Converting cabinets from pulls to knobs (concealing screw holes)

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Forum topic by boston_guy posted 09-26-2012 02:44 PM 16209 views 0 times favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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149 posts in 2144 days

09-26-2012 02:44 PM

I’m refinishing some kitchen cabinets that I bought used.

They currently have pull handles. But I want to put knobs instead.

What can I fill the pull screw holes with so that when I stain the doors and drawer faces the holes will not be visible?

I have Bondo but I don’t know whether it will take the stain.

29 replies so far

View Wdwerker's profile


333 posts in 2228 days

#1 posted 09-26-2012 03:29 PM

You can cut a curl of wood out of a similar piece of wood with a sharp curved gouge, then cut a similar shaped gouge over the hole. Glue the curl in place and clamp. Sand it flush and ready to stain.
Practice on scraps first!

-- Fine Custom Woodwork since 1978

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3682 days

#2 posted 09-26-2012 03:30 PM

There are some good stainable wood fillers out there….Google time : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View GrandpaLen's profile


1650 posts in 2267 days

#3 posted 09-26-2012 05:47 PM

You can buy escutcheon plates in the Kitchen Cabinet hardware dept. that will cover the existing holes and then mount your new knob in the plate, then you would not see the plug where the 2nd hole was.

...just an alternative thought.

Work Safely and have Fun. – Grandpa Len

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View Gshepherd's profile


1727 posts in 2196 days

#4 posted 09-26-2012 06:03 PM

I go with the escutcheon plates before filling in…. Yes fillling in and some fillers are great but you will still see a lot of them. You will cause you know they are there…. You will wake up in the middle of the night with the cold sweats cause they are there…...

-- What we do in life will Echo through Eternity........

View CueballRosendaul's profile


484 posts in 2134 days

#5 posted 09-26-2012 11:15 PM

I really think you can adequately fill and disguise the holes. There are several methods. If you’re sanding the cabinets, keep a little of the sawdust (wood only, no finish) and mix it with a little glue to make your own filler paste. You could also finish them, leaving the hole, then fill the hole with a wax filler crayon. In the same aisle as the stain in a big box home store you’ll find a great assortment of filler crayons. Minwax and Varathane even have crayons that match their stains. Simply rub the crayon across the hole until its full, then buff off the excess.

-- Matt CueBall Rosendaul. I don't think I've ever had a cup of coffee that didn't have cat hair or sawdust in it.

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2978 days

#6 posted 09-27-2012 12:34 AM

Anything you do is going to show unless your an artist. If the escutcheon plates aren’t to your liking. You could put in a Dutchman patch that would look like it was meant to be in the design. It wouldn’t have to be the bow tie shape, it could be oval. Done in a contrasting color wood, it would also help hide fingerprints. In my opinion that would have a more natural look for stained cabinets.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3682 days

#7 posted 09-27-2012 12:43 AM

Nice idea , Greg : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View boston_guy's profile


149 posts in 2144 days

#8 posted 09-28-2012 12:42 PM

Hi guys,

I really appreciate your advice. I have been doing a lot of sanding.

I’m sanding the oak cabinet doors and fronts. Basically, I’m removing the old stain so that I can restain them a lighter color.

On the cabinet sides, I’m going to attach stainable oak laminate. There’s a really good woodworking store near me called Rockler and they have some nice laminates. I had always thought that laminate only came in that cheap-looking plastic type. It was Rockler that introduced me to this other kind and it looks really neat.

Boy, covering up the pull holes is a lot trickier than I thought, listening to all of you. I think I’m going to stick with the pulls and not venture into knobs.

But I must say that I am most tempted by Wdwerker’s suggestion though for a different reason. When sanding the doors I have to be very careful. I’ve been using a Porter Cable 5” random orbital sander and 100 grit sandpaper. The doors have a raised panel and, as I quickly discovered with one door, it’s very easy to get through the oak veneer and expose the plywood underneath. I was horrified because it meant that I couldn’t use the door. I exposed a circle that was about 2.5 inches in diameter. And yesterday I did the same thing with another door. This time the area exposed was the size of a dime.

But Wdwerker gave me an idea. What if I cut a piece of veneer from a cabinet door that I’m not going to use (I bought more cabinets than I needed since it was a set from a larger kitchen), glued it to the exposed area and sanded it flush with the rest of the door?

Problem is I don’t know whether veneer is thick enough to cut a curl, as Wdwerker suggests. Also, I have no clue about the “sharp curved gouge” he mentions. I would have to research it.

Above is a photo of the first cabinet door I damaged during the sanding.

By the way, for the remaining cabinet doors I’m now too scared to use the orbital sander. Instead, I’m going to put the Soy Gel Paint Stripper on them and sand them by hand. I’ve been using this stripper for the grooves (Rockler introduced me to it).

Also, when I need to use an electrical sander from now on I’m going to use a Porter Cable Palm Sander 340 which I bought used but needs a new pad. I’ve ordered one from eBay. It’s on its way. The palm sander, being square will probably work better for me, especially in the corners which I’ve doing by hand. But I must confess, I’ve only used an orbital thus far so I have no idea how it will really work.

I’ll be really glad if this project ends well. I’m really nervous. This is the problem when you buy used things. I saved a lot of money buying the cabinets used but it’s a lot of work and I’ve already destroyed 2 doors—unless I can fix them.

Any suggestions will be highly appreciated! And thanks for the tips so far. This African dude is learning a lot from you folks! :)

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2964 days

#9 posted 09-28-2012 07:21 PM

You could make a dowel out of oak to fill the hole, cut out some short pencil size pieces of oak, whittle one end down to nearly round, stick that end in the chuck of an electric drill, turn it on, sand it down to the right size.
I’ve done this before to fix a hole where I shouldn’t have drilled it before, and it worked like a charm.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3153 days

#10 posted 09-28-2012 08:01 PM

I am surprised (well, not really) that the raised panels are veneered. At least my contractor grade cabinets were real red oak. That allowed me to tear apart the doors, re-shape them with a different profile, and go with new, but wider rails and stiles.

With yours, I would be really tempted to paint them, as sacriligeous as that seems. This is because you will have a difficult time keeping from going through the veneer and and even MORE difficult time cleaning out at the edges of the panels…remember that these will shift on you and reveal the old finish that you could not access.

The alternative is the glaze those areas darker once you finish them. It’s a good look and will keep the new doors from looking as uninteresting as the originals.

As for the holes, plugs work really well if your color is sprayed on (as with a toner), less so if it wiped on with a stain.

-- jay,

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3153 days

#11 posted 09-28-2012 08:05 PM

Alternatively, I don’t know of what you are looking to do, but I’d also consider completely new doors. Solid one piece doors can be constructed quite quickly of light colored poplar, ash, maple, or whatever might be in your budget. It’d be a Scandinavian-Ikea kinda look, only not as cheap looking.

-- jay,

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3682 days

#12 posted 09-28-2012 11:58 PM

Looks like particleboard under your “veneer”. You’ll never separate it from another panel to apply onto this one.
You could probably buy or make new doors for the amount of time and effort you’re going to put into these.

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View boston_guy's profile


149 posts in 2144 days

#13 posted 09-29-2012 09:03 PM

You guys convinced me. I’m going to order new doors. I think I’m going to order them from this online place called Has anyone had experience with them?

However, you have to order everything online with them. There’s no real person to talk to. I just hope I follow the instructions correctly, especially when it comes to ordering hinges. At least I have the old doors as a guide.

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3682 days

#14 posted 09-29-2012 10:27 PM

Be sure to show us your finished project : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View boston_guy's profile


149 posts in 2144 days

#15 posted 09-29-2012 10:36 PM

If truth be told, I’m very nervous. I hope I can pull it through. I’m not really an Internet type person. I prefer talking to a real person and taking notes or actually seeing and feeling the things I’m about to buy. But this is the world we live in today. :(

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