Dowel joinery is traditionally used for joining small wooden members in furniture making. Dowel connections can either be exposed (ends of the dowel showing) or blind (internal to the joint and hidden from view). Note: an exposed dowel joint can easily be confused with a screwed and plugged connection – be wary.
this is a precut dowel – if you have any IKEA furniture you’ve played with these.
Clamping up a joint before inserting the dowels.
An exposed dowel joint on a silly stool/end table thing.
A blind dowel joint prior to glue up.
All of the above dowel joints are furniture-based examples. True dowel construction is rarely used on its own as a joint in a structure or building. However – dowels (often in the form of their rougher cut cousin, pegs) are a common feature of traditional timber frame construction around the world.
axon showing how pegs can be used to secure a timberframe joint.
a timberframed barn renovation in new england uses pegged mortise and tenon joints to secure new members to existing members.
iso of a far more complex, multidirectional timberframed joint using pegs to both horizontal and diagonal members.
this is what it looks like when you’re banging the pegs into a timberframe joint. In many timberframe structures the pegs will be cut down close but not flush with the timbers. This is to allow the pegs to be hammered in further over time as the wood expands and contracts around them.
Pegged/dowels have been experimented with as primary structural joints at small scales and examples on the blogs of architecture students (above) seem pretty common, but building scale applications seem rare/nonexistent.