Locking Dowels for Dadoes

A storage project for my shop called for quite a few drawers. I needed a joint that was easy to make but could stand up to heavy use.

Dowels for Dadoes

Dado joints can be reinforced with dowels, which also produces a unique “locking” joint.

I decided to cut dadoes in the drawer fronts to accept the sides. While this joint is quick and easy to cut, I was worried that the glue wouldn’t be enough to keep the drawer fronts secure to the sides. So to “beef it up,” I added a set of short dowels that lock each joint, like you see in the photo above.

Dadoe joint and dowels detail

After gluing up each drawer, just drill a couple of holes on both sides of the joint line, as shown in Figure 1. This allows a short dowel to be glued in to act as a “locking” pin. I did this on both the top and bottom of the drawer.

I used a 1/8"-dia. dowel for my drawers. It seemed about right for the 1/2" plywood I was using for drawer construction. And don’t worry about cutting them to exact length. Just trim them flush with a chisel (Figure 1a).

I find myself using this technique more and more for stronger joints.

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