Friday, December 23, 2016

Making Different Size Dowels Fast, New Dowel Maker

Having lots of dowels on hand is great for any woodworker. You can buy them or you can make them. But sometimes you can't get the right size or you need one quick. 

Wouldn't it be nice to make your own, very fast and many different sizes. 

When I was making my  magnetic levitating dowel  I needed a 1/2 inch dowel. I could not find the right size in my stock so I had to make one. I have three different dowel making jigs but they were not accessible plus they take time to set up.    

This is when I tried something different, I used cordless drill and bench vise. I was amazed how easy it worked. Then I went on to experiment with it. 

The bench vise has serrated jaws and when the stock is turned in the jaws they will do the cutting. Then with the vise handle you can adjust the jaws to get the size dowel you need.

The dowels will turn to roughly the right size you need then will need a little bit of sanding. With some practice and a steady hand they can turn out pretty accurate.

Here is a stepped dowel, this is a good example of what you can make. Not too bad for a quick dowel made on a vise.  

Making the dowels

The dowels are not hard to make but there are a few things that will help you:                  
  • The stock must be square
  • must be able to fit in the drill chuck
  • use a vise with serrated jaws                  

I always start with a piece of scrap wood for testing, most of the time this will become the final product. 

A few strips are cut on the table saw, it is important to cut these square. The ends should be sanded a bit, one side to fit in the drill chuck and the other side for a started when it goes in the vise. The knots may be a problem so use only the best part of the wood. 

Here I am turning the wood slow and feeding it slowly in the vise also  I am  using one hand as a guide.


The first two test pieces are complete, they turned out nice and I will be keeping them in my stock. I kept the knots in only to see if they would work.

Large Dowels

Okay, so it works to make smaller dowels but what about larger ones. This would really come in handy.

I used my  wooden miter gauge to cut a piece of 2x2. A small piece would work best since it is easiest to work with.

A center was marked on one of the ends and drilled out. Some creative clamping was done to make sure the hole would be drilled straight. I did not measure the hole but 1 1/2" would be fine.

I used a piece of dowel from the first one I made a glued a piece in the block and set it aside for a while.


The tablesaw blade was adjusted to 45 degrees and all sides of the block were cut making an octagon shape. 

The dowel was placed in the drill and turned on the belt sander rounding the end, this will help later when placed in the vise.

Now it can be turned in the vise. The best way I found was to slowly feed the stock all the way through. Then slide it out, turn the vise handle a small amount and repeat until you get the dowel size you need.

If you turn the vise handle too much on a small piece the wood might twist, and on a large piece, it makes it difficult to turn.

When I had the right size I put a strip of sandpaper, reverse  in the vise and carried on with the turning. In no time it was smooth and I had a good looking large dowel.


I couldn't believe how fast dowels can be made. I am glad I experimented with different sizes and  woods.

With the right vise with the serrated jaws you can do the same. You may never have to buy another dowel. Remember to go slow and take off a small amount at a time.

Let me know if you try this and how it works for you.

See also:



Sunday, December 11, 2016

Magnetic Levitating Dowel

Now that the Magnet Separator  is complete I can make a fun project. 

I have always been fascinated with magnets and wanted to make some kind of magnetic levitator.

I will try make this one as simple as I can. Although I will use many tools you could get by using just a hand saw and drill. 

The levitation station is just a block and  will have the magnets inside. This will make it look more mysterious and interesting. The dowel will have ring magnets on it then the opposing magnetic forces will make it hover in mid air.

Magnets are available at Lee Valley


The Base

The length is 6.5", width  3.75" and the height is 1.3".

The base is made using some oak, I did not have the right size block so I glued two pieces together and cleaned it up to get the size I needed.  A piece of spruce 2x4 from the local hardware store will work as well. It all depends on what kind of wood you like.

The magnets I will be using are one inch diameter so the base should be slightly thicker. You can also mark and drill the magnet holes and then trim the wood down later to the right size if this is easier for you.


After I found the right place for the magnets an awl is used to mark the centres. It is now ready  and  for drilling. This will help keep the drill bit from wandering.

A 1 inch Forstner bit is used to drill the holes. My stop on the drill press is used to make the holes the exact depth. The first set of holes are drilled 1/2" deep.

Note: Later I will drill the second set of holes 1.6" deep.

My vacuum hose holder is used to catch most of the sawdust.

 I found the best way to hold the block secure is to use a handscrew clamp. Even though this clamp is not secured to the table it does work good to keep the piece square while drilling.   

I tested and put some magnets in the holes but I could not take them out without messing up the hole and the magnet, so I drilled some small holes on the bottom. Using an awl or a small nail will help to pry the magnets.   

Being able to remove the magnets is a good idea. If you have to respace them or making sure the polarity of the magnets are correct, this will help keep things easy when building.

After some testing I decided to drill the magnet holes on one end a bit deeper. in the block, I think this will look better for the dowel. I also drilled  some more small holes for the magnet release. The first 2 small holes can be filled and sanded later.


I found a scrap dowel and put on some masking tape and the ring magnets. This way I was able to slide the magnets to see what worked. It did not take long to figure it out.

The dowel and ring magnets are placed against a block of wood and it was levitating. I can now carry on and make a nicer dowel, and make a slot for a plexiglass plate.

A dowel is placed in the drill and a point was made using the upright beltsander


The dowel is now cut to the right length, 6 3/4". Small pencil marks are made on the dowel where the magnets worked best. 


Several saws are tested to match the thickness of the plexiglass. I have a small box with some pieces of scrap plastic and plexiglass. Plexiglass is available at a plastic shop.

 Before the wood can be cut I used an utility knife and scored the wood. This would give me a good mark for the handsaw. 

This should not be done free hand since the saw will wander and you won't get a clean line.

Plexi glass is cut on the band saw the width of the block, the height it 2 1/8".

A mallet was used to tap the plexiglass in the slot. It is friction fit and is very tight in the slot.   




Woodworking does not have to be hard, there are many projects that can be made with few tools.

I hope you find this one easy to make. Give it a try and let me know how it works out.

Making toys is fun and this levitator was pleasure to make, I will make a few and give them away as gifts.


See Also:

         Make a mini bevel gauge                 Magic knife holder                Magnetic scrap bin        


Sunday, November 27, 2016

How to Make a Magnet Separator

Magnets are fun to play with and they can be very useful in the workshop. 
Whether it be for woodworking or hobbies there is a near-endless use for them.     
Do you use magnets for your projects? Do you use them for your tools?

In the past I have used  magnets for many tools, jigs and other projects, they are a simple way to assist in basing objects to metal surfaces.  Some of the projects  I have made are the magic knife holder and vacuum hose holder . I will be making more projects with magnets so this will be a good time to make this jig.            

Handling Magnets

Here is an example of some of my magnets that are stuck together. They can be taken apart in groups but individually it is more difficult. 

Special care must be taken when handling magnets. The force exerted by rare earth magnets are strong and can be hazardous. When two magnets unite with great impact they can chip or break. And, they are strong enough to pinch your fingers. 

Sometimes I have magnets flying around my workbench, this may be fun to watch but when it is time to separate them the only way is to slide them apart. 

The Separator

This jig very basic and simple to make, also it can be made with minimal woodworking tools and  skills.

You could get by with a handsaw and a drill, but since I have the tools I will use them. 

The body 7 1/4"x 3 1/2"  is marked on a piece of 3/4" Baltic Birch but any plywood will work. I used my homemade marking tools and came up with this design. You can do the same with just a pencil and ruler. 

I will use my tablesaw sled to cut the feet. The sled cuts the pieces straight and the exact length. Walnut is used, this will make a nice contrast with the Birch and make the jig unique. 

The walnut feet are; 3 1/2"x 1/2" x1 1/2"

The notches are cut for the feet and the walnut piece is tested for fit. After I am happy with the fit I can cut the V and the angle at the end. 

The two feet are glued in and I used my  new vise to clamp the pieces together and set it aside.

The handle 
For the handle I will be using walnut as well. I have a bunch of hardwood flooring planks and find these very useful for my builds.

The handle will be tapered and I wanted a very straight cut, this helps thing look nicer. 

Pro Tip: Instead of pulling out my taper jig or rigging up something fancy  I used a screw and put it in one side of the board. When you have the right angle you can fine adjust the screw to however you like. This worked out nice. 

Some people said this seemed dangerous but I don't seem why? If it seems to dangerous to you please don't do it.

I used a compass and marked the corners then  took it over to my new belt sander and sanded them round.

A centre hole is drilled in the handle for a bolt. A drill press works best for this since it makes a perfect straight hole.


Measure and mark similar to the photo where you want to position the handle and clamp together. I tried a few different positions in the area and they all worked out.  Now the handle can be used as a guide and the hole can be drilled through the body.


The handle is attached using a lock nut and bolt. The lock nut or elastic stop nut is a nut that resists loosening under torque, it will provide a firm action for the lever. It is easy enough to adjust anytime to whatever tension you like. 

Ready To Use
Place the magnets in the V and lower the handle and slide off one of the magnets. Always hold the magnets firm or they will jump back. The feet will be helpful when the magnet falls. 


This tool sure makes life easy when working with strong magnets. I have always fiddled around trying to separate them. Not anymore.

Magnets can be used for jigs, tools, tools and many other applications. The price of magnets are steadily declining and are more available. This will inspire new uses and innovations.  Now you can have more magnets in your shop and this magnet separator can help you.  

How do you separate your magnets? What have you made with magnets? 

See Also:

   Marble spring gun              Magic knife holder          Spline jig