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Resurrecting the dowel joint
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 10-29-2008
The dowel joint was universally considered strong and beautiful in all forms of woodworking for a hundred years or so. Though it was always an exceptionally strong joint, the difficulty in making it correctly caused hordes of woodworkers to opt for other, easier to create forms of joinery. Now, the Joint-Genie is putting this traditional form of joinery solidly in the repertoire of even novice woodworkers.
The Joint-Genie is so accurate and easy to use because it is so well designed and manufactured. Made from high quality steel, the Joint-Genie body is precisely machined with equally spaced drill guide holes as well as countersunk holes for screws that can be used to secure the Joint-Genie to the wood.
The array of drill guide holes makes it easy to install the number or pattern of dowels you need for your job. The drill guide holes are precisely sized for the drill bit to insure accurate and straight holes for the dowels. The Joint-Genie is available in both metric and Imperial versions. The Imperial versions (1/4" & 3/8") were used in this review.
The Joint-Genie is aligned with the wood using three sets of "leaves", a single leaf on the end and two multi-leaf sets on the side of the body. Each multi-leaf set has four 1/16"-thick leaves and one 1/8"-thick. Using whatever combination of leaves necessary allows centering the Joint-Genie on a wide range of material thicknesses. They also can be set to align two rows of dowels on very thick stock. A single (5/32"-thick) leaf at the end makes sure you drill the dowel holes in the same place on the end of both pieces to be joined. This is an exceptionally simple system that works very well - and it is very fast. Also, the leaves are mounted with finger-operated hardware so you can reposition them wherever needed in the line of holes provided along the side of the Joint-Genie body. The leaves are sturdy enough that they are used to clamp the Joint-Genie in place for drilling.
In addition to the leaf system, the side of the Joint-Genie can be aligned with a layout line and secured with screws. This means you can create angled dowel joints easily and accurately. You can also drill very long lines of dowel holes by drilling the first set and then using a piece of dowel to register the Joint-Genie for drilling another set. That process can be continued as long as you need. The end of the Joint-Genie body also has a threaded hole that allows adding a threaded rod to space the body over larger surfaces such as locating a piece on sheet goods. These alignment features make using the Joint-Genie on the ends, edges, wide faces as well as the ends of mitered joints simple, fast and repeatable!
The Joint-Genie kits come with the correct sized drill bit, fully adjustable depth-stop collar and the necessary hex wrench for installing the collar. Everything is well made, fits correctly and works as expected. The only things they don't supply are the dowels themselves. That's probably a good thing because if they did, everyone would complain about the price!
In the Shop
Using the Joint-Genie is remarkably simple. The leaf system really does make aligning the body simple and repeatable. The only thing to remember is that the leaves have to go on the same face of the boards being joined to maintain perfect alignment. With just a little familiarity with the Joint-Genie (and marking the faces...) this becomes second nature.
I am always suspect of drilling jigs that are designed to be used with hand-held drills. The body of the Joint-Genie is deep enough and the holes sufficiently close-fitting to keep the drill bit going straight so the dowels and pieces of wood actually line up properly when assembled.
I used the Joint-Genie to create all sorts of dowel joints that I never had much luck with in the past and all of them came out perfect. The really impressive things about the Joint-Genie are how easily it works and how automatic the accuracy is. Follow the simple directions and you get strong, perfectly aligned dowel joints without the tension, ruined parts and foul language. In every case, the Joint-Genie was easy to use and produced the expected joints very quickly.
The Joint-Genie is an easy to use, well made tool that puts the traditional, high-strength dowel joint within reach of even the newest of woodworkers. The versatile design of the Joint-Genie means it is useful in a huge number of project types which makes it an even more useful tool that will retain its importance to your woodworking forever. Maybe a little longer. Also, once you purchase the Joint-Genie, there are no on-going expenses. You can use any properly (standard) sized drill bits and dowel stock and there is nothing on the Joint-Genie itself that will wear out.
The Joint-Genie is available in a number of set configurations, priced from $129.99 to $199.99 (10-29-2008) and are available only from Joint-Genie at present. They now have web sites in England and the US to simplify shipping and purchasing. See the links below for those sites.
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