How to choose a dowel

 
     
     
 Shop for Dowels 
     
     
 Laptop displaying Wonkee Donkee tools which a DIYer can visit to buy dowel rods and dowel pins for dowelling projects 

If you look at dowels in catalogues or on websites, you'll see a variety of different things listed, such as the species of wood the dowels have been made from and whether they're hard or soft wood. 

 
     
 Image asking what is important when choosing dowels? 

Having lots of information is great, but which of these pieces of information are important?

 
     
   

A matter of species

 
 Image showing a variety of different species of wood used in the creation of wooden dowels 

The type of tree that a wood was cut from is referred to as its 'species'. Examples of species include oak, ash, birch and cherry.

 
     
 Image of planks of beech wood which are frequently used to make dowel rods 

Dowels are most often made from hardwoods such as beech, poplar or mahogany.

 
     
 Pine wood used for making some varieties of dowel rod 

Softwoods, such as pine, can also be used.

 
     
 Image of a deciduous tree to illustrate where the hard woods that are used to create dowels come from 

What is the difference between hard and soft wood?

Timber that is cut from trees with leaves is known as 'hard' wood. These trees are referred to as deciduous trees, and lose their leaves in the winter.

 
     
 Image of an evergreen tree to illustrate where the soft woods that are used to create wooden dowels come from 

Timber that is cut from trees with needles is known as 'soft' wood. These trees are referred to as evergreen, as they keep their foliage all year round.

 
     
 Image of a Brettstapel pine wood construction showing how strong pine wood can be 

Softwoods are not always soft and supple - This is a common misconception. Some softwoods, such as pine, can be very strong.

 
     
 Planks of balsa wood 

On the other hand, balsa, one of the softest woods, is actually a 'hard' wood.

 
     
   

Density

 
 Image to remind readers what softwood and hardwood look like 

As the terms 'softwood' and 'hardwood' do not reflect the strength of a dowel, it's better to think about resilience in terms of density.

 
     
 Image of a highly dense molecular structure to illustrate the difference between high density and low density wood, which is important when choosing the type of wood used for your wooden dowels 

Density indicates how tightly packed the molecules in a material are.

 
     
 Image of polystyrene and lead as examples of high and low density materials 

For example, polystyrene has a low density and lead has a high density.

 
     
 A chair back that has been constructed with resilitent dowels so that it can support weight 

Dowels made from higher density wood will be more resistant to breakage and are therefore ideal for joints that need to hold weight. Examples of these include chair backs and shelves. 

 
     
 Image to show the most dense species of wood that are commonly used in dowelling which are oak beech and cherry 

The highest density woods commonly used in dowelling are oak, beech and cherry.

 
     
 Image to illustrate how density is measured in metric and imperial units 

As with most other measurements, density is indicated in both metric and imperial measurements. For example, beech wood has a density of between 0.7 and 0.9 g/cm(grams per cubic centimetre), which is equivalent to between 32 and 56 lb/ft3 (pounds per cubic foot).

 
     
   

Colour

 
 Dowel rods made from a variety of different woods in a variety of different colours 

Another factor in choosing which species of wood to use is colour.

 
     
 Image of a trunk that has been made with the dowels visible at the edge of the joint 

This will only be important if your dowels will be visible once the project is completed. If you will be using your dowels to make furniture joints then this becomes irrelevant, as your dowels will be hidden from view.

 
     
   Wonkee Donkee informs the DIYer that they're free to choose their own colour dowels! 
     
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