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    Screws and Plugs for Rock-Solid Joinery

    Using screws to reinforce dado joints in bookcase shelves is a great way to ensure your furniture lasts a liftime, but how do you hide those ugly screw heads?


    How to Hide Joinery Screws with Plugs

    Build a BookcaseUsing screws to reinforce a dado joint when building bookcases and other similar styles of furniture is a perfectly acceptable--and durable--method of construction. Trouble is, you need a way to hide the ugly screw heads that are helping to secure your case sides to your shelves. The easiest way to do this is by sinking your screws about 1/4-in. below the surface and using a wooden plug of the same species to fill in that counterbore.

    Finding a plug that matches and fits perfectly isn't as easy as picking up a bag of them at your local home center. While you could do that, you’d never get a perfect grain match and the plugs would most likely be either too loose or too tight-fitting.

    Enter the plug-cutter

    Cutting your own plugs from the same stock you build your furniture out of will ensure a perfect, nearly invisible grain match. Better yet, your plugs are guaranteed to fit their holes if you use them immediately after cutting, before they’ve had a chance to expand or contract with seasonal changes in humidity.


    How to Cut Your Own Wood Plugs

    First, be sure you have the right diameter plug cutter. It should match the diameter of the counterbore you drilled to house your screw heads. With the appropriate cutter in hand, mount it in your drill press (you can’t do this with a handheld drill) and cut out however many plugs you need, and use the same stock you used to build your furniture (this way, the grain will match up nicely).

    Be sure not to drill all the way through the wood, otherwise you’ll end up with a plug stuck inside the cutter. To free your plugs, simply pass the wood through the bandsaw. You might be able to cut the plugs free using a jigsaw, provided the wood you’re cutting is narrow and you’re only slicing through a single row of plugs.

    You can watch this techniuqe in action, in the second series of our video series on Getting Started in Woodworking.

    Cutting wooden plugs Bandsawing wooden plugs Using wooden plugs to cover screws
    Drill your plugs, being careful not to drill through the wood. Now guide your workpieces through the bandsaw. The plugs will fall right out. Glue them into place, and be careful to match the grain direction.