Jessem vs Dowelmax: What’s the Best Doweling Jig for You?

If you often find yourself cutting dowel joints, you probably should consider getting a doweling jig. That way, you’ll speed up the process and get better results. Two good alternatives you could choose from are the doweling jig manufactured by Jessem or the famous Dowelmax. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between them, and decide whether one or the other is better. Is the price difference justifiable?

“Dowels” by Roadside Guitars is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In short, both are dowel jigs are top-notch. You will be satisfied with the results you’ll get with either one of them. The Jessem might be easier to use, plus it’s cheaper. That might make you prefer it over the Dowelmax.

Alright, let’s get to it!

What is a Doweling Jig? What Does it Do?

First, a few words to introduce the tool.

Dowel joints are a very strong joinery method. To perform at their best, though, they have to be done perfectly. That’s why a doweling jig is required to get optimal results. A doweling jig is basically a tool that guides you in drilling perpendicular holes to the surfaces you are joining. Maybe, you could get away with a self-made jig; you probably won’t get the same accurate results.

Most dowel jigs are self-centering. What they do is basically clamp both stock faces, so that you’ll drill the holes at the center of the stock. As a result, you may have a hard time drilling the corresponding face holes.

Doweling jigs are usually equipped with different drill-hole sizes. That allows you to use the same jig for different projects, that require bigger or smaller dowels.

Jessem vs Dowelmax: In-Depth Comparison

Materials and Construction Quality

When it comes to jigs (not only dowel jigs), materials used and construction quality are very important. A good jig needs to be precise, and that accuracy can only be achieved by using top-quality materials machined with techniques that guarantee low tolerances. Both companies nailed this part with the Jessem jig and the Dowelmax.

Let’s start with the Jessem. It’s built in CNC machined aluminum, to combine strength and precision. Material is also anodized to capitalize on durability. The drill guides are made of stainless steel. On the other hand, the drill bits provided with the tool might not last you long.

The Dowelmax is manufactured similarly. The main body components are in CNC machined aluminum, while the drill guides are made of steel.

Both dowel jigs are sturdy and built like tanks. Forget those cheap dowel jigs that move all around the place. These jigs are on a whole another level.

User Friendliness

Another aspect to consider is how easy are the jigs to use. In my opinion, this point is key when discussing jigs. The easier the setup, the quicker you’ll get the job done.

In this matter, the Jessem jig and the Dowelmax are quite different. The Jessem jig is very quick to set up properly. You need to first clamp it on the board you will cut the dowels in; then adjust the jig to the wanted position with the adjustment knob. If you want to put dowels on multiple rows, simply move the knob accordingly without unclamping the jig.

On the other hand, setting up a Dowelmax might not be as quick and easy. There will be a lot of screwing and unscrewing to do. The main cons here is that Dowelmax requires shims for spacing. To get a certain offset, you need to insert the appropriate spacer between the clamp bracket and the reference block containing the drill guides.

In my opinion, the Jessem way, with an adjustment knob, is less laborious. It’s more intuitive and you don’t have to open the tool every time you need a new offset. That’s why I prefer the Jessem for cutting multiple dowel rows in the same piece at different heights.


Finally, let’s have a few words about the price. The Dowelmax is more expensive than the Jessem jig. Although you might be able to find discounts from time to time that will make the difference smaller.

That’s a huge point in favor of the Jessem since both jigs are similar in all the other points we discussed.

What do Users Say?

“dowels for positioning the two sides of the foil at glue up” by Dale Simonson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As always, I like to check people’s opinions on forums before getting a new tool. It’s a good, second-handed experience, the same as you would get from a friend. Obviously, take what you read with a grain of salt since many considerations might be biased.

Most users are very satisfied with both the Jessem jig and the Dowelmax. They like the quality of both jigs and feel that they are worth the money. Many of them used cheap jigs in the past, and say they never got such precise results with them.

Some of them prefer the Jessem to the Dowelmax since it’s easier to work with different offsets without having to set up the jig every time from scratch.

Final Thoughts

Before we pick a winner, let’s summarize the points we discussed before deciding:

  • Both jigs are very well made, with quality materials. You will get accurate results with either one of them;
  • Jessem is easier to use. Setups are quicker since there are no shims to put in place;
  • The Dowelmax costs more than the Jessem.

Dowelmax and Jessem jigs are the best doweling jigs you could possibly choose from. They are both expensive, but they will last you a lifetime. You can’t go wrong with either one.

If I had to pick one, I would go for a Jessem doweling jig. Here’s a link to Amazon. It’s easier to use, and it’s cheaper than the Dowelmax. That’s enough for me to make a decision.

What about you? Have you decided yet? Let me know which one you bought in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Jessem vs Dowelmax: What’s the Best Doweling Jig for You?”

  1. CollinChoi

    Thanks a lot for comparing two premium dowel jigs. I am in the market for a quality dowel jig, since dowel joint should make my project plans much more simple and intuitive. Question: I think Dowelmax can justify its extra cost for the self clamping system, which reduces the number of clamps to use to the minimum. Jessem’s jig requires separate clamping between jig-material and material-workbench. It may deteriorate the jig quality(so does its precision) over time by repetitive clamping pressure. Am I wrong or over-thinking? Again, thank you for your time to make a great comparison.

    1. Hey there! In my opinion, the damage done by the repetitive clamping is negligible. At the end of the day, we are talking woodworking, not CNC machining 😉

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