Locating and drilling dowel holes is usually so fussy it drives you nuts! A self-centering jig works fine on stock of equal thickness, like a face frame, but you may have a hard time setting it up to join parts of unequal thickness, like a thick table leg and a thinner rail. The DowelMax ($170) makes doweling much easier. It's a cinch to set up because the holes can be positioned any distance you want from the jig's reference face. It's a beautifully engineered tool, but it costs about twice as much as a self-centering jig. Dowels are widely used in the furniture industry to join parts because they're quick and easy, but factories use expensive machines for accurate alignment. The best tool for making joints quickly in a home shop is a biscuit joiner, but biscuits have limitations. They don't work well with narrow pieces, for example. The DowelMax doesn't replace a biscuit joiner, but together they make quite a team. In its standard configuration the DowelMax centers 3/8-in.-diameter dowels on 3/4-in.-thick material. Spacers are included to create offset joints or to center dowels on material thicker than 3/4-in. An indexing pin and rod are included for positioning the jig on long edges. One-quarter-inch drill guides are available for $35 per set.
O.M.S. Tool Company, (877) 986-9400, www.dowelmax.com, DowelMax, $170.