I'm constructing a 12 x 15 ft free-standing, stained, pine frame for a decorative wedding backdrop. I'll make the uprights from 2 6' 2x4s and the horizontal from two 7.5" 2x4s. (This is necessary for transporting in a 10" van.) Ill be sandwiching, connecting all joints with 6" 2x4s and securing all 3 layers with four (or more if needed) 5" x 3/4" dowels.

I'm using dowels for easy assembly and disassembly as the frame will be reused at different events.

The question is, how can I ensure that the dowels don't get stuck in the holes, since there is high humidity? Will sealing the holes and the dowels be enough?

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    Do you have to use dowels? This sounds like a job for screws or lag bolts. – Stephen Meschke Jun 14 '19 at 18:17
  • A simple isometric drawing will make it clear for you as well as for us what your intentions are, and will help show where loading and racking affects the design. But I agree with the other comment: dowels are not good fasteners in most cases. If you want a pure wood solution, then tenons with wedges or pins might be the way to go. – jdv Jun 14 '19 at 19:19
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    It's not high humidity that will cause dowels to become stuck, it's a change in humidity from low(er) to high after building. If the humidity is consistently high you don't really have anything to worry about. Anyway that aside, there are multiple alternatives available that could avoid the issue, screws/bolts as @StephenMeschke mentions, tusked tenons and a few others. – Graphus Jun 14 '19 at 19:57
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    I like the lag bolts idea. The desire is to make the process of set up and break down as simple as possible, using as few tools as possible. Thank you. This was very helpful. – pharaba Jun 14 '19 at 23:45

For my portable-assembly projects, I've used plastic biscuits and plastic or metal dowels.

Obviously, do not expect biscuits or dowels to maintain a planar surface.. If it must be flat and/or strongly joined, you'll want to add a backer board to ensure flatness and rigidity, and some draw-pull latches to secure the pieces together. Don't forget to consider uneven ground surface, so you likely should add some adjustable feet on this thing, or bring scrap wood to help level it..

For biscuits, I simply used a utility knife to cut out the size I needed from PVC lattice fencing (ie. 2" lattice kind, 8'x4' $19 at Lowes) & I use the knife to beveled the edges of the PVS so it slips in/out of the members' slots easily. I brad-nail or glue the biscuit into 1 of the members so they don't fall out. PVC also conveniently allows for some flexing during assembly of your pieces (rather than your product cracking), should your pieces warp a little bit over time.

Similarly, for dowels, you can use very small diameter PVC or PEX pipe (like for refrigerator water lines) & bevel the ends. PEX is a bit weak for flexing during assembly (AKA, fatigue).

You may want to look into beveled metal pins for shelving units, maybe plastic even exists (pin on both sides, often with a thin stop flange). These can be purchased loose from most hardware stores. To one member, I would secure the pin, either with glue or a sliver of wood for a tension-fit.

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