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Thread: Dowelmax - first look

  1. #1
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    Dowelmax - first look

    Well, this showed up in the mail today...
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Very impressive fit and finish on the parts. Very clean, no burrs or milling marks, nicely polished parts. The parts fit together well. The checkmarks (which you use for aligning your parts) are clear and easy to see. The knobs operate smoothly for clamping pieces.

    I can't call this a proper review, as I was just having fun. I grabbed some wood from my scrap box and popped them into the vise and drilled holes. I literally gave the instruction booklet no more than a 30 second glance (just verifying which parts get checkmarks and which get x's). I've watched one or two of the video tutorials on the dowelmax website previously, and that's all you really need for the basics. Just line up the checkmarks and go.

    This was the result of less about 5 minutes work. Including fumbling around.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I can tell I'm going to enjoy using this jig!
    Now, I need to sit down and peruse that instruction book a bit closer.

    ...art

  2. #2
    Don Taylor is offline Former Member (by the member's request)
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    Yes indeed, you will have a good time with that Art.

    DT

  3. #3
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    Congrats, Art!

    I think Frank Pellow got the same system. Looks like a tool as easy to use, and as useful as say the Kreg pocket hole system is for what it does.... I think this would be a good alternative too, for those who would like to do the Festool Domino thing, but can't see paying out $1K for the system.

    Look forward to seeing your next project using it.

  4. #4
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    Not meaning to knock DowelMax, but one place that dowels do not seem to work well is to attach the seat rails to the back stiles on a chair. I do some restoration and every chair I get that's attached with dowels is loose or worse. I think the reason is that the grain of the dowel is perpendicular to the grain of the back stile. That means that part of the dowel is facing end grain which doesn't provide any strength. So there's just not enough face grain to face grain contact to provide the needed strength. And most of the chairs only have two dowels on that joint.

    To my mind, that's one place where a regular mortise and tenon or a loose tenon (Domino) is called for.

    Mike
    Ancora imparo
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  5. #5
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    I know it is most likely just me, but I've never liked dowels for joints, (heck, I like biscuits even less ) but I have to say, that does look slick.

    Alex posted a thread about a similar rig he got from the UK called the "Joint Genie"..........

    >> HERE <<

    and I have to say, these posts have me rethinking my dislike of dowels....

    I'll look forward to more reviews
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  6. #6
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    Looks like a good score Art. As I said in my post about the Leigh Frame Mortice and Tenon I think dowels have a place in the workshop but shouldn't replace regular furniture joinery. They have been around for a long time, are tried and true and some of these jigs make using them convenient. I used the word robust for other styles of joinery but the fact is aesthetics and design are also a big part in deciding which joint to use. Dowels on the other hand are hidden but simple as pie to use.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Cook View Post
    I think this would be a good alternative too, for those who would like to do the Festool Domino thing, but can't see paying out $1K for the system.
    Bingo. 18 months ago I intended to save up for a Domino, but I knew it'd take me a year to amass that kind of spare cash in my woodworking fund. But then I started to hear more and more about the Domino.

    It's a stealth jig, it seems. I hear lots and lots of good news about it on three different woodworking forums. But I see almost nothing in the woodworking magazines that I read.

    As I read more and more on the forums I decided that a Dowelmax was a better solution for me. Matt Meiser -- even though he recanted and bought a Domino -- started a very good thread over on SMC where folks discussed the pros and cons of a Domino versus a Dowelmax.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Henderson View Post
    Not meaning to knock DowelMax, but one place that dowels do not seem to work well is to attach the seat rails to the back stiles on a chair. I do some restoration and every chair I get that's attached with dowels is loose or worse.
    Mike, you may be right, I don't know. I haven't worked with chairs much at all.

    There are two things to remember. First, our modern glues are much better than those available even a quarter century ago. Second, like with biscuits, if you're going to use a Dowelmax, you should use the compressed dowels. (available from LVT or Dowelmax and elsewhere) They're reportedly built to very good tolerances, so they all fit well. Along with that, they then swell a bit after they're glued in place, which should lock things together well.

    Note -- That previous paragraph is part of the Dowelmax marketing. But it does ring true. Time will tell.

    However, just this morning I received an email from a friend of mine (who does NOT own a Dowelmax.) "I'm reminded of the day that I did some renovations on an 80 year old house in Toronto and I remember trying as hard as I could to break the stile and rail joint of a couple of interior doors that were going to the dump.....................not much luck. When I finally broke the doors apart, the joinery method used was a pair of 5/8" dowels at each joint location. Those joints held together without an issue for 80 years using the glue that was around at that time........."

    So I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to make extensive use of this jig for furniture building.

    ...art

  8. #8
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    Art - Please understand that I don't want to knock the DowelMax or the use of dowels in general. There are MANY places where dowels can be used successfully and easily and are the best choice.

    But when I build a chair, I would not choose to use dowels in certain joints which receive high stress. For me, those joints need the maximum amount of face grain glue surface - more than a couple of dowels can provide.

    I was just offering my observation of past use of dowels as a caution to someone building a chair. To be safe, I'd recommend some joinery that provided more glue surface on high stress joints.

    Mike
    Ancora imparo
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  9. #9
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    Shoot, Mike, I'm not taking offense! I just wanted to provide more information.
    I probably wouldn't use a dowel on a chair either.

  10. #10
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    Art, I have already congratulated you on the Canadaian Woodworking forum about this tool. But, the Dowelmax is so good that you deserve to be congratulated here as well.

    Greg, you are correct that I have a Dowelmax. As an experiment, in January, I built a glass door for a oak cabinet using a bank of dowels instead of mortise and tenons. It worked well. I tested the strengh by standing on a cros peice held in by gle and 6 dowels and it held me easily.
    Cheers, Frank

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