Buyer's Guides Dowel Jigs

Best Dowel Jigs for Beginners and Pros:2020 Buyer’s Guide

dowel jig installation

The best dowel jig is a great tool to have on hand and it’s often considered indispensable for most woodworking projects, including furniture. There are dozens of models out there, which can make it difficult to determine which models are worth the money. If you shop online, this problem gets even worse, since manufacturers usually inflate their products quality and capabilities. However, I believe that online shopping should be a frustration-free and easy experience, which is why I’ve tested out several of the top selling models and put together a buyer’s guide that will teach you about these invaluable tools, how they work and what features you should look for. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each of the six models that landed on my best-of list, their top features, and how they rated.

Dowel Jig Comparison Chart

ProductSelf-CenteringBushingsMaterialRating
Joy Tube Dowel Jig

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Yes6Alluminum/Iron
AUTOTOOLHOME Doweling Jig

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Yes6Aluminum/Steel
Waricaca Dowel Jig

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No6Aluminum
Joywayus Dowel Jig

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Yes6Alluminum
Ruitool Dowel Jig

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Yes3Plastic
POWERTEC 71496 Dowel Drilling Jig

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No2Acrylic Steel

Joy Tube Dowel Jig


Our Rating: (5/5)

This dowel jig features drill bushings that utilize premium material that’s durable, sturdy, and corrosion resistant. This model is highly adjustable and is able to clamp onto different thicknesses of wood boards ranging from ten millimeters to fifty-five millimeters. The self-centering feature makes creating different types of wood pin joints effortless. This model is also very accurate, especially compared to other models of dowel jigs in this price bracket. You’ll notice no gaps or offset, which is a huge plus for beginners. Additionally, the jig’s fixture bolts provide excellent threads.

Pros

  • Beginner friendly
  • Highly adjustable
  • No offset or gaps
  • Very accurate

Cons

  • Does not come with instructions
  • Arrives out of box with drilling block off center

Conclusion

This model is built tough and consists of an aluminum alloy and iron design that helps to reduce weight, while improving durability. The tool is highly accurate, easy to use, and is a total asset in any woodworking workshop. If you’re looking for a more versatile model, one that can easily handle a wide range of woodworking projects, this model is it.

AUTOTOOLHOME Doweling Jig


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This top of the line woodworking dowel jig is self-centering and designed to create different wood pin joints, effortlessly. Six hardened steel bushings are included:

  • 2-1/4 inch
  • 2-3/8 inch
  • 2-5/16 inch

This model can handle drill sizes that are:

  • ½ inch
  • 7/16 inch
  • 3/8 inch
  • 5/16 inch
  • ¼ inch

It also offers accurate positioning. The included fixture bolts offer excellent threads, providing bushes of a variety of sizes. Now, you can quickly drill several accurate holes, effortlessly. This model can handle making dowel pins that require exact alignment and precise right angles. You won’t have to worry about calculating or measuring. The jig is made out of aircraft grade aluminum, which is durable, lightweight, and corrosion resistant.

Pros

  • Made out of aircraft grade aluminum
  • Easy to use
  • Highly adjustable
  • Accurate

Cons

  • Can slip easily when tightened

Conclusion

The jig’s self-centering action will allow up to two-and-a-half-inch square or round stock. Users can drill a couple of identical parallel holes without having to move the jig, due to the five standard SAE drill boring sizes. These hole sizes are laser etched into the tool, for accurate, fast use. This model is designed to last, featuring a large steel clamping screw that tightens the jig just like a vise, complete with aluminum sides that will securely hold the workpiece in place, without damaging it. This model is highly adjustable, easy to use, and a tool you’ll find yourself relying on often.

Waricaca Dowel Jig


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This model by Waricaca can handle bushing sizes: ½ inch, 7/16”, 3/8”, 5/16”, in addition to three different drilling sizes of 3/8”, 5/16”, and ¼”. The jig is made out of aluminum alloy materials, which is considered more stable compared to steel. It’s also corrosion resistant. The tool offers accurate positioning and comes equipped with fixture bolts that provide excellent threads. The different bushing sizes allow for convenient, simple, and precise drilling, so positioning will be more accurate, without any gaps or offset.

Pros

  • Includes six bushings
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Three different drilling sizes
  • Made out of lightweight aluminum alloy

Cons

  • Center must be adjusted before use

Conclusion

This is a tool that offers accurate positioning, six hardened steel bushings, and a self-centering feature which makes this model easier to use and very beginner friendly. It’s also reasonably priced and durable to boot. This tool comes loaded with all the right features that the beginner and advanced woodworker needs for a wide range of projects.

Joywayus Self Centering Dowel Jig


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This jig earned top marks in a variety of areas. Not only is it beginner friendly and simple to use, but it’s also available at a price that’s affordable. This model can drill hole sizes at: ½”,7/6”, 3/8”, 5/16”, and ¼”. The jig is highly adjustable and can be clamped on boards ranging from 3/8” to 2” thick. This type of versatility and quick operation makes this woodworking task convenient and simple. The jig itself is made out of aluminum alloy and die steel. It’s incredibly strong and features the type of high hardness you need in a jig that you’ll use often.

Pros

  • Can drill five sizes
  • Highly adjustable
  • Low price
  • Can be clamped on boards ranging from 3/8” thick up to two inches thick

Cons

  • Issues with accuracy

Conclusion

The jig is built tough, is highly adjustable, and it’s simple to use. If the drilling block is off center, it can easily be adjusted, simply use an Allen wrench to loosen all of the screws, adjust the large rod located in the middle and move the drilling block to the proper position. Once adjusted, the right and left screws can be tightened. Next, you’ll twist and rotate the rod to determine whether the right and left distances are consistent. If they are, then this means that the block is centered. In some cases, these steps will need to be repeated until the drill block is centered correctly. That’s it. This type of smooth, fast centering process is exactly what many woodworkers are looking for. This model is affordable, easy to use, durable, and can handle heavy-duty use, whether the jig is for your own personal woodworking projects or you need a model for work purposes.

Ruitool Dowel Jig


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This is a self-centering dowel jig that comes with three sizes of hardwood dowel pins, complete with chamfered ends, which will add strength to any joint, and a clean finish. This model can handle making doweled corners, surface joints, and edges, accurately and quickly. The kit comes with wood dowel pins, drill bits, and other jig accessories, such as three drill stoppers, a hex key wrench, one drill guide, six pin center punches, three wood drills, and a carrying case.

Pros

  • Carrying case
  • Three drill stoppers
  • Sixty dowel pins
  • Durable
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Dowel jig is made out of plastic

Conclusion

This is a great starter set for the new woodworker in search of a dowel jig that’s easy to use and one that’s highly adjustable and very accurate. This model comes with everything the new woodworker needs to get started, including sixty dowel pins in a variety of sizes, three drill stoppers, and a self-centering design that will make your work fast and easy.

POWERTEC 71496 Dowel Drilling Jig


Our Rating: (4/5)

This dowel jig by Powertec allows for easy, fast, precise dowel joint assembly. This model’s drill guide will ensure accurately centered and placed drill holes in stock that’s ¼” to ½” thick. The included premium M35 drill bit has been precision machined for clean and fast drilling action. This model’s body features a couple of guide holes, which are located ¾” on center. It also comes with an integrated guide plate that’s made out of hardened, clear acrylic steel, which makes it easier to view your work as you go. The included Allen wrench and stop collar will help you make more precise and uniform dowel-hole depths.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Includes M35 drill bit
  • Low price
  • Guide plate is made out of transparent acrylic steel

Cons

  • Not very accurate

Conclusion

The manufacturer claims this model can help users make perfect dowel holes, however, while this model is a big seller, many users have complained about how inaccurate the jig really is, which can make it a poor choice for the beginner who doesn’t know how to correct this issue. While the jig itself is fairly easy to use, the fact that it’s not very accurate may cause some potential buyers to pass this model on by for another model with a better accuracy rating.

Dowel Jig Buyer’s Guide

For the past several years, the dowel jig has been an integral part of woodworking. It’s an effective and discreet way to strengthen joints where a nail cannot go. This job is often time-consuming and complicated without the use of a dowel jig, which is why it’s crucial for every woodworker to have access to a top of the line model. Below, you’ll find a list of the benefits that come with adding one of these tools to your woodworking arsenal and how a dowel jig can be used.

Benefits of Dowel Jigs

dowel jig and screws

  • When you use a dowel jig, there’s no need for nails, screws or other equipment.
  • Using a dowel jig ensures a neat finish
  • Dowling is considered a fast and simple process
  • Dowel joints are considered the toughest types of joints for woodworking, especially if there are multiple rows of dowels.
  • A doweling is a technique that’s used in woodworking where a couple of wood pieces are attached by a wooden pin or dowel. In the pieces of wood, a pile is carved where the dowel goes.
  • Dowel joints remove the need for hardware, which helps to reduce the type of injuries that often occur when working with hardware. However, it can also help to give a finished project a clean look since there’s no disruption to the grain pattern.
  • You’ll not only get a beautiful finish, but a strong joint. The pin runs inside of the wood, improving joint strength. This level of strength is much better than what you’ll get from using nails or wood glue to attach the wood.
  • A dowel joint is used in a flat or right angle because it’s the best choice for complex joints. The dowel joints can be used in metal work and concrete construction.

Must-Have Features

Below, I’ll go over the important features to look for in a new dowel jig, how these features impact quality and performance, and how to pick out the perfect dowel jig based on application and your woodworking needs.

Bushing Size

The bushing size will determine what types of jobs you can do, so it’s important to ensure you purchase a model that supports the type of projects you normally complete. If you’re doing the same types of connections in the same type of wood frequently, then you won’t need a dowel jig that’s versatile. On the other hand, if you’re not sure which types of jobs you’ll be doing in the future, then you’ll want to buy a model that features a variety of bushing sizes so you can move forward with the next job without having to purchase a new dowel jig. The most common three size options include:

  • 3/8-inch
  • 5/16-inch
  • ¼-inch

These sizes will be sufficient for most jobs, but if you’re working with very small or very large pieces of wood then you may need to invest in a dowel jig that’s smaller or larger than these standard sizes.

Centering

Getting a dowel centered is crucial to getting a good looking, strong, and flush connection. If the dowel is off center, then you’ll run the risk of splitting the wood or you may get a connection that isn’t flush, which means that you will be forced to take it apart and redo the pieces or sand down the edges. This can be a very time-consuming and expensive mistake to correct, so be sure you invest in a jig that makes centering the dowels a fast and simple task.

Many models are advertised as self-centering. This basically means that they use a screw to draw both sides of the jig toward the board as the user tightens it. Essentially, this results in the hole centered perfectly, however, there are some problems with this process. Any manufacturing flaws that impact the thickness of the two sides can result in the sides meeting the wood at the wrong angle. This will throw the alignment off. Additionally, holes that are not correctly drilled in the jig itself can lead to a similar problem.

Materials

The type of materials the dowel jig is made out of matters. Aluminum is one of the most common materials used due to its intrinsic strength combined with its light weight, which will make it easy to haul around and attach to wood. Unfortunately, aluminum has a major flaw. Untreated surfaces are often vulnerable to rust and corrosion. The surface may be treated to address this issue; however, most manufacturers do not use a corrosion resistant coating on their dowel jigs.

Basically, you can either spend a little more and get a steel-plated model or take special care of an untreated aluminum jig. Steel resists corrosion much better than aluminum does, however, its weight and price prevent it from being a good material for the entire jig. A surface that’s steel-plated is corrosion-resistant and durable, so the value of the jig increases with this type of design.

Versatility

How versatile a dowel jig is depends on a couple of factors; the number of connections it can create and its capacity. The top jigs offer a massive capacity of six inches or more. This will give the user the ability to do a wide range of projects. On the other side of the spectrum, smaller jigs allow you to work with smaller pieces of wood as thin as ¼-1/2 an inch. If you plan on working with wood that small, be sure the dowel jig you purchase is able to clamp down small enough.

You should also consider the types of connections the jig is able to make. The three most common connection types include:

  • Edge to surface
  • Edge to corner
  • Edge to edge

Unfortunately, not every jig can support those types of connections.

Accuracy

dowel jig set

One of the most underrated features in a jig is accuracy. The ability to self-center is only part of the equation. If the holes for the woodworker’s bushings have been drilled incorrectly, then this will be a major problem. The inability to insert the bushings will be a hassle, however, there’s a chance that the woodworker can drill them out larger, using a drill press. Regardless, that can be a pain and one that the woodworker shouldn’t have to deal with if they’re spending a good amount of money on a jig.

Additionally, if the bushings are too loose, then it can be difficult to get an accurate hole. Even a small gap can be a big problem, so it’s always smart to invest in a dowel jig that doesn’t have these types of issues. Another common problem is the holes for the bushings are loose enough, but they’re too tight for simple operation. The bushings can get stuck or the head can even break off, which leaves the woodworker with a ruined bushing and a ruined jig.

Price

Dowel jigs will vary in features and price. These tools range from non-adjustable, simple $10 models, to $300 multi-adjustable jigs. Under $50 you can find a self-centering model that comes with removable drill guide bushings and can be used for most doweling jobs. You’ll also need a bullet-point or brad-point drill bit to match the jig bushings. You can easily find a dowel jig that will work for your budget, just be sure to invest in the right tool, one that comes with the features you need for your future woodworking projects.

The Right Dowel Jig

There’s no right model for everyone. You’ll need to look for a jig that meets all of your project needs. These needs tend to vary from person to person, so there’s no single model that will work for everyone. The best way you can get the most value out of your jig is to consider exactly what you’re going to be doing with your new jig, the common type of wood thicknesses you work with, the type of projects, and the type of connections. Once you’ve figured this out, then you’ll have a list of needs that can make it easier to choose a dowel jig that’s right for you and your future projects. After you’ve searched for models that meet your criteria, you can create a shortlist of models and purchase one that works with your budget. This way, you’ll get the capability you need from a new jig, at a price that’s reasonable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are screws Stronger than Dowels?

Most woodworkers can agree that dowel joints are stronger than screw joints. The increased glued surface that’s caused by glue that deeply penetrates the wood will give a dowel more holding power. A screw can easily strip out this type of material, while a dowel will not strip when the joint is set in glue.

What are the Disadvantages of a Dowel Joint?

A dowel joint requires more time to create compared to mortise and tenon joints. It also involves the use of doweling, so for beginners, using this type of joint can be pretty complicated.

Which is Stronger Dowels or Pocket Holes?

Traditional joints tend to be much stronger than pocket holes. A dowel joint is actually 1.5 times stronger than a pocket hole joint.

Do Dowels Need Glue?

If a dowel fits their hole snugly, the way they should, then glue that’s placed on the dowels will end up being scraped outwards along the dowels when they’re inserted. Because of this, you should apply glue in the dowel holes only.

How Much Weight can a Dowel Hold?

Studies have shown that a one-inch dowel can handle three thousand to four thousand pounds.

Are Dowels Necessary?

Just clamping and gluing can result in parts that are aligned improperly. Additionally, using wood dowels will allow the joints to be fastened more securely, at the correct alignment. Dowels will keep the joints in the proper position, which can prevent misalignment in the future.

How do You Attach a Dowel to the Wall?

To do, you’ll begin by predrilling a hole in the center of each dowel. Use pliers to screw the dowel screws into holes. You can mount dowels directly into the wall studs using a level to make sure that they go in straight, or you can use appropriate anchors based on your type of wall and then mount some dowels.

Why are Dowels Often Used in Making an Edge Joint?

Using a dowel in a butt joint will increase the mechanical resistance to any lateral stresses and will help to maintain alignment when the boards are glued together. While this method is a popular alternative to a basic butt joint, it can often create a cross-grain assembly.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, these days, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to different types and styles of jigs but finding one that will work for you and your woodworking needs can still take some research on your part. The best dowel jig offers the right width, a sturdy frame, a self-centering feature, and the type of connections and size capabilities you need, so you can take on a wide range of projects you love. This buyer’s guide and my top product recommendations can help point you in the right direction to help you find a dowel jig that will meet your needs and one that offers the type of functionality that will help you complete pro-quality looking projects in a fraction of the time.