Leave it to the inventive tool designers at Freud to put a new spin on one of the oldest joinery technologies in existence – the humble dowel joint. All but killed off by newer methods – notably the biscuit joiner and more recently Festool’s Domino System – the dowel joint appeared to be on its way to the annals of woodworking history. Now, with the soon-to-arrive Freud Doweling Joiner, we predict a lively comeback for this time-honored technique.
This is very good news, in our opinion. There was never anything wrong with doweled joints: they’re just a little time consuming to make and require a precision that can be difficult to attain with typical everyday woodshop equipment. That’s why the biscuit joiner was such a hit. Compared to a drill and a doweling jig, biscuit joints are fast and easy. Cutting the biscuit mortises required to edge join two boards takes only a few seconds. And while a doweled joint requires meticulous alignment and spacing of each dowel hole, biscuit joinery is forgiving of slight discrepancies in mortise alignment.
But for all its speed and user-friendliness, the biscuit joint loses out to the dowel joint on a couple of fronts. First of all, it’s much weaker. Most experienced woodworkers think of biscuits as little more than a joint alignment method. They’re great for keeping stock surfaces flush during glue-ups, but no one would ever trust them to hold on the legs of a chair or table. Secondly, there limited to joints that can accommodate standard biscuit sizes. Even Porter Cable’s miniature face frame biscuits work for joints where there’s at least 1-1/2” of material width to work with. A dowel, on the other hand, takes up only the width of small hole, and can be as short, long, fat or thin as the situation requires.
Enter the Freud Doweling Joiner. With one smooth, simple action it lets you cut two perfect dowel holes on the surface of a material, the edge of a material or at an angle with the same speed and ease a biscuit joiner provides. Building on the biscuit joiner’s basic design, the Doweling Joiner uses a more than adequate 6.5 amp motor to cut dowel holes from 3/16” to 1/2” in diameter at any depth up to 1-3/8”. A rack and pinion system makes fine tuning the bore height accurate and simple, and an adjustable fence lets you drill holes at any angle from 0 to 90 degrees. The tool accepts standard 10mm shank boring bits – the same as industrial line boring machines.
With two bits installed, the Doweling joiner produces holes spaced at exactly 32mm, a design feature that’s far from arbitrary. Not inconsequentially, it makes the tool compatible with the “System 32” spacing scheme, a cornerstone of the European style cabinetmaking philosophy and a practice that makes installing everything from shelves to cabinet hinges to slides a simple matter of fitting parts into neatly spaced rows of holes on the interior of cabinet walls.
The simple decision to adopt the 32mm hole spacing scheme – and the inclusion of an adjustable indexing pin, which allows the operator to make clean, perfectly spaced rows of 32mm OC holes in cabinet walls – is likely to double the tool’s appeal. System 32 cabinetmakers and installers can now replicate the action of a shop-bound line boring machine in the field, with huge time-saving potential for impromptu on-site custom work or covering the occasional “oops”. For small professional shops and hobbyists, the 32mm hole spacing set-up opens the door to the convenience of system 32-compatible hardware, and makes the tedious task of hand drilling shelf pin holes accurate and twice as fast as using a template and drill.
But the best thing about this new Freud offering is still its potential to revive the good-ole dowel joint. Used successfully by furniture makers for centuries, this simple joinery method is strong, versatile, familiar and unintimidating. And now, with the Freud Doweling Joiner (coming soon) and its do-able $330-ish price tag, we can add to its list of qualifications “quick”, “easy” and “attainable”.