Rediscover the dowel jig
If you think pocket screws and biscuits have put dowel jigs out to pasture, think again. I love pocket screws and biscuits, but dowels offer a combination of strength, simplicity and accuracy that can’t be beat. That’s why most furniture is still manufactured with dowels. For less than $50, you can buy a self-centering jig that can make joints as well as a machine can. All you need is a drill. Over the course of this article I will be going into detail on how a dowel jig works and how to use a dowel jig to create different types of joints, while also sharing a handful of tips on general dowel jig use.
How it works
The heart of the jig is a steel block with holes to guide your drill bit. On many models, the holes are threaded, which lets you install bushings for drill bits of various sizes. The holes are precisely perpendicular and located in the exact center of the block.
Center lines for each hole are scribed on the side of the block. They’re visible through two windows.
A screw runs through the whole block. Turning the screw’s handle moves both sides of the jig an equal amount as it clamps onto the wood. That’s why the jig is “self-centering”: Clamping the jig centers the holes on the wood automatically.