Everything You Need to Know About Lockdowel
What do you know about Lockdowel? Perhaps you’ve heard the term but you’re curious about why it stands out from all the other methods out there. I want to tell you about what makes it work, the general way to set it up, and the features and assembly time using the Lockdowel method.
We started using Lockdowel about two years ago. We were on a mission to find a different kind of fastener that would go with our component company and make it much easier for cabinet makers or people to assemble flat pack cabinets and without needing specialized machinery. While there were several options out there, Lockdowel seemed to be the best for us.
What is lockdowel?
Lockdowel is a fastening system that is glueless, toolless assembly. Its utilizes metal spring pins and a green U shaped fastener that coupled with a channel that the CNC routes on the boards. You slide the green fastener in the channel and it locks the parts together. It’s a very slick, very unique system, but it’s also very new. If you look at the traditional system of doweling or even confirmat screws, Lockdowel is a complete 180 from those systems.
We had very high expectations when looking into switching everything to Lockdowel. Our goal as a component cutting company was to be able to double a cabinet shop’s capacity with no further capital investment. And that is a big ask. The only way to could do that was to make sure we could cut cabinet makers assembly times way down and also not have to add any machinery. So after a couple trips to Lockdowel’s office in California and several rounds of sample parts we finally decided to make the leap into Lockdowel.
After learning how to use Lockdowel and now looking back, there are three major things about it that you need to know:
Learning to Assemble
Change within your company
The first step was perhaps the toughest one, although I’m sure it’s no doubt become easier since they’ve had more adoption of the fastening system.
The biggest thing about Lockdowel is the precision of the depth on the routes of the panels. It takes a lot of time to get everything set up just right so that depth is precise. Lockdowel is a friction type fastener so the depth of that route is critical so that the friction works right - so it’s not too hard to push together and you’re not breaking the panels and it’s not too easy to push together so you don’t have gaps.
If you don’t get the setup correct, and I’m mean exactly right, then steps 2 and 3 are going to be very, very difficult.
Step two is learning how to assemble Lockdowel cabinets. Assembly may differ depending on which Lockdowel you use, the Channel Lock or the H clip. We use the Channel Lock because we like the control of how tight the joint can be and the Channel Lock slides and locks into place.
With a traditional European style cabinet you are either going to screw it together or dowel it together so you are pressing the parts together. It’s such a big difference when you are sliding the parts together because you have to do it in a certain order to make it quicker to lock together.
So there is a learning curve on assembly, however, once you learn how to assemble Lockdowel cabinets, it can be up to 50% faster than traditional methods, maybe even better than that depending on your shop’s efficiency.
Adapting to Change
The third step is perhaps just as big as step one. You need to be ready to adapt to the change of the system.
We realized early on after getting our tolerances set up and learning how to assemble, that we kind of had to revamp our whole system, including how we handled the parts, conveyed, stacked, sorted, and prepped parts for assembly.
With that kind of change ultimately comes push back on the shop floor. As the owner of the company and the one backing the system I spent a lot of time on the shop floor with the employees getting feedback and making changes on the fly. At one point we were making changes on a daily basis. We now continue to make changes but not near as often.
Just know that with implementing the Lockdowel system, whether you buy components or end up cutting them yourselves, there is going to be some change that you need to be ready for on the shop floor. I would encourage you to educate your employees before they even touch a part. There are many videos out there about Lockdowel and these can be a great introduction to the new system. Have employees watch 30 minutes of the videos and give them some exposure before working with parts and they will feel more comfortable with the change and ready to adopt it.
Hopefully I answered some of your Lockdowel questions and you have a bit more familiarity with the method. I firmly believe that if you take these three steps seriously, you will in turn see some serious success in your shop.
If you have other questions about Lockdowel please feel free to comment below. Also, if you’ve had experience with Lockdowel as well, feel free to leave any further tips below for our readers.
To see the Lockdowel method in use you can order a free sample kit from our company here.