Doweling pieces of wood together makes one of the strongest joints in woodworking. Drilling these holes by hand can leave the dowels off center and/or crooked at the same time. If you’re an “all natural” kind of guy, or you’re lucky enough to have that client who insists that no levels or squares are to be used in his project, then drill away. For most of us, we’re not so lucky and this method won’t fly. We need a hole that is centered on our stock and perpendicular to the face we are drilling. Not unlike Prince William and Catherine, these two pieces of wood need to marry to each other to form that long lasting bond we all need and crave. Since our budget may not be in the same stratosphere as Billy and Katie, what do we do?
Self Centering Doweling Jig
Enter the self centering doweling jig. Many different models are out there to choose from. Different jigs can handle thicknesses all the way up to 6”. So depending on your particular application there’s a right jig for you. A very simple and inexpensive jig is the H3094 Centering Jig from Grizzly Industrial, Inc.
It can handle stock up to 1-3/8” thick and comes with different size drill bushings to handle hole sizes from 1/32” up to 3/8”. Holding the jig by hand, you straddle the wood with the two guide pegs and twist the jig so both pegs hit the wood. Carefully drill the hole without binding on the bushing and there you have it, a perfectly centered hole.
Tip for Storing Jig Bushings
Here’s a tip: take the extra bushings and put them in an empty (duh!) pillbox. You can see what’s in the pillbox so no labeling required, and the loose bushings won’t roll around your tool box and get lost.
A Doweling Jig for Thicker Stock
For thicker stock, The Self Centering Doweling Jig for Thick Timbers from Rockler uses a clamping system to center your hole while holding itself in place at the same time. Let’s say you’re building some outdoor stuff that uses 4 x 4’s and 2 x 4’s – gates, picnic tables, trellises, pergolas, things like that. The Rockler jig’s sturdiness allows holes up to ½” to be drilled with great accuracy. This is more pricey (about $65) than the hand held from Grizzly but still affordable without asking the Queen for a loan.
If you get your jig from Grizzly or Rockler, you’re guaranteed to have something the royal couple doesn’t have. At least not yet. I’m thinking of sending one to them.