Great Gear: Better Doweling

Traditional dowel joints have fallen out of favor for good reason. They are inherently weak in cross-grain installations due to minimal long-grain-to-long-grain mating glue surfaces. Miller Dowel Co. compensates for this problem with their unique stepped dowels. The fat end of the dowel provides the same sort of mechanical advantage that a nail or screw head does. This affords better purchase in the cross-grain joint member, while the skinny end offers a lot of long-grain contact for the connecting long-grain member. The center sections of the dowel are ribbed to better hold glue. 

Installation is simple. First drill a hole through the outside of the joint using a special, U.S.-made stepped drill bit. Then brush glue on the dowel and insert it, which is easily done due to the stepped shape. A few final taps will fully seat it, locking the adjoining pieces together. The main disadvantage is that the end of the installed dowel needs to be sanded and finished. That said, Miller dowels provide a great fix for broken wooden chairs and other items. The dowels are available in three sizes and four species of wood, including birch, oak, cherry, and walnut. 

—Ken Burton

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