I've been looking for ways to make small dowels. Well, really they'll be
knitting needles and arrows.
I'm still hoping to find a jig design that I like for cutting dowels from
square stock. Until then, I rip squares and plane them fairly close to
round in a long v-block. Knitting needle diameters range from about 1/8
inch to 3/8 inch. Knitting needles would be 8 to 15 inches long. Arrows
have less size variability, about 5/16 to 3/8 inch diameter and 30 inches
Next I want to sand them to accurate diameter, and very smooth. I've looked
into the methods used for centerless grinding similar things made of steel,
but haven't figured out a way to do it at home on wooden parts.
It seems like the smoothest surface will come from sanding with the grain,
though, which is not the way a centerless grinder works.
I've got a drill press with sanding drum and I clamped a v-notched guide
next to the drum and tried sanding that way, rotating and pushing the wood
shaft between the drum and guide notch. But it failed miserably, probably
because I seem to need infeed and outfeed guides to hold the stock straight
and steady. The initial trial was with strips of bamboo which I split and
then planed to approximately 1/4 inch in diameter. The bamboo isn't
completely straight, so as I turned my end, the rest wiggles around. It
seems like that shouldn't matter with the v-block holding the workpiece at a
constant distance from the sanding drum, but it sure didn't work.
Does anyone know how dowels are sanded in large quantity? I mean what kind
of machinery and what shapes of abrasive "cutter" do they use?
As well as the sanding drum, I also have 1x42 and 2x48 inch belt
sander/grinders that I could try making guide fixtures for. If I knew what
If I can find a good way to do this, I'll take some pictures and write up a
description and put the info on my website for others to see.
Thanks for any help!
Doug VanderLaan, K8RFT
"Sometimes history doesn't repeat itself. It just yells
'can't you remember anything I've told you?' and lets
fly with a club.
"To be great is to be misunderstood." Ralph Waldo Emerson
-- John W. Cambell Jr.
Doug, strange you should ask about dowel sander, I just rebuild one for
Here is my take on take dowels in a production environment.
1. Wood is run through a molder that cuts half the dowel and then the
wood is run through again to finish the rough dowel blank.
2 The rough blank is run through the dowel sand (see www.Exfactory.com,
and search for item number SD 10275) this shows a dowel sander. Look at
the pictures, especially picture 3. This picture shows 2 groups of 3
rollers on an aluminum plate. Each group of rollers has 1 driven roller
and two idler rollers. The driven roller has a shaft that extends
through the aluminum plate and the shaft has a gear that rides on a
stationary gear. As the aluminum plate if rotated by a small electric
motor, the driven roller turns the sanding belt.The idler rollers can be
adjusted to to change the gap between the two belts, for various size
dowels. The dowels sander pictured can handle diameters from .4" up to 3
Hope this helps and if you have any questions that I might be able to
answer for you, please feel free to contact me off list
Thanks! I've heard about cutting half-rounds twice on a moulder. That's
one of the "plans" I doubt I'll be able to use at home, though. I realize
you weren't suggesting that part, but I just wanted to mention for other
readers that it would need a special-sized cutter for each diameter needle
or arrow, and I hope to make 8 or 10 different sizes.
The pictures of the machine do really help a lot! Pretty ingenious,
rotating a belt sander or two around the workpiece! How fast does the
aluminum plate turn?
(However, I think this device is a bit more complicated than I'm ever likely
Well Doug, this is your lucky day<G>
To test the machine before I exported it, I ripped some stock to square
blanks the I used a router table to make the rough dowel blanks and
then ran them through the dowel sander.I used 120 grit belts and the
finish was smooth.
The aluminum plate ran about 200-250 rpm (my best guess).
If you want to cobble together a machine like the Lobo dowel sander, I
think that with a little ingenuity and a couple of these
and a method of rotating the dowel blanks as they passed between the
belts, you could make some accurate dowels
I have two pairs of 1X42 sanders already! Two Rockwell Delta, and two Arco.
Rotating the dowels wouldn't be hard. I've read about doing with an
This would actually be a bit like centerless grinding, too.
Thanks for the idea! This has real promise.
Roy Underhill takes a thick piece of steel. Drills a number of progressively
smaller holes in it (actually this is two steps drill a hole and then
enlarge it most of the way through with a larger drill so there is only a
lip near the edge - cuts down on friction) and then draws the stock through
it. Kind of like a round scraper. Ensures the dowel is perfectly round.
I'd suggest O-1 "gauge plate". You can buy this from any engineering
supplier - it's the standard steel for making small jigs and tools.
Supplied with a ready-ground flat surface, it's easily hardened and
tempered on a kitchen stove. Instructions are usually on the packet.
No more than 1/32" steps in the sizes.
My own dowel plates have pairs of holes of equal size. One set is filed
(before hardening) with a triangular file to make 6 teeth separated by 6
gaps (about 50:50)
By forcing the rough dowel through the toothed holes, you can more
easily remove timber form the outside. Starting large and working down
the sizes, you can reduce bandsawn squares to dowels of any size.
Easier to use a tapered reamer from the back
Personally I work with 8" lengths and drive them through with a small
hammer rather than pulling them. Support the plate over a bench dog
You need good technique to get good dowels with a good surface. Small
size increments help too - it's quicker to take two light scrapes than
one heavy one.
Cats have nine lives, which is why they rarely post to Usenet.
I forgot to mention that I had also made dowel plates, with holes taper
reamed from the back. One is drilled with drills by 64ths of an inch, and
another with number-size drills. Drilling two of each size and toothing one
sounds like a very good idea for the next dowel plate. And I also made
another plate sort of on this principle, from an article in Muzzleloader
magazine. It was about making ramrods. The plate has a row of holes
drilled like the dowel plate, but then a V-shaped slot connects the sides of
the hole to the edge of the plate. The edges of the V and of the remaining
half-circle are beveled from the back, like dowel plate holes. I clamp it
in my bench vise and pull square sticks through it.
Let's see if that works in ascii art:
| \ / |
| \ / |
| U |
Well, if you mentally make that U into the bottom half of an O, that would
With this one, you pull the stick thru the slot, shaving strips off the
sides, then rotate a little and pull thru again. Repeat until stick fits
diameter of hole at the bottom, and then it's a dowel. This works easier
and faster than my dowel plates.
But both leave rough surfaces which need a lot of sanding, because of torn
grain. Even with the very straight grain in the split bamboo.
While I'm sure it's fully possible to do this with another method, I
would think your best bet would be to get yourself a cheap mini-lathe
(or an expensive one, depending on your budget for this) and turn the
square stock between centers. You can rough something like that out
in about 20 seconds, and then make a jig to hold a piece of sandpaper
that stretches the length of the piece parallel to the centers for
your finish. Works good for other stuff as well, and I've seen them
for as little as $70 recently. I couldn't tell you how well a $70
lathe works, but I'm sure it makes the parts spin around, and if all
you're making is dowels, that might be enough.
If you don't want to buy a lathe, but have a drill press, you could
mounting the piece vertically and setting up something to take the
stock off evenly while it turns- but make sure to support the bottom
of the dowel somehow (maybe with a tip of a nail driven through a
board set on the base) so that it doesn't come flying off on you.
Aut inveniam viam aut faciam
I have a wood lathe, but turning 15 inch spindles as thin as 1/8" and 3/16"
is well beyond my capability.
And so is turning 5/16" shafts 30 inches long.
If anyone does do this successfully I'd very much like to see pictures of
I've never had the need to make a dowel on the thing, but I've made
several pieces that had sections that thin on my Delta midi. Maybe a
couple of steady rests would make it a little easier. But I do see
your point- .125" is awfully small on a lathe.
The only pencil construction method I've seen was two halves grooved for the
lead and then glued together.
Doesn't seem appropriate for my projects, at least partly because of the
need for so many different cutters for different diameters. Assuming the
use of the spindle moulder method.
I wonder how they sand the pencils smooth?
Thanks for the suggestion, though.
Might be able to make one, if I'd already seen similar machinery.
Most of my working career has been with companies that build custom
machinery, but I haven't seen anything that performs the type of operation
I'm looking for. But most everything I've seen or worked on has been
metalworking machinery or food processing machinery.
Do you know where I could see pictures of some variant of a centerless
grinder? Besides the Lobo at XFactory that Greg posted the link to?
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