dowel-rods-vs-pre-cut-dowels

Dowel rods vs. pre-cut dowels

Shop for Dowels

Image showing dowel rods and dowel pins to illustrate the different kinds of dowels available for dowelling projects 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?
Image of boxing gloves to represent the battle for supremacy between dowel rods and dowel pins 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

Tub of pre-cut fluted dowel pins

Accuracy

Pre-cut dowels frequently come in packs of around 30 or more.

Machine used for cutting dowel rods into pins As these dowels are mass-produced by machine, all dowels in the same pack are accurately cut to the same dimensions.
Image of 6mm, 8mm and 10mm dowels which are considered the standard sizes in dowelling The most common diameter of dowels are 6mm, 8mm and 10mm.

For more on dowel width, see: What dowel sizes are available?

Pre-cut wooden fluted dowel pin

Flutes

Most pre-cut dowels come with grooves cut along their length, known as flutes.

Image to show how the flutes in pre-cut dowel pins allow glue to move through the joint 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: How to use dowels to make wooden joints

Testing the strength of a dowel joint by standing on it The flutes allow for better glue distribution and therefore a stronger joint.
Image to show spiral fluting on a pre-cut dowel pin, which allows for improved glue distribution Pre-cut dowels can also come with spiral flutes…
Wooden dowel pins cut with spiral grooves to help prevent hydraulic pressure from cracking the wood surface during the dowelling process …or spiral grooves.
Image to show that all kinds of grooves and flutes in dowels work equally well 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.
Image of a dowel rod with a chamfered end

Chamfered ends

In addition to the fluted sides, pre-cut dowels have chamfered ends.

Diagram to explain what a chamfer is in dowelling and other woodworking and engineering projects This means that the corners have been cut off at a 45 degree angle.
DIYer inserting dowels into a pre-drilled workpiece 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

Image to indicate advantages and disadvantages
ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
  • Uniform width and length, so no need to measure or cut dowels
  • Chamfered edges for ease of insertion into drill holes
  • Fluted or grooved to allow for improved glue distribution
  • Unsuitable for projects that require longer lengths of dowel
  • More restrictive in terms of choice of species of wood

Dowel rods

Dowel rods made from a variety of different species of wood

Customisation

Dowel rods are produced from a wide range of different wood species, giving you plenty of choice when it comes to colour.

DIYer sawing a dowel rod to size 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).
A handful of dowels for use in a woodworking project 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.
A dowel peg cut from a dowel rod

‘Plain’ dowels

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).

Wood that has cracked due to hydraulic pressure created through inserting a dowel with no glue hole into a dowel hole and pressurising the glue 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.
Image of a badly aligned dowel which is a result of drilling a hole too wide and overcompensating for the amount of glue used 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

Image to indicate advantages and disadvantages
ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
  • Customisable to produce dowel pins of any size
  • Come in a variety of wood species and colours
  • Useful in toy-making, fletching and other woodworking projects
  • No chamfered edges or fluting unless you cut them yourself
  • Uniformity of length is not guaranteed
Wonkee Donkee recommends using pre-cut dowel pegs for joinery