Best Dowel Jigs 2020 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide
Dowel jigs are great tools, and often indispensable for making furniture or decorations. There are a ton of models out there, and it’s not always easy to tell which are worth the money. This problem gets even more severe when you shop online, as manufacturers aren’t shy about inflating their products’ capabilities, and their prices and online reviews aren’t always to be trusted.
However, we think that shopping online should be an easy and frustration-free experience, and that’s why we’ve created this list of reviews of the best dowel jigs of 2020. You can use this guide to not only find great deals but also to find a model that fits your needs, which means that you’re getting great value, no matter the price.
We’ve also included a buyer’s guide, so if you’ve never used a dowel jig before, you can learn everything you need to know before you lay down your hard-earned cash.
A Rundown of our 2020 Favorites
|Best Overall||Eagle America 445-7600||
|Best Value||Wolfcraft 3751405||
|HF tools 41345||
The 5 Best Dowel Jigs
1. Eagle America Dowel Jig – Best Overall
The Eagle America 445-7600 is a great choice for people who want a highly-adjustable dowel and need a range that surpasses that of most dowels. This model can handle woods with thicknesses ranging from 1/4-inch to 6-inches, which gives you an unsurpassed ability to handle thick or awkwardly-shaped pieces. When you have that big of a range, centering can get to be a pain in the butt, but this model is self-centering. You put the dowel on the piece, tighten the screw, and the dowel is centered.
It’s made from an aluminum and steel body, which means you’re getting a product with great durability that should last you a long time, while also standing up well to abuse. It also comes with two 1/4-inch, 5/16-inch, and 3/8-inch bushings, which gives you flexibility in what sized dowels you use. What keeps this model from being perfect is the fact that it doesn’t always come correctly-tuned from the factory, which means you may need to adjust it with an Allen wrench before use. This is one of the best dowel jigs overall, and a great choice for people who need to put dowels in thick pieces.
2. Task 07300TK Dowel Jig
Some products work the way they should right out of the box and earn a reputation for being some of the best you can find on the market. The Task 07300TK is one of those products, earning a reputation for working well and lasting a long time. It’s a self-centering doweling jig, and unlike the first model on our list, it’s generally good in that regard right out of the box. It’s made from steel-plated aluminum, which gives you the lightness of aluminum but adds the steel’s corrosion resistance to the surface.
This model also comes with multiple bushings. You receive two each of 1/4-inch, 5/16-inch, and 3/8-inch bushings, which gives you the capacity to do a lot of different doweling jobs. With all of this upside, you’d be justified in asking why this model isn’t first. While it’s an excellent choice, it only has a 2-3/8-inch capacity, which is less than half that of our top model. That’s a significant downgrade and one that you can’t ignore. Overall, this is a great choice for people who will never use the extra capacity on our top model or are looking for a frustration-free experience.
3. Wolfcraft Dowel Jig – Best Value
You always like to see a company stand by its products, so a 5-year warranty is a strong sign that a company has made a great product and wants you to know that is the case. The Wolfcraft 3751405 comes with a 5-year warranty, so you can buy this model with confidence that it will work for many years to come without any problems. On the off chance you do have them, they’re covered by the warranty.
This model is shaped differently than most dowel jigs, and that makes it uniquely well-suited to doing edge-to-surface connects, which can be tricky with other dowel jigs. Unfortunately, that makes it unwieldy, and less suited to the other kinds of dowels. It comes with multiple bushings, two each of 1/4-inch, 5/16-inch, and 3/8-inch. However, it comes with a relatively poor width, only taking pieces as thick as 1-1/4-inch, which isn’t that great.
On the other hand, you’re getting this capability for a fantastic price, making it exceptional value. If you’re looking for a dowel jig with exceptional edge-to-surface capabilities or don’t want to break the bank when you buy, this is the model for you.
4. Milescraft 13110003 Doweling Jig
The Milescraft 13110003 is another doweling jig with an interesting, nonstandard design. That gives it a lot of strengths, but give it a fair number of weaknesses, too. The best thing about this design is that it lets you quickly drill two sets of matching holes in two pieces of wood at the same time, without reconfiguring anything. That’ll ultimately speed up the process, and ensures that you get an even fit for your dowels, which improves the final piece’s quality. Since it’s reconfigurable, you can make edge-to-edge, edge-to-corner, and edge-to-surface connections without breaking a sweat.
However, the maximum width of wood in this unit is only 1-1/2-inches, which is poor. With this much reconfigurability, you’d like to see a bit more capacity so that you could work with larger pieces if you wanted to. While it’s not the most expensive unit on our list, it does fall in the top having, and given its shortcomings in capacity, it loses a lot of value relative to its price. It’s not a horrible dowel jig, but the problem is that you can get better models for the same amount, which means it’s relatively low-value.
5. HF tools Doweling Jig Tool
The HF tools 41345 is an example of a poorly made doweling jig that might not be worth the money, no matter what you pay for it. It’s certainly cheap, which is a good thing. Likewise, it comes with five dowel sizes, 1/4-inch, 5/16-inch, 3/8-inch, 7/16-inch, and 1/2-inch, which gives it more flexibility than many dowel jigs. However, there are significant problems with this model that you should be aware of before you buy.
The first is that it has severe alignment issues. Since it’s supposed to be self-centering, this is a huge deal, as you have no way of manually fixing the alignment. There’s also no way to adjust the centering, unlike other models on this list, so you’re stuck with what you get. This model often torques while tightened, so that the holes near the ends are pushed or pulled away from the centerline. That’s not good, but it’s made worse by the fact that the holes tend to come drilled a bit too small, so your standard drill bits won’t fit correctly. You could buy this model due to its low price, but you’d probably be better off buying something less frustrating.
We hope that our reviews have already given you some ideas about what you should be considering when you go to buy a dowel jig. If you still have questions about shopping for dowel jigs, you’ve come to the right place. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll explain some of the key areas you need to consider before you buy, so that you can find a great deal and get a model that covers all your needs.
While many other people would likely start with a different area, we want you to consider the importance of bushing sizes before you buy. The bushing sizes determine what kinds of jobs you can do, so you’ll always want to make sure that you get a model that supports the kinds of projects that you want to do.
If you’re going to do the same kind of connections in the same kind of wood repeatedly, then you don’t need a dowel jig with very much flexibility to it. On the other hand, if you’re not sure what tasks you’re going to face in the future, then you’re going to want to invest in a model that has a ton of different bushing sizes so that you can move to the next task without buying a new dowel jig.
The good news is that most dowel jigs plot a course somewhat down the middle, as they come with three bushing sizes, typically, 1/4-inch, 5/16-inch, and 3/8-inch. These will be sufficient for most tasks, but if you’re working with extra-large or extra-small pieces, then you’ll need to invest in a model that has sizes bigger or small than these sizes.
Getting your dowels centered is essential to getting a flush, strong, and good-looking connection. If they get off-centered, you run the risk of splitting the wood, or in getting a non-flush connection, which will mean you have to take it apart and sand down edges or redo that piece entirely. That’s an expensive or time-consuming mistake, so you’ll want to invest in a dowel jig that makes getting centered dowels a quick and easy task.
Many dowel jigs advertise themselves as “self-centering.” This essentially means that they use a single screw to draw both sides of the dowel jig towards the board as you tighten it. In theory, this should end up with the hole perfectly centered, but there are a few problems that can interfere with this process. Any manufacturing flaws that affect the thickness of the two sides can result in them meeting the wood at an odd angle, which throws off the alignment.
Or, holes that aren’t drilled correctly in the dowel jig itself can lead to similar problems. You need to do your research into self-centering dowel jig models before you buy, as they could make things easy, or they could make things impossible. Just keep in mind that if you don’t get a self-centering model, you’ll get one that you have to center yourself, which is extra work, but it may result in a more-centered dowel.
What materials your dowel jig is made from matters. A common material is aluminum, due in large part to its intrinsic strength, coupled with its low weight, which makes it easy to move around and attach to wood. However, aluminum has a serious flaw, in that the untreated surfaces are very vulnerable to corrosion and rust. In theory, the surface could be treated to address this problem, but most manufacturers have taken a gamble and guessed that consumers would rather save money than get a dowel jig that will resist corrosion forever.
So, you have two options. You can either get an untreated aluminum model, which you’ll have to carefully care for to prevent corrosion. Or you can spend a little bit more and get a steel-plated model. Steel resists corrosion better than aluminum, but its price and its heft prevent it from being a good material for the whole doweling jig. Steel-plated surfaces are durable and corrosion-resistant, so the jig’s value goes way up if it has this feature.
Of course, you might think that you’ll have to spend way more money to score a steel-plated model, but the truth is that you can get one for just a bit more, or sometimes at the same price as a lesser, aluminum-only model.
The versatility of your dowel jig depends greatly on two factors. Those are its capacity and the number of connections it can create.
The very best dowel jigs on the market have massive capacities. Think six inches or more. That gives you the potential to do projects that other artisans can only dream of. The next tier tops out at about 2-1/2-inches, which means that if you’re looking to puts dowels in something 3 or more inches in diameter, you’re going to have to go big.
You should also consider the other side of the spectrum. Some models can work with wood pieces as thin as 1/4 or 1/2-inch, which is quite small. If you’re going to be working with wood in those sizes, make sure you get a dowel jig that can clamp down small enough to work.
You also have to consider the kinds of connections that a dowel jig can make. The three most common kinds of connections are edge-to-edge, edge-to-corner, and edge-to-surface, and not all models can support those connection types.
Accuracy is an underrated feature in a dowel jig. Self-centering is only part of the equation. If the holes for your bushings are drilled wrong, you’re in for a world of hurt. Not being able to insert your bushings is a huge pain, though there’s a chance you can drill them out larger with a drill press of your own. Nevertheless, that’s a pain you shouldn’t have to deal with if you’re spending a decent amount of money on your dowel jig.
The opposite may be worse. If your bushings go in but are loose, then it’s hard to get an accurate dowel hole. Even small gaps can create problems, so it’s always good to invest in models that don’t have these kinds of problems. A third problem is holes for bushings that are loose enough to fit, but too tight for easy operation. The bushing will get stuck, or in some circumstances, the bushing’s head will break off, leaving you with a ruined bushing, but also a ruined dowel jig.
Which dowel jig is right for you?
There’s no one right dowel jig for everyone. You must get a model that meets all of your needs in the shop, and since those needs vary from person-to-person, no model will be perfect.
The best way to get the most value out of your purchase is to sit down and determine exactly what you’re going to be doing with your dowel jig. What projects? What wood thicknesses? What kinds of connections? Once you have good answers to those questions, you’ll have a list of needs that will help guide you to the right dowel jig. Look for the model that covers all those needs but doesn’t add in any features that you won’t need or use and raises the price of the model.
Once you have a shortlist of those models, it’s safe to buy the cheapest one from that list. That way, you get all the capability you need out of a dowel jig, but for the best possible price.
The Eagle America 445-7600 is our top choice due to its large width, self-centering, and sturdy aluminum and steel frame. The Task 07300TK is well made, features a steel-plated aluminum body, and comes with multiple bushings, earning it second place on our list. The Wolfcraft 3751405 features a great 5-year warranty and is a great dowel jig for edge-to-surface connections. Its great price earns it the title of “best value” on our list. The Milescraft 13110003 has an innovative design that makes it a versatile pick and makes it easy to get matching holes, but it has poor width and is expensive relative to what you’re getting. The HF tools 41345 comes with five holes sizes but has severe manufacturing flaws that make it a suboptimal pick.
Hopefully, our reviews and our buyer’s guide have helped you figure out which dowel jig is right for you. With this information, you should be able to find the model that comes at a great price and helps you make great furniture and decorations long into the future.
- A Rundown of our 2020 Favorites
- The 5 Best Dowel Jigs
- Buyer’s Guide