March 7, 2007

Plug Cutting Kit

plug_cut.jpgUsing wood filler to conceal ugly screw heads is tedious and unrewarding work. It’s time consuming and often takes more than one application. With tinted wood fillers, you are rarely lucky enough to get a color match and usually end up with visible spots on your finished product that detract from the look of the finished piece.

Your other option for filling screw holes is to use a plug. A plug is simply a piece of wood, the same size as the hole, tightly fitted and glued in place. Plugs are particularly useful on projects that are only getting stain, as opposed to paint. With a bit of care, you can match the grain of the wood and make your screw hole completely disappear. Or, you can make your plug out of a different kind of wood to simulate the look of a dowel.

There’s not much to plug cutting. Just drill out the correct sized hole, make the corresponding plug, glue it in, trim off the extra with a flush cut saw, and then to finish up, just give it a quick sand. After you’ve done it a few times, the process takes only a few moments.

We use plugs all the time. In doing so, we’ve come across a set of plug tools that we think would be handy for just about anyone with an interest in woodworking.

Drill Bits – We prefer to use forstner bits to drill the plug holes, and then pre-drill for the screw within that hole, if needed. Since we usually use a screw gun rather than a drill press, a forster bit lets us know if we’re going straight into the piece of wood. They also deliver a nice, clean cut and guarantee that the screwhead will be adequately countersunk. For this, we use the Porter Cable 7 Piece Forstner Bit Set. The set covers 1/8” increments up to an inch and comes in a nice case.

Plug Cutters - Because we only deal with basic screw sizes, we don’t feel the need to have an entire plug cutter set. This is initially what led us to the Irwin cutters. Not only are they sold singly, but the Irwin name guarantees quality. We have 1/4", 3/8", and 1/2" cutters and they fit nicely in our Porter Cable drill box. If you think you will need more than those three sizes, you should look into getting a whole set.

Glue - We always use Titebond II. It’s great wood glue and its fast set-up time is good for this application.

Flush Cut Saw
– Stanley makes a great, inexpensive little saw that we think works like a charm. It fits in any tool box and is useful for a lot of other tasks as well.

There is a quick tutorial on plug cutting here, brought to you by ShopNotes Magazine. There is also a short discussion of things that can go wrong here.

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at March 7, 2007 6:38 AM
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