Introduction and Wooden Plug Question

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Forum topic by oregonpete posted 06-30-2013 05:24 PM 5186 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 1828 days

06-30-2013 05:24 PM

I live near Portland, OR and am an avid outdoorsman and intermediate level woodworker. My projects include several Devlin stitch and glue boats designed for duck hunting and fishing the Columbia River. I’ve also built scale models of my grandson’s school for a play house and a Walter Jordan boat cradle.

I’m in the final planning phase of a Western Red Cedar Adirondack chair project using the Lee Valley plans and finishing with multiple coats of Cetol 1/ 23 as used by the folks at

I’m undecided as to using wooden plugs to fill countersunk screw holes or simply leaving the screw heads flush with the surface. Having used plugs in the past, I really like the finished appearance they present, however a question has been raised regarding their use in outdoor furniture.

A close friend who is a professional wooden boatbuilder is sceptical about the use of plugs in exterior furniture. His concern is that, due to the fact that wood will “move” under different moisture conditions, the expansion/ contraction of the plugs and stock may cause issues. Additionally, once the screws are covered, they become inaccessible should any tightening become necessary over time.

On the other hand, one of the folks at Woodcraft suggests that plugging and using Titebond III is better than not plugging.

I have seen a chair with plugged holes that was left unfinished and has become VERY loose. In order to assure secure fastening, my plan would be to use Titebond III in conjunction with the SS screws.

The plugs would be made with the same wood, possibly from the same board if that would provide any additional measure of common stability and be installed with the grain running in the same direction as the surrounding stock.

Any thoughts, opinions, suggestions would be much appreciated.

6 replies so far

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2601 days

#1 posted 07-01-2013 12:35 AM

I’d plug em using shop made face grain plugs; they shouldn’t move that differently if you use the same stock as the chair. Also, glue the joints so tightening the screws won’t be necessary later on.

In one of norm’s adirondack projects he used construction adhesive and stainless steel fasteners.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2592 days

#2 posted 07-01-2013 12:40 AM

I’ve done it both ways. Its more esthetics then a technical issue. I’ve not seen a difference other than looks.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2822 days

#3 posted 07-01-2013 01:03 AM

I’m surprised that your boat builder friend doesn’t like the plug idea.
Traditionally solid wooden decks were always plugged and planking often plugged as well.
Where most people go wrong is in the grain orientation.
Put the plugs in with their grain at 90 degrees to the board they are plugging. Then when the plug swells it will press on the end grain of the board and when the board swells it will press on the end grain of the plug. This is the way it has always been done ( to my knowledge ) on boats which need to stay tight when wet. If what you’re worried about is drying and shrinking, that may be a different matter but in either case the plugs will function better across the grain.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2714 days

#4 posted 07-01-2013 01:53 AM

Thanks Paul. That was new information for me and it makes perfect sense.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View firefighterontheside's profile


18351 posts in 1881 days

#5 posted 07-01-2013 02:06 AM

I built my adirondack chairs using cypress and exterior torx screws with heads showing. They have not gotten loose after 10 years out in the weather. For me, an adirondack chair is something that should look a little rough, if you will. I like the screw heads showing and flushed. Never heard of anyone using cetol 1 and 23 on furniture, but it should work. It’s expensive as I use it on my log house. Should be good protection, but will not last forever being out in the open.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View MrRon's profile


4794 posts in 3268 days

#6 posted 07-01-2013 09:11 PM

Wooden boats use plugs. Why not outdoor furniture?

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