Another plug cutter question, smaller sizes?

PeteStaehling

Pete
Senior User
Are there any decent plug cutters for making smaller plugs, like 1/8" or 3/16"? I use plugs for decorative purposes and for markers. I like to use plugs sometimes instead of going to the effort of doing veneer inlays. I have sometimes turned short sections of dowel for the purpose but they were end grain. I guess it would be possible to turn dowels with grain running the other way, but a tiny plug cutter would be really nice. Does such a thing exist?

Is there some other way to make tiny plugs with reasonable efficiency?
 

Woodmolds

Tony
User
Leather punches may work. I bought some to try on veneer. but have not tried yet. Another thought may be make your own, You could buy tubing with the correct ID an file a couple teeth on the end, it would be small enough diameter to chuck in a drill press.

Tony
 

PeteStaehling

Pete
Senior User
Leather punches may work. I bought some to try on veneer. but have not tried yet. Another thought may be make your own, You could buy tubing with the correct ID an file a couple teeth on the end, it would be small enough diameter to chuck in a drill press.

Tony
I have some antique punches that I have used for leather. They were designed to make holes in cork and rubber stoppers I think. They see a lot of use in my shop and have indeed been used for this purpose, but are limited to pretty thin wood unless it is pretty soft.

I had considered and even tried making some cutters out of tubing I had on hand as you describe but have thus far failed at getting what I thought was a satisfactory result.
 

Thomas_Z

New User
Thomas_Zamora
Well, probably I'm missing the point, but what's the problem to purchase some from Amazon. Like set of plug cutter bits is $10. Not sure you'll find some any for 3/16''. Look for Rocaris on Amazon.
 

PeteStaehling

Pete
Senior User
Well, probably I'm missing the point, but what's the problem to purchase some from Amazon. Like set of plug cutter bits is $10. Not sure you'll find some any for 3/16''. Look for Rocaris on Amazon.
The point was that 1/4" was the smallest one I am aware of and I wanted to cut smaller sizes for decorative plugs and markers. Some 1/8" and 3/16" tapered plug cutters would be nice, but as far as I can tell they are not available. The work around Bob suggested is probably the best answer. I'd like small sized tapered plug cutters, but I doubt they exist. If they do, I'd appreciate a link or at least a brand or other clue.

Btw, I have been happy enough with "Make it Snappy" for the larger size plugs.
 

Dave Richards

Dave
Senior User
I've never seen any really small plug cutters. How thick do your plugs need to be? I'm wondering if a machinist might be able to make you some small cutters from some high speed steel rod.

At that tiny size and your application, maybe small diameter dowel stock would work. It's easy enough to make in the shop with nothing terribly special for tools.
 

Dan Bowman

Dan Bowman
Senior User
Here's a suggestion from 2004 off the Woodcentral board: "You might try using just the countersink from a drillset in which the twist drill goes through and is held into the countersink by an allen screw. This cuts a plug the same size as the twist drill which you remove. I have done this to make small "dot" inlays with good success."

Also, you can buy an expensive 3/16" plug cutter here: Guitar Screw Rescue Kit | stewmac.com
 

PeteStaehling

Pete
Senior User
  • Dowel stock is not a great option because I often want to match some other wood in the project.
  • Turning a bunch of accurate little dowels in these sizes in various species of wood may be doable but sounds tedious.
  • I was aware of the screw extractor kit from Stewmac, but balked at the price. Maybe I should reconsider it.
  • I have sometimes just chucked up some stock in my battery drill and held it against sandpaper to turn it to size. That actually works fairly well when I just need a plug or two.
  • The collars from countersink sets actually work very well if you clamp the stock firmly on the drill press table when cutting. As I said I'd prefer tapered plugs, but the straight ones work okay.
Anyway thanks to all for the suggestions.
 

creasman

Jim
User
I needed some small plug cutters to make the dew drops for a series of bell flows that run down the leg of a table. These are small circular inlays that progressively decrease in diameter (5/32", 1/8" and 3/32"). I first tried making these "dots" with a small carving gouge (didn't like the results), then tried an internet search for small plug cutters (didn't find what I was looking for). I decided to try my hand at making a set. What I found was that if you have access to a metal lathe it's pretty simple. You might be able to make them using a drill press, but that would be tedious.

This picture shows the results. The three dew drops begin as 5/32" then 1/8" and end as 3/32" in diameter to match the decreasing size of the flowers.
1580144485630.png


I made the three plug cutters each from a 3.5" length of 1/2" drill rod. The steps were:
  1. Create a "shank" on one end of the rod that will be chucked into the drill press. This isn't necessary, but seemed like a good idea.
  2. Reverse the rod in the lathe and mill the business end of flat.
  3. Drill a hole into the end of the rod that is the right diameter. It runs approximately 1" into the rod.
  4. Taper the rod down so that the outside diameter is 1/16" larger than the plug diameter.
  5. Sharpen the end of the cutter. I used a file while it was spinning to do the rough sharpen then a stone to finish.
  6. Remove from the press and take the cutter over to a vise and carefully file an escape slot. I filed mine about 5/16" wide half way through the cutter, starting at about 3/16" from the end.
  7. Last step is to carefully cut a slit from the end up the length to the escape slot. This allows me to use an awl or toothpick to remove any plug that might get caught.
I ordered matching brad point drill bits from Amazon for each. I found it best to turn the bits backwards so I first score the dot's cavity, then run them forwards to get the depth. These don't cut flat bottom holes so you'll need to experiment to get the feel.

The pictures below show the results. Note, I did not harden the ends of mine. Just went with the drill rod as is. The material I was cutting was 1/8" thick holly. I probably made 60-70 dots in total and didn't have any issues. Just keep cutting and the next dot causes a previous one to eject from the escape slot as you go. You'll have a couple to manually push out at the end, hence the slit.

IMG_2220.jpg


1580145624098.png
 
Last edited:

Roy G

Roy
Senior User
Have you looked into using a milling cutter to drill the holes? Very nice plug cutters, by the way.

Roy G
 

PeteStaehling

Pete
Senior User
I needed some small plug cutters to make the dew drops for a series of bell flows that run down the leg of a table. These are small circular inlays that progressively decrease in diameter (5/32", 1/8" and 3/32"). I first tried making these "dots" with a small carving gouge (didn't like the results), then tried an internet search for small plug cutters (didn't find what I was looking for). I decided to try my hand at making a set. What I found was that if you have access to a metal lathe it's pretty simple. You might be able to make them using a drill press, but that would be tedious.
Great looking project and nice cutters. They aren't exactly what I am looking for, but I could make them work for my usage with a bit more care on my part than I am used to needing.

My preference is for tapered plugs that are longer than these cutters probably are intended to cut. The length thing is mostly to allow for laziness and lack of planning on my part, it stinks to remove stock and lose your dot or worse halfway lose it, but also to allow for extra thickness in smaller radius surfaces in curved or turned faces. Also I sometimes might want the dots to go through the wall of a turned object or otherwise pass through a thin piece, but that would be a infrequent occurrance.
 

creasman

Jim
User
The tapered plugs could be a bit of a challenge to make without specialized equipment. For some of the uses you describe (passing through a thin piece) I don't believe you want a tapered plug. Even though I was using 1/8" thick stock mine would probably cut a plug that was up to the length of the escape slot (about 3/8"). The problem with very tiny plugs is there isn't much wood to keep it from splitting in two. Let us know what you finally decide to do. I'm interested in seeing your results.
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
Drill a deep undersized hole then insert the proper sized taper reamer and ream to size. Then cut the outer profile. Taper reamers are pretty long so it will have to be a hole deep enough to take the reamer to the desired depth. Option 2 would be to cut the taper reamer to the length you want.
 

PeteStaehling

Pete
Senior User
Let us know what you finally decide to do. I'm interested in seeing your results.
For now I am using just the countersink collars from a countersink bit set. The sizes are about right and work well if the work is clamped firmly immobile on the drill press table. I cut a bunch of plugs with the depth stop set leaving them in place in the stock, then turn the stock on it's side and make a cut on the band saw that releases all the plugs. It works well enough that I may never get around to trying to make any cutters.
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
Don't forget to put masking tape over the holes so when the band saw releases the plugs you don't have to chase them all over the shop floor.
 

tarheelz

Dave
Corporate Member
For now I am using just the countersink collars from a countersink bit set. The sizes are about right and work well if the work is clamped firmly immobile on the drill press table. I cut a bunch of plugs with the depth stop set leaving them in place in the stock, then turn the stock on it's side and make a cut on the band saw that releases all the plugs. It works well enough that I may never get around to trying to make any cutters.
Pictures! We need to see this. Very cool.
 

Our Sponsors

LATEST FOR SALE LISTINGS

Top