How to Make a Doweling Jig for a Bit and Brace

Today I’m responding to my first viewer email! Michael sent the following message:

PROJECT SUGGESTION: I wonder could you make cheap but effective doweling jig all the ones i see online are for use with electric drills etc. Could you come up with one that I can use with a BIT/BRACE? as you need two hands to use the brace. It would need kept in place somehow? without the need for clamps.

Well Michael, I can try. If I understand the problem, Michael doesn’t think he can use a standard doweling jig with a bit and brace because you need to hold the drill and the jig, and a bit and brace requires both hands to use. Clamping the jig is an option, but the clamp can interfere with rotation of the brace. I think we can come up with a solution, But first, some terminology!

What Is Doweling?

Doweling is a woodworking technique that joins two boards without a lot of skill or expensive tools. You drill matching holes in the mating pieces, and then glue pieces of dowel rod or dowel pins into the holes to connect them.  Doweling is a low-tech way of producing a loose tenon similar to systems like the Festool Domino. Unlike the Domino and its massive price tag, all you need to carry out doweling joinery is some dowel rod, a drill, and a drill bit that matches the size of your dowel.

An image of dowel pins being used to attach shelves to their case.

Some random craftsman uses dowel pins to attach some Walmart-quality shelves.

What is a Doweling Jig?

A doweling jig is a tool that keeps your drill bit perpendicular to the work piece. Doweling is difficult without one: even a small error in your drilling angle can ruin the fit of your joint. Use a doweling jig to keep your drill at 90 degrees to the wood and a uniform distance from the edge.

Using a Doweling Jig with a Bit and Brace

Michael’s difficulty with using a doweling jig with a bit and brace stems from the fact that a brace requires two hands for operation, and so you can’t use one to secure the jig. Clamping is difficult because the clamp can interfere with the brace. Personally I have a hard time coming up with a scenario where I can’t clamp the jig in such a way that the clamp doesn’t interfere with the brace. As long as the long end of the brace is below the work, I don’t see a problem.

But Michael asked, so I delivered.

I first experimented with how the doweling jig that I own worked with a bit and brace.  It has a built-in clamp and it’s profile didn’t interfere with the brace. Unfortunately the jig itself is flimsy and inaccurate. The guide is plastic and wobbly. If you’re not holding your brace at 90 degrees, the guide conforms to your angle and not the other way around. That defeats the purpose of using a jig, so I ended up throwing it out.

Make a Doweling Jig for a Bit and Brace

I started sketching ideas on the whiteboard.  Michael specifically asked for a jig that didn’t require clamping.  As I started designing I realized something. I was drawing the doweling jig I had just thrown out. I liked some features of that jig: it had a low profile and integral clamp. But a home-brew version would be complicated to build and just as useless as the original. I tossed that idea and started from a clean slate.

There was no way of getting around a clamp’s necessity. Making a clamp part of the solution felt like over-engineering. A jig with a lot of surface area to use a quick clamp solves that problem.

I tossed a couple of scraps together with pocket screws. The base of the jig is about a foot long which leaves clamping space away from the brace.  The guide itself is an “F” shaped structure. Your bit must pass through two guides to drill through the work piece. The guides keep the bit straight. I marked the center points on all sides of the jig so it’s easy to align the holes.

A Postmortem Look at My Doweling Jig

Is my doweling jig functional?  Sure.  It it big and ugly and totally unnecessary? You betcha. It’s massive, and awkward, and solves a very specific problem I’ll never run into (I get no joy from using a brace). At the very least I hope I’ve solved Michael’s problem, provided some direction towards a solution.

For me the best solution is to buy a doweling jig. A quick search of Amazon returns pages of high-quality and affordable solutions. Many doweling jigs are self-centering and have a clamp integrated into them. See a highly rated jig without a built-in clamp? You can still secure it with a quick clamp from below as to not interfere with your brace. If you’re unsure, ask a question on Amazon and see if owners of the doweling jig have the answer.

So at the end of the day I have to say, sorry Michael! While I didn’t fail to deliver, I think there are better (and fairly cheap) solutions available.