Easy to use Jig for Lightweight Frames

Figure 1:  Self-centering doweling jig for lightweight frames/picture frames

I’ve come across a nice, inexpensive tool for putting dowel joints into lightweight frames like picture frames and such.  It is self centering, and clamps the workpiece to-be-doweled between two pieces of metal to allow for easy drilling of the holes.  By aligning the edge of the tool onto the edge of each workpiece to be mated, the position of the mating holes is automatically aligned correctly, or close to that.  The jig I bought was very inexpensive (around $20) – and seems pretty durable.

I’m sure this tool is old hat to woodworking experts and long-time cabinet makers, but I’m only discovering tools as I have a need to use them.  I discover that I have a problem (all acts of woodworking are problems for me, automatically, because I’m so new to the game), and then I go looking for an easy way to solve the problem and finish the project.  This month, it was the doweling that was the challenge.

In the photo, it can be seen that one of the holes will not accept the entire length of dowel.  The hole for the end dowel was punched completely through the workpiece, and the dowel protruded a little bit when fully seated.  It had to be sanded flush to the piece before finishing.  The three dowels are 3/8 x 2.5 inches, which makes for a pretty good picture frame IMO.

The pre-bought dowels are fluted, which gives room for the glue, and fit very tightly into the jig-drilled holes.  Pretty much it requires a few taps from the mallet to drive them home.  After even a few minutes, they are a real chore to get back out (yes, I had a reason to do that, unfortunately).  So, one needs to have one’s ducks in a row with glue-ups.  That’s not something I always get done with the steps in the right order.

Any experts out there who have a better idea for frames can chime in here.   I have used checked lap joints for frames (seem pretty strong), as well as biscuit joints (seem pretty weak).

The intermediate joint is the mortise and tenon, I suppose, but I take forever to do them on the router, and the dado blade is scary for that usage.  So, I guess I’ll be looking for a nice inexpensive tool for making the tenons next month.