A funny thing happened on the way to the workshop the other day. I had four, 8/4 White Oak boards to laminate into a tabletop for the new compact Nicholson Workbench. At over 20″ wide, the lamination would be far too wide for my lunchbox thickness planer. And I needed as much thickness as possible for the final lamination so the workbench top would be as stout as possible. So keeping everything aligned through the various glue-ups was paramount.
So I turned to something that cannot by any stretch be classified as a hand tool. A self-centering dowel jig.
Using dowels for alignment actually serves two purposes. First, it does the aforementioned aligning so any minor bowing along the length of a single board does not otherwise ruin the straightness of the glue-up. Second, it reinforces the glue joint so if the glue fails, the entire thing doesn’t just fall to pieces. It’s not as good as dominoes, obviously, but it’s also way cheaper.
Now I like to think that with a jointer plane and some car I can have a joint that will never fail. And it probably won’t. But the peace of mind of the reinforcing dowels is nice to have. It matters more for larger timbers, though.
The most important thing, though, is to make sure your dowel holes align. This is more about keeping track of how you’re flipping the boards than anything. Otherwise, you’ll use your extra dowels to fill in erroneously-bored holes. And that’s no fun.