im making a fire staff. My friend bought me a 1 ¹/4 diameter, 58" long dowel but I need to reduce it to 1". I have no equipment, (pretty sure homedepot doesn't accept returns that have been cut to order), perhaps is there a place that could whittle it down? This stick already cost $16, looking for cost effective and efficient way to reduce 1/4" down the entire shaft. Any ideas?

  • Could you be more specific? "no equipment" surely doesn't mean nothing at all - I bet you have a knife... you'd probably have other things. It would be much easier to answer if you list the tools you do have, no matter how simple or cheap they are.
    – Jan Spurny
    Jul 11, 2023 at 22:01
  • 3
    Hi, welcome to StackExchange. Ignoring why the 1/4" difference is important for a sec, there's absolutely no way you can reduce the diameter of a long dowel (even if it's only softwood) by this much without at least a few key woodworking tools. The most effective method is with a rounding plane, but you need woodworking tools (and the experience to use them) to make the thing, as well as to supply a suitable blade to fit in it. You could, in theory at least, whittle and/or scrape this down but the amount of effort required would be, considerable. Plus you'd need to resharpen [contd]
    – Graphus
    Jul 11, 2023 at 23:09
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    ....about two dozen times which wouldn't be any fun if you don't currently have any sharpening supplies! So, are you sure you can't live with this being 1/4" oversize?
    – Graphus
    Jul 11, 2023 at 23:09
  • 1
    Do you really need to thin the whole thing? I can understand that the wick attachments might need a particular size but the grip section should be fine at 1¼". Thinning just the ends might be more realistic. Or is it the weight (1¼" weighs around 56% more than 1" for the same material)?
    – Chris H
    Jul 12, 2023 at 10:00

4 Answers 4


This stick already cost $16, looking for cost effective and efficient way to reduce 1/4" down the entire shaft. Any ideas?

The easiest, most cost effective plan will be to just go buy the right size. My Home Depot has a 1"x72" hardwood dowel for $7. Turning your 1.25" dowel down to a consistent 1" on a lathe would:

  1. be difficult
  2. require a lathe with a very long bed
  3. surely cost more than $7
  • 3
    This, all day long.
    – Graphus
    Jul 11, 2023 at 23:10
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    @T.E.D. From the OP: pretty sure homedepot doesn't accept returns that have been cut to order. I agree -- if it were a piece off the rack, they'd take it back, but if you have them cut it to length for you, I doubt they'll take it back unless you discover something actually wrong with it, e.g. you find that it's rotten in the middle or something.
    – Caleb
    Jul 12, 2023 at 20:09
  • Ah, yeah. I think that's right too.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 12, 2023 at 20:44

Without knowing your tool stock or your skill set, your answer will be challenging to find. I've just now searched and found a method to turn down a square rod to a dowel by using a die, normally used to thread bolts. I have a reasonably varied set of tools, but I don't have a one-inch die in my kit, making your objective implausible with that tool.

Another method involves sharpening the edge of an open-end wrench to create a cutting surface, spinning the rod in the mouth of the wrench to shave away excess material. I do have a one-inch open-end wrench, but I'm not going to grind away a portion to create a knife-edge and make sawdust. It's also challenging to spin a 1.125" dowel fast enough as common power tools are limited chuck diameter.

Another method I've seen online is to drill the one-inch hole in a plank, cutting slices tangent and parallel to the hole, inserting "discarded" reciprocating saw blades in the slots, teeth up and spinning the rod. Again, the starting rod is rather large diameter, but this particular method is possible using a hand crank, making it more possible than the others.

Caleb's seven dollar suggestion seems to have merit.

  • Interesting though they are in terms of creative problem solving, none of the bodges is necessary, because there already exists a tool for this sole purpose: the rounding plane, or just 'rounder'. They can create dowels of any given diameter and, in theory, of any length.
    – Graphus
    Jul 12, 2023 at 9:29

I'm gonna post this even though it might be a dumb idea, but it's a cheap option. This does assume you have some very basic tools though.

  1. Insert a decent-sized screw into one end of the dowel, in the center of the circle. I would suggest drilling a pilot hole first to keep the dowel from splitting. Leave 1½ inches of the screw sticking out.
  2. Cut off the head of the screw with a hacksaw
  3. Put the screw into your drill.
  4. Hold some sandpaper in your hand and cradle the dowel in it, while spinning it with the drill. Work evenly along the dowel's length to keep the sanding consistent. Keep doing this until you reach the desired thickness.

A few caveats:

  1. It's very tricky to keep the sandpaper in your hand while preventing the dowel from grabbing it (I know this from experience). But after a few minutes you'll get a feel for the right amount of grip. Wearing a work glove would probably be a good idea too.
  2. Given your dowel's length, this may be a 2-person job.

You might think this would be a tedious job, but if the dowel is a soft wood like pine, and the sandpaper is a course grit (80 would be good), you can remove a lot of material pretty quickly.

  • This is a good basic method, and I've seen it used for some pretty long dowel stock but nothing like 58" in length. I know the question is probably moot now, but also taking off a 1/4" this way would still take 'a while'! I have some new-found perspective on this, having finally built a drill-powered lathe and taking off a full 1/4" of thickness from a short spindle, just by sanding, erk ^_^
    – Graphus
    Aug 5, 2023 at 5:34

I would grab a piece of metal plate and say I have a 35 mm dowel and need it to be 32mm I would drill 6 holes in the plate: (table drill would be best)

34,5 mm 34 mm 33,5 mm 33 mm 32,5 mm 32 mm

Then tap the dowel through the holes until I have the thickness I want.

That's the theory, dunno if it would work in real life ;) will try it myself!

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to StackExchange. Dowel plate is of course one of the classic ways to make dowels, and can be used to reduce diameter in steps. But here, you might have missed one key detail: the 58" length the OP needed to reduce (that's 1.5 metres).
    – Graphus
    Jan 13 at 10:31

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