Woodworking: Perfectly flush screw plugs


This tutorial shows how I achieve a glassy-smooth finish over my screw plugs without sanding.

I'm not a fan of sanding. The harmful health consequences of sanding have inspired me to try to eliminate all sanding from my woodworking. It's been a chore and I've had to change some of my beliefs over the years. But it's been worth it. It's kind of a funny enlightenment. Trying to move past sandpaper, I've found myself going backward through history. I've found that our forefathers and mothers didn't sand much at all. If I step back in time, before the modern sandpaper era, I find myself in the world of hand planes and cabinet scrapers—no sandpaper.

These tools take a while to get used to but they produce a smoother surface than sandpaper without so much dust. They still produce some dust. But my workshop if mostly filled with shavings, chips, and ribbons of wood. I prefer these because they don't fit into my lungs.

Here's a tutorial showing how I create a smooth finish over a screw hole plug. I hope you find it helpful.


Here's the screw plugs after they've dried. There's about an eight inch left.


First I saw the plugs almost completely off. To protect my work I lay an old thin saw blade over the area to be sawed.


Then I lay my saw on top of that old blade and saw the plug.


This leaves about 1/64th of an inch left.


With a sharp chisel I shave off the remaining plug. I wriggle the chisel blade from side-to-side and slowly push the blade though. Notice I'm cutting diagonal to the plug's grain. This helps reduce tear out.


Keep shaving a little away at a time until you're flush with the wood around the plug.




Once it's level I like to gently shave back and forth over the plug to fine tune it and give it a glassy finish. Try to keep your chisel blade as flat as possible. This smoothing step is like using your chisel like a very low angle smoothing plane.


That's it. This is what my final plugs look like. They are ready for finish—without sanding.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful.


Here's a video of the same tutorial on my YouTube channel