Dowel rods vs. pre-cut dowels
It's possible to buy dowels in packs of pre-cut dowel pegs, or as longer rods that you can cut yourself, but which is better?
The features and benefits of both types of dowel are discussed below, but which will come out on top? Let battle commence!
Pre-cut dowels frequently come in packs of around 30 or more.
As these dowels are mass-produced by machine, all dowels in the same pack are accurately cut to the same dimensions.
The most common diameter of dowels are 6mm, 8mm and 10mm.
For more on dowel width, see:
Most pre-cut dowels come with grooves cut along their length, known as flutes.
As glue is used in dowel joints, these flutes fill with glue as the dowel pegs are hammered into the joint.
For more information on making joints, see:
The flutes allow for better glue distribution and therefore a stronger joint.
Pre-cut dowels can also come with spiral flutes...
...or spiral grooves.
In each case, the patterns cut into the dowels allow for improved grip and glue distribution. Strength tests on joints have shown that no particular pattern yields significantly better results than another.
In addition to the fluted sides, pre-cut dowels have chamfered ends.
This means that the corners have been cut off at a 45 degree angle.
Chamfered edges at the end of a dowel make it easier to insert into holes drilled into a piece of wood. This is because the chamfer reduces the size of the surface of the dowel that enters the hole.
Advantages and disadvantages of pre-cut dowels
Dowel rods are produced from a wide range of different wood species, giving you plenty of choice when it comes to colour.
These can be cut to any size using a saw or chisel, meaning they can be customised for use in joinery or other woodworking projects (such as fletchery or toy-making).
Dowel rods are useful when you only need a small number of dowels for a project, as pre-cut dowels tend to come in tubs of a certain number.
Once you cut off a piece of dowel rod, you are left with a shorter length of dowel, called a 'peg'.
This is the most basic form of dowel peg and comes without some of the advantages of pre-cut dowel pegs (see below).
There are no flutes or chamfers on these dowel pegs, which means there is no way for the glue to disperse around the outside of the dowel. This can compress the glue and cause the wood to crack.
Drilling a larger hole can help you to avoid this, but it will produce a weaker joint. This is because the dowel will not be flush with the sides of the hole and movement between the two pieces of wood will therefore be possible.
In extreme cases, this can also cause alignment problems.
Advantages and disadvantages of dowel rods