[Maker’s Note] Woodworking 101: Wood Jointer

by Yun-Han Lin

Preface

About a year ago, I shared about the use of KREG K5 Pocket Hole Jig. The price is not low, but the jig is pretty handy. It also makes fixing wood pieces together so much easier. One advantage of it is that it is different from most of the tools used for fixture. Instead of drilling holes or using a male and female end combination parts, all you have to do is first drill one hole on one of the parts to be fixed, and there is no need for too much refining afterward. Yet, there are still quite many problems using it as follows:

1. The drilled hole is not as rounded as expected: surely we can cover it with something, but still not easy on the eye, just like what happened with the water pipe storage rack. We can also cover it with wooden plugs, but then it will be harder for reassembly afterward, and the end product will also come in higher price.

2. Not easy to use for smaller objects or in small spaces: as we were building the lumber storage cart, we were thinking about using this pocket hole jig, but the A-shape structure was too narrow for the electric drill and screwdriver to be working on a specific part. We ended up using other tools.

3. A fixture is required: there needs to be a lateral force when you fix together the parts using this jig, so there needs to be a fixture, or the wood pieces could slip away or tilt easily. Therefore, it is not suitable for fixing when a fixture cannot be used, due to the size or structure of the object.

For the above reasons, I believe it is necessary to know more about how joint works, instead of using only screws to fix everything. For this reason, I bought a Milescraft dowels, and tried to familiarize myself with using wood joinery through building large size shelves and cabinets.

Advantages

1. Very low in cost: the price of an 8mm joint is about only NT$0.5 to 0.8, which is substantially cheaper, compared to the ones by pocket-hole jig which is around NT$1 to 4.

2. The tools are not expensive, as the Milecraft model I bought is about NT$1,000, which is not too much. You can even make one on your own, if you want to save every penny.

3. Easy for fixture and trial assembly: since there are holes drilled on both ends of the wooden plate, this jig helps with fixture. In some cases, you even barely need a fixture. More importantly, the tightness of the joint parts is about right for assembly trials, even before you put on any glue.

4. Handy for any occasion: in our project, there are a few parts where parts crossed over each other that required joints, and they all came in different size. That was when the wooden joints came into play.

Disadvantages

1. Average level of integrity: wooden joints actually make no difference in fixing the wooden plates, which is about the same as that of using glue.

2. Hard to lead holes: take the Milecraft set for example. I had to hold the dowel with one hand and operate the drill with the other. There are neither special fixtures for dowels nor assistive accessories to help with fixing your tools. Therefore, it is difficult to drill a hole with high accuracy.

Homemade dowels are the best

After trying the Milescraft drilling machine, it is recommended that those who want to buy one can just build one by themselves, and here are my reasons.

1. Size: the ones in stores come with holes for 6mm, 8mm, and 10mm, so that it can be compatible to different joints. However, we only need the one for 8mm, and the extra two serve no purpose but a waste of space.

2. Tool fixture: if only I could build a drilling jig that is as handy as the pocket-hole jig. Another thing to be noted is the position of your fixture and how you fix it. If I could make it, it will not only save time but also improve the quality of drilling.

At present, the best dowels I have seen made are the ones from this video, and you should check it out right away!

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