Workshop Tip: Use a Pencil Sharpener to Make Tight Plugs in Any Wood
While working in a high-end custom cabinet shop, I picked up this trick for making tight-fitting wood plugs. It requires only an old-school pencil sharpener and a few common woodworking tools. I use these plugs to hide screws, counterbored at least 3/16 in. below the surface, and also to cover the hardware-store dowels I sometimes use to lock in tenons. The pencil-sharpener method lets me use whatever wood the cabinet is made from. I start with a 3/8-in.-square stick, cut on the bandsaw, and then chamfer the corners with a block plane or edge sander to create an octagon. At that point the blank will fit into the largest opening in the sharpener. To get a pile of perfect plugs, you just sharpen the stick, cut off a plug, and repeat. Because of the angle of the plug, one size fits most holes; you just have to trim the tip to get it to seat fully. I recommend dry-fitting your plugs to see how much to trim.
—John Clayson, Bend, Ore.
Illustrations by Dan Thornton
From Fine Woodworking issue #276