Best Dowel Jigs – 2021 Buying Guide

Scott
| Last Updated: January 26, 2021

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​Wherever a butt joint is required, dowels are the best choice for strengthening it. However, if you want to make perfect dowel joints, you’re going to need a perfect dowel jig. How do you pick the best one from the many models available on the market, you wonder?

Keep reading, and you’ll find practical answers to this question, and to many others!

​Snapshot​! Best ​Dowel Jigs

​In a hurry? Here are our top picks​:

Best Overall
Runner-up
Best Dowel Jig for the Money

Comparison Chart of the ​Best Dowel Jigs

Product

Our Rating

​Price

AutoToolHome Doweling Jig Punch Locator

​Best Overall

Dowl-it 1000

​Runner-up

Woodstock D4116

Best Dowel Jig for the Money

AutoToolHome Self-Centering Dowel Jig

Best Self Centering Dowel Jig

General Tools 850

Best 45 Degree Dowel Jig

Jessem Model 08350

Best Jessem Dowel Jig

Milescraft 1311 JointPro

Best Milescraft Dowel Jig

What is a Dowel Jig? 

A dowel jig is a tool designed to facilitate joining wood boards while creating dowel joints. Small and quite straightforward in operation, it simply requires placing the jig on the workpiece and using one of its holes to drill through it. 

Of course, for the best results, a dowel jig must come with a reliable clamping mechanism. Self-centering is yet another ideal feature, as it allows the tool to center and align on the workpiece without you having to work on it. 

Last but not least, a dowel jig must feature a wide range of bushings, though not necessarily unique sizes. It’s best that it comes with bushings in pairs because unique hole sizes will force you to move the jig every time you want to make a second dowel hole.

When Would I Use a Dowel Jig? 

Needless to say, a dowel jig is required wherever you need to create and work with dowel holes and wooden pegs. It helps you secure two wooden workpieces together, and even though it isn’t the only way to do it, dowels can be the best way to do it. So, the top three applications of a dowel jig would involve situations when you need:

Extra Strength With Your Joints

Whether you’re setting up butt or miter joints, if you need extra strength, you can get it with a tiny glued dowel. Basically, you set up your joint and drill a hole into its ends, where you insert a peg with a little bit of glue. The additional strength you’ll get from it is quite impressive.

Proper Alignment Of Workpieces

In projects where you need to glue and clamp pieces together, alignment issues are common. By adding dowels to the joints of the workpieces you glue, position maintenance is ensured with minimum effort and maximum benefits.

Projects With Pin Joints

Pin joints allow some relative rotation of two objects, around a single axis. With twisting bringing new forces into the equation, if you want your joints to last, you can do it with a dowel hole. It’s much easier and still very effective, compared to using tail & pin connections.

Quick Take: Best ​Dowel Jigs

Hoping to cut right to the chase? Below are the best ​dowel jigs:

  1. ​Best Overall: AutoToolHome Doweling Jig Punch Locator
  2. ​Runner-up: Dowl-it 1000
  3. Best for the Money: Woodstock D4116

Review of the Best Dowel Jigs

Knowing what a dowel jig is and when you should use one, you’re probably anxious to see how it actually looks and what features it comes with. Take a look at some of the best-rated models, to see what you can expect and what makes a difference.

Best Overall:
AutoToolHome Doweling Jig

PROS

  • Comes with a practical scale
  • Works with a wide range of stock widths
  • Built with high quality, for wear resistance
  • Designed to make workpiece centering very easy
  • Lets you drill equally-spaced holes with one setup

CONS

  • Only metric markings
  • Doesn’t come with directions

Our Review

Our best overall selection carries the AutoToolHome label, and it’s a pretty uniquely designed dowel jig kit. It lets you drill holes of 1/4-, 3/8-, or 5/16-inch, and its parallel arms can hold a workpiece of up to 2.4-inches width. Moreover, you can clamp it on stock ranging from 5/8-inch to over 1 inch.

The combination of aluminum drill guide and steel bushings make it a strong and durable dowel jig. And you can expect it to stand up the test of time with ease. Should you need to drill up to three holes precisely spaced, the adjustable center bar with end-stop will let you do it easily.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

As mentioned above, this doweling jig has a one of a kind design. It relies on a parallelogram shape, with parallel arms that you can adjust in a snap. Not only it can better accommodate the thickness of the stock, but it will also allow you to spot its center fast, easy, and most importantly, with accuracy!

Runner-up:
Dowl-it 1000

PROS

  • Exclusive, limited edition dowel jig
  • Facilitates self-centering operation
  • Provides good quality for the money
  • Features a wide range of boring sizes
  • Precision-hardened, solid steel center block

CONS

  • Only one hole for each size
  • Hole sizes not engraved on the tool

Our Review

The Dowl-it 1000 from Rockler is one of the best dowel jigs currently on the market, closely competing against our best overall selection. It’s a Limited Edition with a simple yet elegant design. And it features 7 different boring sizes, from 3/16 to 1/2 inches. The most it can clamp is 2-inch wide workpieces, and that’s a good-enough size for most of your carpentry projects.

To make sure it will last, it has this solid steel center bloc, the precision hardened type. And thanks to the self-centering action for both round and square stock, it’s a pleasure to work with. Not to mention, the price tag makes it quite affordable, so you have even more reasons to try it.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

You’ll only need to take one look at the Dowl-it 1000, and you won’t help but notice what a simple operation it facilitates. It is solidly built, with an intuitive design, and a large, straightforward clamping screw. Plus, it has no loose parts that you might easily lose, so it’s highly portable and ideal even for first-timers.

Best for the Money:
Woodstock D4116

PROS

  • Implies straightforward operation​​​​​
  • Versatile tool, for different shapes
  • Works with automatic self-centering
  • Durable, with hardened steel bushings
  • Allows drilling two holes of the same size at once

CONS

  • Clamp is a tad difficult to loosen by hand
  • Not the best choice for 90-degree corner joints

Our Review

A practical, well-made dowel jig like the D4116 is a top choice from the popular Woodstock manufacturer. A one-year warranty accompanies it, and it comes at a reasonable price. There are six bushings included in the package, the hardened-steel, solid type. And through it all, it’s a small doweling jig you’ll want to invest in.

Like most of the top-rated dowel jigs, this one, too, can hold stock as thick as 2 inches. The drill-hole selection is set to five of the most common sizes: 1/4-, 5/15-, 3/8-, 7/16-, and, of course, 1/2-inch. And the device will center automatically, not only on round and square shapes, but also on irregular stock.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

Easy to use and quite intuitive, Stockwood’s dowel jig has a nice advantage: it lets you drill two holes, identical and parallel, with one jig setting. If you need to make more than one dowel hole, with this jig, you no longer have to move it after each hole. Increased speed and accuracy are always nice to enjoy with your woodwork, and that’s what this dowel jig helps with!

Best Self Centering Dowel Jig: 
AutoToolHome Self-Centering Dowel Jig

PROS

  • Will self center flawlessly
  • Allows accurate positioning
  • Solid, aircraft-grade aluminum body
  • Comes with hardened steel bushings
  • Provides good value for its price point

CONS

  • Centerline scribe marks not so visible
  • May require retightening during operation

Our Review

Here’s a great-looking, smartly-designed doweling jig carrying the AutoToolHome label. With 5 drill-hole sizes and 6 hardened steel bushings included in the package, it gives you what many other dowel jigs would, but for a highly attractive price point.

Like you'd want from a top-quality product, it features self-centering operation, so you don't have to worry about the holes' precision. No gaps will be left, and no offsets should occur when you work with this jig. The hole sizes are set to 1/4-, 5/16-, 3/8-, 7/16, respectively 1/2-inch, covering a wide range of applications.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

Made of aircraft-grade aluminum, this dowel jig is sturdy enough for you to enjoy it in the long run. But it also features a stylish design that makes you feel proud you have it in your arsenal. It helps to drill for joints that require precise alignment with dowel pins. And it works very well not only with butt joints but also with miter or edge joints.

Best 45 Degree Dowel Jig: 
General Tools 850

PROS

  • Packed in a sturdy, practical case
  • Works on a bench or directly on the stock
  • Comes with its own clamping system built-in
  • Facilitates accurate angled holes that are easy to drill
  • Complete set with everything you need in the package

CONS

  • Takes a bit of a learning curve to master it
  • Not an actual dowel jig, but a versatile tool that drills dowels too


Best Jessem Dowel Jig:
Jessem Model 08350

PROS

  • Great selection of guide bushing carriers
  • Designed with alignment slots for wider spacing
  • Versatile dowel jig with multiple hole configuration
  • Allows fast setup thanks to the laser engravements
  • Features a sturdy body, aluminum made, CNC machined

CONS

  • A bit expensive
  • Difficult to use with thin workpieces


Best Milescraft Dowel Jig: 
Milescraft 1311 JointPro

PROS

  • Designed for professional use
  • Facilitates precise hole alignment
  • Can drill up to 6 holes with one setup
  • Comes with detailed, practical instructions
  • Allows clamping both boards at the same time

CONS

  • No self-centering
  • Could use sturdier clamp screws

Our Review

Milescraft’s professional jig looks like no other, and you can clearly tell it’s not a tool for the newbies. This being said, it won’t mind you too much either that it doesn’t come with self-centering operation. The detailed instructions included in the box should be more than enough.

Consider it for drilling matching holes, up to six at once, without having to change the setup. And so, expect to get the strongest joints out there. The 3 hole sizes supported by steel bushing blocks can be set to 1/4-, 5/16-, or 3/8-inches. And with this setting, you’re actually enjoying a lot of work options.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

As we said, this is a tool for the more experienced operators. And as long as you know the drill, you’ll know exactly how to use it. Those who want a dowel jig that sits firmly right where you clamp it, won’t help but appreciate the option to simultaneously clamp both boards, for precise alignment of the holes.

What Do I Need To Know Before Buying? 

With a ton of different models on the market, falling for the wrong advertisement can easily make you end up with a useless dowel jig. Here’s what you must always consider, in order to purchase the best dowel jig out there:

Some Dowel Jigs Offer More Flexibility

Apart from knowing the difference between them, you must also consider if you need all that versatility. Do you work on a wide range of tasks? Need T-joints, edge-to-edge, or edge-to-corner dowel joints? If so, what sizes do you estimate you’ll work with? Depending on the complexity of your work, you might need a more complex – and expensive – dowel jig.

Accuracy Is Of The Essence

An accurate dowel jig will allow you to create perfect joints without any misalignment. But this accuracy depends on many things. For starters, the dowel jig must be perfectly machined and polished, to have a really flat surface. Then, it must have an effective clamp system. And if it also comes with self-centering operation, it’s even better.

Materials Make A Difference

You’ll notice a couple of different material options. Aluminum, for once, is an accessible choice (price-wise). And it also has the advantage of being lighter and more portable. But because it is a relatively soft metal, it can scratch or corrode easier. So, you will want either an aluminum jig that was treated against corrosion or a more expensive, steel model.

How to Use a Dowel Jig 

Using a dowel jig to perfection takes a good quality tool and a little bit of practice. You know, by now, how a quality dowel jig looks like. So, let’s move on to the actual working process.

  • Begin by marking your working material, to know precisely on what side you need to drill the holes;

  • Place the dowelling jig onto the workpiece and secure it – if it comes with its own clamp you should be able to use it, if not, you’ll need to get a manual clamp yourself and use it to secure the two pieces;

  • Check the length of the drill compared to the height of the workpiece, to make sure you’re not using an oversized drill;

  • Feel free to add a spacer onto your dowel jig or use a stop collar with your drill and adjust it accordingly;

  • Proceed to drill the holes in the first workpiece;

  • Remove the clamp and take out the first stock, just so you can secure the second and repeat the steps for drilling the pair holes;

  • When you’re done, you can put the dowels in the holes – they should fit snugly – and join the two workpieces.

To see the steps of the process above described and to enjoy some practical, extra tips, watch the following video:

​Conclusion

A dowel jig makes your joints stronger and your job easier. There are plenty of options to pick from, and now you also know how to choose the one that best suits your needs. Depending on how often you need to drill dowel holes and on what sizes, you’ll know exactly what models to consider, which ones are worth the investment, and which aren’t.

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Scott

Hey, Scott here. I'm usually stuck behind the scenes with Mark, but every now and then a topic will come up and I'll be drawn toward writing. Outside of Tool Tango, I'm a dad and a husband. Most of my free time is spent with them and I wouldn't have it any other way.