Trimming tapered plugs

I've been doing some doweling and plugging today, and have discovered a couple of things. First, store-bought dowels are rarely sized accurately. Whether this is do to fluxuations in moisture content or milling I do not know. That said, the relative size discrepancy is significantly larger than it should be, IMO.
Because of the undersized dowels, I pulled out some tapered plugs that I had purchased from LV a while back. (Frankly, I'm amazed that I was able to find them, given the state of The Great Reorganization down there...) IAE, these go in nice and snugly with some glue and a tap from the hammer. However, they do sit proud of the surface and needed to be trimmed flush. I initially tried trimming them with a sharp (2k grit paper) chisel, but this actually ripped half of the plug out and tore the surround wood a little bit. (The plugs and surface are both hard maple.) Then I tried a low angle block and it worked excellently, albeit slowly. I probably tried to take too deep of a cut with the chisel. But it's worth noting that a tapered plug only has a very small ring of surface area in tight contact with the surrounding wood, so tread lightly.
Maybe it's time for one of those dowel plates that Mr. Lie-Nielsen makes. Seems like a lot of $$$ for such a simple tool though. Any comparable alternatives out there?
JP
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You might also consider a flush cutting saw. Lee Valley link of course. http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=1&p2928&cat=1,42884
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wrote:

Experienced the same issues a while back. Came up with two solutions. Prior to using solution #2, I bought 15/32 drill bit to use with store bought 1/2" dowels and sanded slightly for good fit. Ditto with 11/32 drill bit with 3/8" dowels. Solution #2, my preferred solution, was to buy these: http://www.mlcswoodworking.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/smarthtml/pages/plgtenon.html These guys give you the opportunity to use the same wood as the project to dowel with or to roll your own contrasting dowels.
ROY!
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When you trim plugs with a chisel, take a first cut about halfway down the part of the plug that stands proud, and see which way the grain runs. It will usually dive down a little in one direction or the other. Then take another cut, just a little proud, from the low side. Finally, pare off the rest of the plug, with the chisel held flat side down right on the wood if you can reach the plug that way, taking a skewing cut at an angle to the grain to slice the last of the fibers off. Use a wide chisel for the last paring cut. With a sharp chisel, ground low for paring, only light taps from the mallet will be enough to do this, so you can avoid tipping the plug out with the high cuts.
If you want to try the flush-cutting saw, be sure to get one that has NO kerf at all on one side so that it doesn't scratch the surrounding wood while you're cutting. Lee Valley is the most well-known place to get such a saw, but there are others as well.
Rather than using dowels and seeing end grain on your plugs, invest in a few plug cutters (Fuller makes them, and they're not hard to find), and cut your own plugs from your offcuts for near-perfect grain matches. You can find cutters to cut tapered plugs, too, if you especially like them, but a good sharp plug cutter, matched with a sharp countersink or counterbore from the same manufacturer (Fuller, again) will product a good fit for the plugs and a glue line no wider than the tapered plugs produce.
For furniture, you don't even need glue for well-fitting plugs. Just use the same finish you plan to use on the piece. Dip the end of the plug in a dish of the finish and tap it in. This will avoid a glue line from a contrasting glue color, and also makes it easier to take the piece apart later if you ever need to.
Tom Dacon
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Tom Dacon wrote:

Now there's a man who knows how to use plugs!!
--

dadiOH
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Thanks for the tips guys.
JP
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On Sat, 29 Sep 2007 10:25:58 -0700, Tom Dacon wrote:

I have one (from Woodcraft IIRC) that also claims to have no set (not kerf) but I'm naturally paranoid - a piece of masking tape on each side of the dowel is cheap insurance and leaves only a couple of thousandths to be sanded.
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Larry Blanchard wrote: | On Sat, 29 Sep 2007 10:25:58 -0700, Tom Dacon wrote: | || If you want to try the flush-cutting saw, be sure to get one that || has NO kerf at all on one side so that it doesn't scratch the || surrounding wood while you're cutting. Lee Valley is the most || well-known place to get such a saw, but there are others as well. | | I have one (from Woodcraft IIRC) that also claims to have no set | (not kerf) but I'm naturally paranoid - a piece of masking tape on | each side of the dowel is cheap insurance and leaves only a couple | of thousandths to be sanded.
Aha! Excellent tip! Thanks. :-)
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto /
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a piece of masking tape on each side of

Rather than masking tape, I use a thin sheet of brass with a few holes in it to fit various plug sizes. Holes maybe 1/8" or so larger than the plugs. Place the brass over the plug and cut away without worrying about scratches. You'll have to pare or scrape or sand afterward.
John Martin
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John Martin wrote:
| a piece of masking tape on each side of || the dowel is cheap insurance and leaves only a couple of || thousandths to be sanded. | | Rather than masking tape, I use a thin sheet of brass with a few | holes in it to fit various plug sizes. Holes maybe 1/8" or so | larger than the plugs. Place the brass over the plug and cut away | without worrying about scratches. You'll have to pare or scrape or | sand afterward.
John...
Now you've got me thinking - somewhere in one of my junk boxes I have some thin (slightly discolored) stainless steel stock...
Thanks!
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto /
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in reserve...
mac
Please remove splinters before emailing
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mac davis wrote: | On Tue, 2 Oct 2007 08:13:28 -0500, "Morris Dovey"
| || John Martin wrote:
||| a piece of masking tape on each side of |||| the dowel is cheap insurance and leaves only a couple of |||| thousandths to be sanded. ||| ||| Rather than masking tape, I use a thin sheet of brass with a few ||| holes in it to fit various plug sizes. Holes maybe 1/8" or so ||| larger than the plugs. Place the brass over the plug and cut away ||| without worrying about scratches. You'll have to pare or scrape ||| or sand afterward. || || Now you've got me thinking - somewhere in one of my junk boxes I || have some thin (slightly discolored) stainless steel stock... || | Or you could use that really accurate handyman club drill gauge | that you've got in reserve...
Horrors! One doesn't actually _use_ a HCOADG, one hangs it on the wall so that fellow HCOA members will be able to recognize one's attainments in the field of woodworking... 8-)
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto /
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Oh... I stand corrected... I thought that leaving the high quality miniature screwdriver set on the bench would do it...
mac
Please remove splinters before emailing
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One more trick. If you have a plunge router, pop in a straight bit or mortising bit and set the depth so that it's just a whisker above the surface. Plunge down or, if the base plate hole is large enough, move sideways. The resulting stub will need only minimal scraping or sanding. Of course this technique won't work where you don't have space to get the base of the router down on the surface.
Dusty
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That's a good one. I'd forgotten about that technique. About ten years or so ago, I refastened all the planking on a 41' wooden sailboat, plugging over the screw heads with 1/2" diameter teak plugs, and used larger ones up to 1 1/4" diameter over bolt heads. I chucked up a 3/4" mortising bit in an old Porter Cable router (a 590, I think, and not a plunger) and swept the whole hull of the boat with that thing. Flush-trimmed, or nearly so, about two thousand plugs in less than a day. Then went over the whole thing with a random orbital sander to take off the rest. Worked great. If I'd tried to chisel them off, I'd still be chiseling today.
Tom Dacon
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Oh yes - that's a great trick. I keep saying that I'm gonna get a lipping planer someday! Thanks for the tips. JP
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Or run the tape down the saw.
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I have tried all the ways, and years ago started and still use a flush trim saw and then sand smooth with sand paper on a "hard" sanding block.
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I've never had much success with tapered plugs... maybe my counter sinking skills suck..
I was taught to use shop cut plugs, so I just kind of stuck with that..
A cool trick that I learned here at the wRECk is to run the plug cutter to a depth slightly deeper than your hole, then use the band saw to "resaw" the stock, so that the plugs fall out and have nice, flat bottoms.. I try to remember to hit the bottom of the plugs with a little sand paper before pressing them in, but it seems to work without a taper, also.. YMWV
mac
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If you use a half inch plug, than you should grind down your half inch spade bit so it's a hair smaller on each side. Then the plugs will fit tight.
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