December 2, 2012 § 2 Comments

plug 001

This is a method of making plugs that Gary Rogowski has taught for years. In his The Complete Illustrated Guide to Joinery book, (page 55 in my version) he illustrates how to make these decorative square plugs. It is quite easy and effective. The pieces of the small walnut stool I’m building are joined by simple nails. Instead of countersinking the nail into a round hole, I instead chiseled out a square recess. I made each square hole the size of one of my smaller chisels and tried to keep each a consistent depth. While it seems tedious, it gets a little faster with each one you make.

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The most challenging part is probably milling up your stock into a small square strip. Rogowski suggests starting with a bandsaw, and then follow with a table saw (using a push stick) to get it down to the desired size. Lacking a table saw, I instead followed the bandsaw with a small block plane. The key is to make the plug out of a harder wood than your piece, and mill it slightly over-sized. When you pound in the plug , the harder wood will force its way into the softer wood, and being larger it will completely fill the space even if your holes aren’t exactly square and of slightly different sizes. Chamfering the leading edge helps it get started. In this case ebony was hammered into walnut. Once they are in you need to decide how decorative you want them to be. You can pillow them over with some careful sanding (rounding over is always a consequence of sanding something small, and here it works to your advantage). If you were going for a Greene and Greene look, you can carve them into a pyramid. Rogowski demonstrates this technique in his book as well. In this case I wanted to keep it simple and have them sit flush. A Japanese flush-cut saw handles this well. Even though these saws technically have no set, I still lay down a strip of tape before I use them, and then just plane down the small amount of wood that just barely remains above the surface. Almost there with this project!

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Chamfer the leading edge to help it get started in the hole. Do this before you cut the plug to size!

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A toothpick (or bamboo skewer) helps put just a small amount of glue in the hole.

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