I am working on a project that requires securely fastening a 1-1/4" x 48" closet dowel rod into 1" side boards at 90 degrees. Is there a good way to fix these large diameter dowel rods into the board at 90 degrees and keep them perpendicular?

The project is essentially a modified version of Swedish stall bars.

Even after drilling a tight fit 1-1/4" hole, there is still slop allowing me to freely reposition the dowel rod so that it is no longer perpendicular to the board face.

  • 1
    I was all ready to post an Answer when it occurred to me to ask how you're getting a non-perpendicular installation. Even if there's some play the dowel should still be almost perfectly 90° to both surfaces unless there's something off. Both mounting holes align? Rod under compression so it's bowed?
    – Graphus
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 7:27
  • What if you trimmed the end of a dowel square to basically make it a tenon? Much easier to keep that square. Then you could pin the joint through the bottom if you need more stability... Commented May 11, 2017 at 12:16
  • Is there a reason you're not gluing it into place? It seems like the easiest thing to do is to put glue on the dowel, put it in the hole, accurately position it perpendicular to the face, and then clamp it in place before the glue dries. Commented May 11, 2017 at 18:40
  • I will be gluing in the end. I now know the biggest problem. Using my caliper I found out that the big box store dowels are 1/32" shy of the advertised 1 1/4" so the fit has some play in my exactly 1 1/4" flat bottom hole. Glue in theory should work, but the problem is then how to keep it perpendicular to the board face in both the x and y axis while the glue sets..
    – Matt
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 16:48

1 Answer 1


I will be facing this problem soon, and I've thought of 3 ways to do this, all of which are fundamentally the same. Basically, you need to expand the dowel in the hole so that it is tight to the sides.

If the dowel end can be accessed by the other (flat side, ie, it's a through- mortise), there are two options:

  1. With an undersized pilot hole, or no pilot hole at all, screw a small wood screw into the center of the end grain on the outer side. This will push the wood fibers out, expanding the dowel diameter in the mortise, and compress the dowel into the mortise.
  2. Use a wedge or two to accomplish the same thing. I'd imagine you'd need crossed wedges to keep things symmetric.

If it's not a through mortise, you can try the screw method anyway, just screwing in from the outside. Alternatively, if you can't reach the other side (say it's in a closet), you can essentially create a foxtail mortise with those aforementioned wedges, just for a dowel.

  • Great ideas. I've toyed with many similar thoughts. At first I was going to leave the board face intact, but even compromising and going all the way through still isn't as secure and square as I'd like. For your project, simply to share, I also thought about screwing a steel flat or 1/2" square tub to the end of the dowel rod and routing a channel for the metal to sit in and screw the steel into the board. Basically a DIY flange I suppose. Though unfortunately both of our ideas require exposed hardware, and I wanted to give the piece the apperance of wood-to-wood only joinery
    – Matt
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 4:50
  • Sorry, just re read your comment about a through hole foxtail on the dowel. Seems like a good idea, espcially if the wedge is instead a cone, concentric with the dowel. However, any trick to prevent splitting?
    – Matt
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 4:56
  • you could try a cone - i didn't mention it because it'd be harder to make accurately. I suppose you could try a nail. the trick to prevent it from splitting is to make it small - you're not talking about filling a big gap here, more like 1/10" max.
    – aaron
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 12:56

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