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Tips for Using a Stepped Dowel System

Guest Rorke Miller shares simple tips for using and creating a stepped dowel system as opposed to traditional dowels.

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creating stepped dowel system

Traditional pin dowels work well in edge joining, but aren't good for pegging or pin joining. A stepped dowel is used in conjunction with a stepped drill bit to create a very specific pilot hole for the dowel. The wide head of the stepped dowel allows it to work in cross grain, thus relieving one of the shortcomings of traditional dowels.

Using a Stepped Dowel

  • Use a stepped drill bit to drill a pilot hole through the two boards that will be joined. A mark on the drill bit will show how far to drill the pilot hole to leave the dowel slightly proud.

  • Remove all the chips from the hole.

  • Cover the ribbed sections of the dowel in glue before inserting into the boards. The ribbed sections take the glue all the way into the pilot hole.

  • Insert the dowel 3/4" of the way into the hole, then hammer into place. Once in the hole, the dowel expands like a biscuit or pressed pin dowel.

  • Cut off the head with a flush cut saw or chisel. The stepped dowel system sets instantly.

Stepped dowels can be used in melamine and MDF as well as a variety of woods. The dowels themselves are available in different wood varieties. They also come in different sizes for use with 1/2" and 1-1/2" stock.

With wooden dowels, a router can be run along the edge of the board after making the joint, which is not possible with screws or nails. Stepped dowels can also be used to take the place of screws in decking.