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Modern, attractive doweling the easy way
Text & Photos by Tom Hintz
Doweling has been around as long as there have been woodworkers. In recent decades, the advent of powered machines, better adhesives and developing mechanical joinery options, the popularity of doweling has suffered. The Miller Dowel system, which includes a purpose-designed drill bit, is a modern way of looking at this technique.
The Dowels & Drill
The stepped design of the Miller Dowels makes them easier to install than a straight (smooth or ribbed) wooden dowel. Where a straight dowel is snug from the start, the Miller Dowel locks into the hole in the final stages of insertion.
Though Miller Dowels look tapered, they really are a series of straight steps connected by a 45-degree taper that increases their strength. The ribs give glue multiple places to grab meaning that once set, Miller Dowels will have to be drilled or cut out. There will be no loosening or creeping years down the road.
The specially designed TruFit™ drill bit, one for each dowel size, bores perfectly shaped holes that maximize the contact area while making installation a matter of insert and tap with a hammer to seat fully.
Sizes and Woods
Miller Dowels are available in three sizes. 1X handles woods up to 1 1/8"-thick, 2X works with up to 1 5/8"-thick wood and the Mini-X size is for the popular ½"-thick (3/4"-max) used in small projects and drawers.
In addition to the sizes, Miller Dowels come in Birch, Cherry, Red & White Oak, Ipe, Purple Heart, Teak, Mahogany, Black Locust and Black Walnut. The range of species allows matching the dowels to most woods and introducing a contrasting wood to just about any project.
In the Shop
Using the Miller Dowel System is relatively straight forward. The only trick is drilling the hole in the right place and drilling it straight. If you can handle those chores, you can install Miller Dowels.
The TruFit™ bit drills easily and seems to track very true. If aimed in the right direction, there are no surprises. It also cuts well, leaving a nice clean edge on the hole.
After brushing on a light coat of glue, the Miller dowels can be pushed into the hole and then tapped home with a mallet. They seat easily but have enough friction to keep them from coming out before the glue dries.
Trim the excess off and sand the Miller dowels flat, as with any dowel or plug and the job is ready for finishing.
The Miller Dowel kits which include a supply of dowels and the TruFit™ drill bit run between $22.99 for the Mini-X size and $29.99 for the same kit in the 2X size. (1-20-2006). Dowels are available in various sized packs and species, ranging in price from about 1 ½-cents each to 3 ½-cents per-dowel. Better prices may be available that I have not seen.
The cost and effort, little as they may be, mean Miller Dowels will not replace brad nailers anytime soon. However, they do offer a clever way to add strength and visual appeal to many joints. Whether you are matching or adding contrast, installing Miller Dowels in high-visibility joints can enhance a project for pennies with loess effort than drilling and installing conventional dowels.
Visit the Miller Dowel web site for more information, projects ideas and more - Click Here
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