A dowel is a type of round pin which is used to attach things to each other. Dowels can also be used to make things like racks, curtain rods, and so forth. As you might imagine, dowels are made from a wide assortment of materials, and they come in a range of sizes, with and without tapered ends and a variety of other features. Most hardware stores carry a formidable dowel selection, and you can also order dowels for specific purposes or machine them, if you have access to a metal or woodworking shop.
One common choice of material for dowels is wooden. Wooden dowels are often used in woodworking to reinforce joints in furniture, and they are also included in flat pack furniture to allow consumers to quickly assemble the furniture with minimal construction skills. You may also have seen wooden dowels in bird cages as perches, or used as curtain rods for drapes and curtains. Some people also use dowels to construct drying racks, or they mount protruding dowels in convenient places for hanging coats and other garments on.
Dowels can also be made out of various metals, and even plastic. Plastic and metal dowels can be tooled with things like ends which will expand once the dowel has been inserted, locking it into place and creating a very strong join. Metal and wooden dowels can also be used as pivoting pins in something with moving parts, or they can be designed to be removed to separate various parts of an object.
Some dowels have tapered ends to facilitate easy insertion, while others have blunt ends. Dowels may also be grooved to provide traction, and they can be painted, left plain, or reinforced with a variety of materials. They come in a range of widths and lengths, from thick lengthy dowels which can support heavy draperies over large windows to very small, slender dowels used to join the pieces of a cabinet.
In fine woodworking, dowels can be extremely important. Some woodworking disciplines place a high value on avoiding nails and screws, relying on very sound joins to keep a piece of furniture together, and dowels are commonly used in these disciplines. A dowel can also provide stable support with a reduced risk of cracking or breaking a piece of furniture, as the dowel can be designed to break under stress without damaging the furniture; this feature can be useful for things like chairs, which sometimes bear unexpected loads.