowel (it doesn’t have to be round) through one of the holes, and the result is a plug in any species that will accurately match a drilled hole, including a counterbored screw hole.
Included are the plate, a plastic storage bag, and some well-written instructions. The plate has two pre-drilled, countersunk holes that provide the option of permanently mounting it over a series of relief holes that you could drill in your bench as in Photo A, or it can be clamped in place for temporary use. If permanently mounted, it’s a good idea to mortise it flush into the benchtop.
In our test, the Dowel Plate made quick work of sizing dowels perfectly for plugs. It can also be used to cut precise tenons on parts such as chair spindles as shown in Photo B. It was immediately apparent that it would deliver plugs that precisely fit a Forstner bit drilled hole, with no voids for glue to escape and taint a finish.
The heavy steel plate is ¼" thick and measures 7 x 1½". Made from A2 tool steel that has been cryogenically treated (subjected to extremes of cold temperature to temper it), the plate has a perfectly ground and finished feel. The seven holes are machined straight for the first 0.025", and are then cut with a 6° taper on the underside. This provides a cutting edge on the top surface that pares the wood as in Photo C, and a relief below that reduces friction and allows the shearing action to take place as in Photo D. While it will probably never need to be sharpened (it rates at 60 on the Rockwell scale, which is pretty darn hard), the plate could theoretically be touched up by dressing the top surface with a series of waterstones. The inch version cuts dowels to 1/8, 3/16, ¼, 5/16, 3/8, ½ and 5/8" diameters.
The Dowel Plate is perfect for making plugs in contrasting species, and for sizing round tenons for a precise fit. In a pinch, it can be used to check the diameter of bolts, bars, and bits as shown in Photo E. Threaded bolts are marginally smaller than their nominal diameter, so they’re not so tight a fit that they will normally damage the plate.
The Dowel Plate is one of those tools that you could live without, but once used, you'll reach for it again and again. It elevates something as simple as plugging screw holes to an art, delivering the kind of precise results that mark the subtle difference between work and craftsmanship. The callouts are clearly engraved and large enough for eyes with a few miles on the odometer. This is a lifetime investment, and it comes with a guarantee from Lie-Nielsen that is good for the life of the tool.
Machinist Precision in the Woodshop
THE PRODUCT: Precision Triangle Set
MADE BY: Pinnacle Professional Quality Tools
WHAT IT DOES: Brings extreme accuracy to joinery and machine set-ups
AVAILABLE AT WOODCRAFT: #147623
TESTER: John English
Metalworkers don’t usually have the luxury of a fluff factor. Their work can’t often be sanded or trimmed to fit, so their layouts must be precise. The Precision Triangle Set from Pinnacle brings that kind of accuracy to the woodshop in the form of two extremely precise triangular squares. One is just 4½", which is perfect for storage in an apron pocket, and both will last a lifetime if properly cared for.
The Precision Triangle Set comes with an MDF protective holder that can be screwed to the shop wall. The two triangular squares are heavy duty (¼"-thick anodized aluminum), beautifully machined, coated with a durable black finish, and laser engraved in 1/16" increments. Also included are three knurled brass knobs (with plastic washers) that are used to hold the two squares together in their storage case.
With both 45° and 90° corners, the two squares are ideal for checking the accuracy of blades and machines Photo A. They are accurate to 1/1000", and the larger square is just the right size to check a table saw blade tilt, bandsaw tables, the positive stops on a mitersaw. The black finish is non-glare and easy on the eyes. The smaller square fits comfortably in an apron pocket and is ideal for checking drawers, casework and frames during assembly or glue-ups Photo B. But the real magic comes when the squares are used as a set. Using one of the knurled knobs to lock their position, they are ideal for transferring angles Photo C. With the ability to swing and lock into position, they make short work of scribing Photo D, especially when one of the holes is used to guide the pencil. And as layout tools they work well together to create a series of angles that includes 45°, 90°, 135° and 180° Photo E. As they are aluminum, they can be used on those occasions where a woodworker needs to work metal and uses a magnet to clean up filings.
Light, strong and extremely accurate, the Pinnacle Triangle Set is ideally suited to machine setups, drawings and layout work, and checking the accuracy of joints during assembly and glue-up.
These are rugged tools designed for a lifetime of use. I accidentally dropped the larger square on a tiled floor and was surprised to find no damage whatsoever (not even a scratch, let alone a dented corner). The squares are extremely flat, which means that the faces can be used to check things like the plane of a circular saw blade. The readouts are large enough for older eyes, and they show up really well against the black background.
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