Drawbore – An Inside Look

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The drawbore is an ancient and intriguing method of holding joints together without the need for glue. However, it is hard to make this right if you don’t understand how it works. Paul has put together and then sawed in half a drawbored mortise and tenon to show how the peg works and what is needed to achieve the strength and unity of this type of joinery.


  1. phillnleblanc on 31 May 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Thank you. I (and I’m sure many others) sincerely appreciate the time and effort you put into these short videos.

  2. Manú manú on 31 May 2019 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you sir. For sharing your storys, experience’s and knowledge! To give some back i would subscribe if I have the means!
    Bless you sir!

  3. Ken Dalgleish on 31 May 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Using a heavy washer to form pins is a good idea. And of course there are countless other equally good options for making pins and dowels. You could repurpose an old drill bit gauge (pennies on ebay) or simply drill a range of holes in some scrap / repurposed piece of steel. No need at all to spend £££s on factory made dowel plates.

    Worth adding that lightly faceted pins work as well, some would argue better, than fully round pins so don’t hesitate to go straight from a chisel or spokeshave. Maybe a little harder to correctly size that’s all. However you make them its worth making a few extra in case one splits (usually wonky grain or too tight) and also so you can drill a hole in some scrap and test your fit before assembling your project.

    • jakegevorgian on 31 May 2019 at 4:32 pm

      Good comment! One thing I didn’t notice is that it’s best to split cut the Drawbore blanks instead of saw cutting—this gives the best straight grain blanks after a few tries.

  4. Roy Christensen on 31 May 2019 at 12:38 pm

    I always look forward to your updates. Some I have done before, but even then a refresh of my memory is an excellent way to be sure that what I do is correct. Just like on molding around a door or window remembering the long side of the cut is always on the thickest part of the molding. I have ruined more wood than I want to remember till I actually review in my mind which side is which way.

  5. Steve Robinson on 31 May 2019 at 1:20 pm

    Excellent as always Paul
    Great teacher

  6. Rick Pevey on 31 May 2019 at 2:22 pm

    thank you will use it

  7. Steve Mees on 31 May 2019 at 2:26 pm

    Fascinating Paul. Thank you. How scaleable is this? I can see drawbores are great on chunky joints (like the garden bench) but can you do smaller ones on thinner timber?

    • Jim Allen on 31 May 2019 at 6:16 pm

      Steve, have you made or watched Paul’s video series on the cutting board from the castle kitchen? It uses draw bore mortise & tenons and is a great project. I made several of them which are very popular. People are very impressed that there is no glue in the project yet it won’t come apart or fail.

    • Paul Sellers on 1 June 2019 at 7:58 pm

      I haver done 1/16″ and 3/32″ that worked fine on a Chinese lantern I restored a few years ago.

  8. Allen Schell on 31 May 2019 at 2:27 pm

    In large pieces of furniture can a Drawbore pin be driven out for disassembly ?

    Thanks so much for that video!

    • Sandy on 31 May 2019 at 3:37 pm

      I am no expert at this so please consider this with my reply. Because the draw pin deforms the inside of the bore on the tenon and somewhat on the mortise side, I’d say you could probably dissemble once or twice but after a few times of driving the pin in, it will loose it’s purpose and the joint would become loose sloppy. If you are just dissembling for a one time repair you could increase the size of the hole and pin when you reassemble. If you want something that will be dissembled over and over you might just use a straight through bore so that it doesn’t deform the pin or the holes. That’s just my humble opinion.

    • jakegevorgian on 31 May 2019 at 4:25 pm

      It can be drilled out.

    • Paul Sellers on 1 June 2019 at 7:59 pm

      Yes, but you will need to make anther to replace it for best results as the pins lose their elasticity over time

    • rongoy on 13 June 2019 at 5:16 pm

      If you really want disassembly, use a tasked tenon instead

  9. Harvey Kimsey on 31 May 2019 at 2:49 pm

    Best video I’ve seen on drawboring mortise and tenon joints.

  10. YrHenSaer on 31 May 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Yes………… it’s reversible, but not without a little risk and involves leaving a little forensic evidence behind..

    Many old building – even ships – were built using this method scaled up. Lots of old barns were reassembled on new sites and put to a new purpose. Did a bit of that myself 40-odd years ago when there was a fashion of “rustic” pubs made from dismantled agricultural stuff with old tools hanging on the wall.
    ……DIY Pub-kits if you prefer.

    In good furniture (assuming that you want to reassemble it later, elsewhere), the minute entry/exit marks left by a previous dowel will likely remain amidst the site of new pin……. it all adds to the history of the piece.

  11. Matt Hess on 31 May 2019 at 4:54 pm

    I love seeing the inner workings of this sort of thing! Thanks so much Paul for doing a great job once again of showing us how things work!

  12. Zach Cox on 31 May 2019 at 7:10 pm

    I made these a part of an introduction to woodworking class I took some time ago.
    This video is so concise a explicative and thus wonderful.

  13. Stephen McFadyen on 31 May 2019 at 10:13 pm

    Mr Sellers, another wonderful insight into the past methods that are still current today, however, I think I am missing something here, I understand that there was not commercially made dowels way back when so the craftsman had to make his own. In our families joinery run by my Uncles they have inherited a very old dowel maker from my great great grandfather when he started the joinery works, they still use it for large draw bore pins on restoration work. Will this still work with a 1/2 inch or larger commercially made dowels
    Thanks Stephen

    • Craig on 31 May 2019 at 11:13 pm

      Will what still work?

    • Aaron Fore on 1 June 2019 at 2:28 pm

      Stephen, in my experience commercially made dowels often have runout in the grain instead of being straight. If you use them for a drawbore, or any other type of weight bearing fixture or joint, they will split off at an angle. Better off to make you own using this or similar technique.


    • Paul Sellers on 1 June 2019 at 8:02 pm

      It will indeed although many of the larger ones were made faceted using a spokeshave or draw knife.

  14. Reginald Spence on 1 June 2019 at 10:43 am

    Paul, Thank you for posting this video. I never knew or thought of this technique before but I am trying to learn how to build items without nails or screws. I’ve been using my wife’s bamboo skewers and old incense sticks to hold my tenons, half laps and rabbets together. They have been holding tightly because I also use glue and bored pins throughout the builds so that it wouldn’t fall apart over time. I first used that technique on my aircraft Technicians Tote. It’s a showpiece for myself and I tried to hide the multiple pins by burning the wood with an electric heat gun. It’s been holding well and only weighted it about 30lbs. I will not try anything heavier since it’s built to hold the least amount of tools to perform a specific job. I will definitely use your technique in building my wife’s ladder stand. Thank you. Reggie aka BackYardJackofAllTrades.

  15. Chris Terrell on 1 June 2019 at 11:19 am

    Thank you Paul, for another really practical and informative video. I didn’t think to use this technique on a project last year but will remember to do so in a subsequent one where I want a permanent and strong joint; I like the way it allows you to avoid using glue.
    Are there any adjustments you need to make for working with lower-grade softwoods? I make a lot of things out of recycled wood, especially the various pines used for pallets and scaffolding planks.

  16. Bill Webb on 1 June 2019 at 11:45 pm

    Unlike other teachers/… that I’ve followed you have explained something without
    leaving me with a sense of having gotten my “daily dose of humility.”
    Thank you.

  17. Farred on 2 June 2019 at 4:31 am

    I don’t know, kind of a boring video (I can’t believe no one posted this comment yet).

    • kevin winsor on 2 June 2019 at 3:33 pm

      Why didn’t you drill down to the interesting parts?

    • TimB on 2 June 2019 at 7:00 pm

      Well, perhaps. But it was hole-y to the point when discussing how to fashion the pins.

      You started it.

      • ballinger on 22 July 2019 at 10:44 am

        There’s a hole lot of boring jokes here lads and they all lack depth.

        I was in therapy the other day and after half an hour of talking about my struggles my therapist said “It could be worse, you could be in an underground hole filled with water”. I know he means well.

  18. Benoît Van Noten on 2 June 2019 at 10:55 am

    I have learned something new: making the hole near the tenon shoulder is also to minimise shrinkage between the peg and the tenon shoulder.
    Until now i was thinking the only reason was to avoid tenon shearing if the hole was made on the other side: close to the exit of the tenon.

  19. James Light on 4 June 2019 at 2:54 am

    Great job of show and tell. I learned about Drawbore before I made my thick top work bench. All the joints are glued and drawbored. I was totally amazed at how tight it drew those joints together. Highly recommend using them. Thanks again for all your wisdom you share teaching what has been lost in so much of our world today.
    Jim Light, USA

  20. Bernadette Semilla on 10 June 2019 at 4:52 am

    Thank you for this video. I always love learning about joinery developed to suit different (often sparse) available equipment, and seeing exactly how it works is always a wonder! As a bonus, it helps me remember the technique itself 🙂

  21. peterjonespipeorgans on 17 July 2019 at 7:15 am

    Excellent presentation.
    Many thanks.

  22. reinhard walter on 5 February 2021 at 2:50 pm

    very interesting, old school techniques!

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