Veritas Dowel Maker for Chairmaking?

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In my Amercian Welsh Stick Chair classes, we start with home center dowels that have been selected for dead-straight grain for the chair’s back spindles and sticks. They work great (wood is wood), but there can be a lot of luck and driving around necessary to get enough sticks for a class of six to 12 students.

In fact, last year, I denuded the Kentucky/Ohio/Indiana Tristate area of straight-grain red oak dowels for my March 2019 class.

For my classes in the coming year, I decided to find a way to reduce my driving and gathering.

After trying many options (too many to list here without wanting to slap myself with a cold, dead mackerel), I settled on the Veritas Dowel Maker. I’ve used it before when making the sticks for Roorkee chairs.

The idea is simple: you spin square stock into the device. Two blades slice it down to size.

The only complication is that the device is a bit complicated to set up. After reading the instructions a few times, I went upstairs to see if the university had taken back my diploma. I simply wasn’t able to follow the instructions in a couple places. I needed a good video to understand what I’m missing here.

Sadly, there aren’t any really excellent videos out there on this tool. There are a lot of OK ones. After watching a few of them I was able to make the appropriate synapses and the device became crystal clear to operate.

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With my stupidity set aside (for the time being), I made the blanks for my spindles. This was the joyous part. I could select the straightest, clearest stock to make spindles that were super strong.

After that, you spin the blanks into the device – a drill powers the operation. The surface finish on the dowels was pretty good. A single swipe with a scraper was enough to remove the annular rings. Another plus: I could fine-tune the dowels to come out at exactly the dimension I wanted.

veritas-dowel-maker-finished-dowelsIMG_3440

After running 100 or so sticks, I decided to sharpen the blades and see if that improved the surface finish. So I stoned them both up to #8,000 grit on my waterstones (they sharpen just like a plane iron). The improvement in surface finish was minimal – I still need to scrape them.

All in all, I believe the Veritas Dowel Maker will pay for itself with my first class. It saves me a tank of gas, and I can make the sticks for a chair using $10 in wood instead of $24 to $36.

If I made only an occasional chair, I’d make the sticks the old-fashioned way with a spokeshave or block plane. But you need 50 perfect dowels with dead-straight grain, the tool is a nice thing to have.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Of course I paid full price for the Veritas Dowel Maker and the accessories. And the wood. And etc.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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14 Responses to Veritas Dowel Maker for Chairmaking?

  1. You get a deal on the gas though, right? And those hot dogs on the gas station rotisserie?

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  2. After reading this I want to make a chair!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. morse2496 says:

    That’s what James Mursell uses in his classes for Windsor chairs

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  4. morse2496 says:

    That’s the same dowel maker James Mursell uses on his Windsor chair making courses. Works great but a corded drill is advisable though!

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  5. Chris says:

    I’m glad it was not just me who struggled to find useful instructions for this thing, but I had need for a lot of dowels and persevered. When set up correctly, though, I found using it to be a dream. Fast and efficient. The people who engineered it put a lot of thought into the details. The most useful video I found was https://youtu.be/uYnyCAn4YaA

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  6. Klaus N. Skrudland says:

    Thanks for the walk through, I’ve been considering buying this one. By the way how do you hold the sticks with your drill? I’ve tried feeding sticks into a rounding plane, by setting a screw in the end grain of the stick and then fastening the drill chuck around the screw. However it doesn’t hold well enough and makes my sticks spin off center.

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    • Klaus,

      The Dowel Maker comes with some bits that allow you to grasp the square stock using a drill. It basically looks like a socket (with a square opening instead of a hexagonal one) that you can chuck into a drill. Very clever.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I own one of the Stanley No 77 Dowel Making Machines but the cutters for them are so expensive its not economical for me to buy different sizes. Machine works well.

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  8. Joe says:

    How apropos. I just (yesterday) made the device on page 110 of “Solution at Hand”. Not that I can justify the Veritas tool, but if I could then I’d have the perfect length and diameter for every dowel.

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  9. foozleface says:

    I’m glad I not the only one who feels stupid using this machine. Even now that we’ve made friends, it’s still always a bit of a struggle. Once it’s set up, though, it’s a dream to use. Just be sure to make plenty of practice stock!

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  10. Keith Mealy says:

    Chris, e-mail me. I may have a good solution for you, vintage Denier Bros.

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  11. Loxmyth says:

    For smaller amounts of doweling, would you still consider investing in tthis, or fall back to plane dowel plate or equivalent?

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