In furniture construction, the dowel is often the unsung hero. It is what connects all pieces of furniture, making sure that everything is together as it should be. Without dowels, chairs are less sturdy, more prone to creaking and even breakage.
You may ask, how, exactly, does the dowel fit in to a chair? Why is it so important that it is able to provide all these great benefits? Well, first off, with a dowel, the connection is wood to wood and it provides the greatest amount of flexibility.
The dowel allows for flexibility as wood is a live being that expands and contracts with the temperature of a room. In the most ideal scenario, a chair would be built inside someone’s home so as to let the wood acclimate in it’s natural habitat before the pieces of it are put together. That way, when it is made – the wood will stay exactly as it was during construction BUT in today’s world, this is not possible as you cannot have each piece of furniture made inside your house to make sure that the wood is acclimated first. In this instance – dowel construction allows for the expansion and contraction of wood where the dowel moves with the holes in the furniture. It provides strength and at the same time works with the chair in its current environment. It is more forgiving and over time holds up the best in any environment.
With proper construction, excellent wood glue and various forms of other joinery throughout the chair which we will talk about in the next installment of the Chair Quality Series, a chair can last a family through the decades being passed down from generation to generation.