Chances are you don’t typically think about hardwood dowels or any kind of dowels for that matter. However, if you’re even marginally interested in the way the world works then chances are you might be interested in the story of the dowel. At its heart, the history of the dowel is deeply connected to the history of woodworking.
Woodworking (what we might consider the “father” of the dowel) has been and always will be a pillar of the manufacturing world. Alongside mud, stone, and animal parts (like bone and skin), wood was one of the first materials ever used by humans to build tools and other commodities. In fact, as can be expected, the development of technology to more effectively and precisely work with wood directly correlated to the development of civilization. As part of this, it is undeniable that wood dowels have played a major role.
Some of the earliest woodworkers include the Chinese and the Egyptians, who included wooden tools and implements in many ancient drawings, figures, and documents. Additionally, a large majority of the wooden furniture unearthed by archaeologists has been wooden. While you might imagine ancient Egyptians in white loin clothes hammering primitive nails into ancient chairs, that’s actually not the case. While leather cord was used to lash together some tools and furniture, the most common tool used to strengthen and hold together the wood was wooden dowels and pegs. While animal glue eventually came to be used, the strength and utility of wood dowels is seriously hard to beat.
From wooden furniture from the ancient Egyptians and the Chinese to holding together Viking Ships woodwork and wood dowels, wood dowels continue to be a valuable asset for woodworking and manufacturing today as well. For example, many desks are manufactured with wood pegs and glue instead of metal screws for a more flush and seamless look. Additionally, larger hardwood dowels are used for everything from furniture and toys to quilt hangers and craft parts.
Today, dowels are manufactured in everything from hardwoods to softwoods, with birch, ash, maple, walnut, cherry, poplar, mahogany, and virtually everything in between. Not only that, they range in size from tiny dowels that go into furniture to large dowels for hanging quilts, curtains, or even plants.
While the basic concept of the wood dowel has remained unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years, the technology that goes into making them has continually improved, allowing greater efficiency, precision, and quality. Ultimately, the persistence of the wooden dowel and woodworking go hand in hand, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that these basic and simple technologies will always be a part of our lives.