Perfect pillowed plugs everytime!

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Forum topic by interpim posted 01-10-2010 06:44 PM 1901 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1158 posts in 2878 days

01-10-2010 06:44 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tip


I have been working on a small frame inspired by one pictured on The Wood Whisperer… I believe Mark is doing a class on his at the end of this month actually.

Well, I had all the pieces milled out, had my half laps chiseled out to fit just right, and the frame glued up. Now it’s time to put in some ebony plugs with pillowed tops.

i have to admit, I don’t have enough chisels to be as effective as I would like to be, and my smallest being 1/4” makes it difficult to cut a 3/8” square plug hole LOL.

My process was to drill out the center, and use a home-made chisel to square it up for the plug. Well, the results are “acceptable” but, are a bit rough around the edges, requiring a bit of filling with glue and sawdust.

Then afterward, as I was laying in bed, it hit me… the perfect pillowed block. How I can get the best look without screwing it up with my chopping away at the wood… Here is what I came up with.

First, cut up your blank… mine were 3/8” square and I would say about 6 inches or so long.
chuck this up into your lathe using a pin chuck. Turn a shoulder, and then turn a small length of dowel… at least enough to go through your piece. Make sure you either undercut the shoulder, or make it dead flat… you don’t want anything to show that it isn’t solid all the way through. Part this off a bit past the shoulder you cut, depending on how proud you want the pillowed block to sit.

What you should have should look similar to a square head bolt without any threads.

Next, do your typical method of pillowing the square portion… I like to use a swirling motion on a bit of sand paper.

Once you have it ready to go, drill a hole through your piece that is the same diameter as the dowel you made put a bit of glue on it, and push it through your drilled hole. If you turned the shoulder square it will sit perfectly flush with the surface and look great.

-- San Diego, CA

5 replies so far

View CaseMan's profile


17 posts in 2545 days

#1 posted 01-10-2010 07:35 PM

I think you will still be able to tell it’s sitting on top rather than protruding in…at least I always can. To fix this, you could use the square chisel portion of a hollow chisel mortising bit to at least make a shallow square mortise if not the whole depth.

-- - CaseMan -

View interpim's profile


1158 posts in 2878 days

#2 posted 01-12-2010 05:41 AM

Well… i decided to test my theory, and created a small pillowed plug for a piece of scrap, just to see how it would come out. I’m sure if I took my time it could have come out better, but for the most part, I am pleased.

What do you think?

-- San Diego, CA

View Karson's profile


35032 posts in 3820 days

#3 posted 01-12-2010 06:36 AM

I use 3/8” long rods of blackwood.

I round the ends on the 12” disk sander and then cut off the ends and put them in square holes made with a mortise chisle.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View interpim's profile


1158 posts in 2878 days

#4 posted 01-12-2010 07:00 AM

my method still keeps the functional aspect of the plug though, pinning through a tenon to secure it…

Plus :) I don’t have any mortising chisels LOL

-- San Diego, CA

View SouthpawCA's profile


262 posts in 2653 days

#5 posted 01-23-2010 08:06 PM

I like it! I’m looking for the same thing, accent pieces but not wanting to screw up the overall piece with a bad mortise that I may have to fix after the fact. I saw an article in some magazine, but they were the traditional square plugs. Besides, it’ll be fun using my lathe again.

-- Don

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