Cutting plugs - fitting too loose

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Forum topic by wwbob posted 10-27-2010 03:34 AM 3461 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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111 posts in 2873 days

10-27-2010 03:34 AM

Topic tags/keywords: plug cutter filling holes mahogany question finishing

I needed to create plugs for some 1/2 inch holes. No problem, buy a plug cutter; “drill” a plug; add some glue; tap the plug into place, stand back and take the applause for making fine furniture.

Purchased the cutter:

I cut a few samples. Hand drill, twist bit, and you guessed it, plugs too loose.

Out comes the drill press, forstner bits, everything clamped. And the plugs are too loose. The plug drops into the drilled holes.

OK, different drill bit, 1/2 inch brad point, and a borrowed plug cutter, although similar to the cutter I bought. And plugs still drop in.

Do I have the wrong expectation of the plug fitting somewhat tightly?

A suggestion for different plug cutters?

Perhaps a miracle to heal the holes in my wood.

-- "I like the quiet I hear." - Channing, age 4

14 replies so far

View GaryL's profile


1099 posts in 2828 days

#1 posted 10-27-2010 03:38 AM

I use tapered plug cutters. That way they wedge themselves into the hole. Nice and tight (with some glue of course). Sounds like your, and your friends, are not manufactured correct. What type of wood are using?

-- Gary; Marysville, MI...Involve your children in your projects as much as possible, the return is priceless.

View wwbob's profile


111 posts in 2873 days

#2 posted 10-27-2010 03:56 AM

I’m using mahogany.

-- "I like the quiet I hear." - Channing, age 4

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2924 days

#3 posted 10-27-2010 04:17 AM

The Lee Valley tapered plug cutters are the best.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2878 days

#4 posted 10-27-2010 04:34 AM

I recently used a plug cutter for the first time and I had no problems at all. I used a half inch plug cutter that I bought at Lowes. I drilled the holes out with a 1/2 spade bit and every plug went in just fine… Have you tried using a smaller drill bit to drill out the hole? You sure you are matching the right size bit to the cutter? I cant think of anything else it would be.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View traupmann's profile


124 posts in 2785 days

#5 posted 10-27-2010 06:04 AM

Ahh those good old dial calipers. Measure the plug, measure the hole. Can’t change the plug, but can undercut a hole with 31/64 drill if that is what it takes. What all may be missing is that the spindle of the drill press may be slightly cocked (as in using it as a milling machine)—that condition will over cut holes and undercut plugs. What does the measurement say?

-- chas -- looking for Serta sponsorship to go Pro...

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3426 days

#6 posted 11-15-2010 05:13 PM

My wife insisted that we plug all 120 face screwed holes on our new deck. In hindsight, a good idea, BTW. Anyway, I used a 3/8 Forstner to counter sink the screws. But, before using it I sized it with my plug cutter by setting it in the plug cutter to insure that the OD of the Forstner and the ID of the plug cutter were compatible.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2656 posts in 2920 days

#7 posted 11-16-2010 03:58 PM

I make the plug…..size it with my drill guage….find the same size drill bit …..then drill the hole.

-- Website is No PHD just a DD214 and a GED

View RalphBarker's profile


80 posts in 2767 days

#8 posted 11-16-2010 08:18 PM

Nothing like having a set of good brad points in 1/64” increments, so the hole can be drilled to fit the plug.

View WoodLe's profile


155 posts in 2794 days

#9 posted 11-17-2010 04:17 AM

Echo traupmann,—check for bent spindle on the drill press. I have a PC 690 router that the spindle got bent. Totally frustrating!:(

-- Wooster, Ohio

View cabs4less's profile


235 posts in 2760 days

#10 posted 11-17-2010 04:45 AM

if your just wanting to cover up some holes buy a dowel that is a size larger than your hole (9/16) taper the end a little wit a pocket knife add glue to the hole and hammer home flush cut sand and perfect fit everytime

-- As Best I Can

View wwbob's profile


111 posts in 2873 days

#11 posted 11-17-2010 05:00 AM

I have a solution, but I changed too many things to know what the solution was.

First: My scrap wood for making the plugs was too thin. I couldn’t drill the plug as deep as possible.

Second: I used the big drill presses at my workshop, aka Mesa High School’s wood shop, ( instead for my cheap drill press at home.

Third: I was very careful to clamp everything in the process with multiple clamps.

Fourth: I glued the plug in. The plug seemed to fit nicely, but with the addition of a little Titebond II, the plug locked itself into the board.

Thanks for all the suggestions. I have used several of the suggestions and expect my mahogany boards to be even more beautiful. Description of the wood:

-- "I like the quiet I hear." - Channing, age 4

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3524 days

#12 posted 11-17-2010 05:56 AM

Besides all the above mentioned cuting processes, that are the best way to go, try a little tap with a hammer on the top of the plug to expand it just a tad. Hey! Don’t laugh sometimes a hammer is a great woodworking tool ; )

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2774 days

#13 posted 11-24-2010 09:51 PM

This sounds like one of those times you step back, look at what you are doing, and when the dust settles you just say “crap, why didn’t I think of that” moments. Fear not, as we get older, these moments happen more fequently.

Actually, it IS a good question and it could be a bend spindle, bent plug cutter, bad bit, or all of the above AND will drive you nuts when it happens.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View traupmann's profile


124 posts in 2785 days

#14 posted 11-24-2010 11:48 PM

To check for a bent spindle, simply chuck up a small drill (a brad drill is best) and touch a sheet of paper. If the paper moves (not spins) the spindle assembly is not true.

Fixing this may only be a cleaning of the taper holding the chuck, rubber mallet will pop it out. Mark the spindle and the chuck if you can on the high side. When you reinstall, rotate the chuck 180 deg. Recheck. if the spindle is not true, the same mark on the spindle will align, if it is a bent chuck, then the line on the chuck will. Some of the less expensive drill presses have a poor taper, and the chuck can seat off center, so items like fostener bits will run fairly true once they start, but smaller 1/4-3/4 will cut over size. Very small bits 1/16, will snap quickly.

Inaccurate tools make for very poor workmanship; accurate tools help a craftsman rely on his settings.

-- chas -- looking for Serta sponsorship to go Pro...

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