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I have a love/hate thing going on with pocket hole plugs.  They are a wonderful solution and give the project a professional look.  I have purchased both the oak and paintable plugs that Kreg sells.  I find they do everything I need them to just fine. 


Now the hate side of the relationship... 1. They are expensive to use in places that will not be seen (but pride keeps me wanting those holes filled). and 2. They do not always match the wood perfectly.

I know there are plug cutters out there to be purchased but I would rather focus on new clamps!


So I saw a solution on DIY network and it has worked well so far.  I keep a container of "clean" sawdust.  (one for pine and one for oak)  When needed I mix it like putty with wood glue.  Then fill the holes using a spackle knife and take off the excess.  After sanding this looks pretty good... if not in an obvious spot.  I plan on continuing using this method so I am of course trying to perfect it.


My question is twofold.  Has anyone else tried this?  -and What would be the best glue to use for this?

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That is really clever. My first thought is Titebond, but then the sawdust plug would not be stainable. I have never tried these, but could you use stainable or tinted wood filler as a glue?

I am eager to see what others say, I have not tried filling the pocket holes yet, so far I have just designed around the holes so none are visible, then left them unfilled (I have found similar unfilled pocket holes on most of the manufactured furniture and cabinets in my house).
Jenny, so far it looks like wood filler would be too thick already to mix anything else in it. Also, it is as expensive as the plugs for that amount. And I have never used Titebond. Elmer's works the best for this so far. It doesn't stain to completely match the wood but it does soak up enough for my application.

Phillip I might try that once it gets warm enough to open the doors on the workshop. Although I will have to weigh out the fact that no matter what safety gear I use or how careful I am, when working with any super glue I ALWAYS get it on me in so many places and usually have fingernails glued together for a few days!
It is good to know that this doesn't stain. I had a small split in some wood I wanted to stain and was going to drip some superglue in it. Now I think I will just replace it.
Try this rule of thumb rather than beating yourself up over the hidden holes: If your eyes isn't drawn to it in about three seconds from ten feet away, no one will ever notice it. I was going to suggest Elmer's, but you're already there.
My solution is to drill the holes such that they are either underneath your project, or hidden in the back side. However, if they must show, then I use Minwax wood filler. I squirt in enough to form a bulge over the pocket hole. I leave that to dry as is. I used to scrape them flat, but I found I was taking away more than I wanted to, so now I just leave them as bumps until they dry. Once dry, I use my Porter Cable circular sander to sand them flat with high grain sandpaper discs.

Now, this stuff dries very porous and leaves holes even after sanding, and that used to drive me nuts too. My solution, though, is to rub in Minwax wood putty. By doing that, you fill in all those little holes. and your pocket holes are flush with the wood, with no indents. Give it just one more sanding to get rid of any excess wood putty smear, and then stain. Both putty and filler accept stain, unlike Titebond wood glue. It's great for bonding wood, but not for staining.

Sure, like Phillip said, nothing is completely invisible, but this does a great job. I'm like you, too, where I need my pocket holes filled. I really don't like to leave them open if I don't have to. I think it takes away from the overall look of the piece. The only project I left them open, even though I could have filled them, was the back side of my hall tree.

I left open holes on the rocking horse underneath the body, but that was only because I felt I couldn't get in there to sand them flat. In retrospect, I could have tried harder to fill them anyway. Oh well, live and learn.
One thing about pocket hole joinery that has surprised me... it is not so hard to drill the holes so that they will not be seen in most projects. I just have a "thing" I guess about wanting to fill all of the holes whether they can be seen or not. I too have found the wood putty to leave pits once dry. The sawdust putty I mix doesn't do that but doesn't look as nice once sanded and dry. But better than holes and fine for no see places.
Buy a 3/8 dowel rod and drill a pocket screw hole in a scrap put in screw to bottom and slip in dowel rod .Then cut it off with a trim saw(pull saw) and shave it off,Then take hammer and pound out screw and your plug comes out .Cheap and great rainy day project..
Not answering your question, but I had a concern about filling pocket holes in Melamine. Kreg sells white plastic plugs but, obviously, they can't be trimmed. I would like to see a white plastic plug that is "shorter". That is, it would work with even shallow pocket holes without trimming - just push it flush with the surface.
I see your point. I agree. I haven't worked with melamine but once and that was before my Kreg jig transformation. I have the plastic plugs from the starter kit though and wondered why they were raised so much. I wonder if you could use this sawdust/glue mixture or wood filler then just paint a bit with semi-gloss paint? Not sure.
Try these two suggestion, 1. cut the plug shorter and then glue into place.(I have used Walnut plugs on three chairs for our church) 2. you canuse sawdust and rocktight putty orjust the putty alone. (both are stainable and with just a little sanding you can make them flush)
Thanks for that suggestion! I actually tried cutting the plugs twice and I am embarrassed to admit that both times the plugs shot across the garage like bullets!
Did you cut the walnut plugs yourself or get them somewhere?
I really want a plug cutter!
At Highlands High School wood shop in San Antonio in 1964 Mr. Foster had us fill screw holes and blemishes or gouges in a project with sawdust mixed with hide glue. It works ok but hide glue is hard to work with. I was considering sawdust with shellac but haven't tried it yet.
I use Titebond III for almost everything. Obviously, the way one approaches woodworking depends upon their skill level, availability of tools, project type, personal preference, and, of course, whether this is a hobby or a business. This is just a hobby for me. Early on, I realized that the labor was the same whether I built out of #2 pine or oak so I don't use pine for any furniture projects anymore. For me, cost or materials is rarely a consideration and I use the Kreg plugs whenever I rarely use plugs. Making your own plugs out of dowels could be dangerous and the dowels still cost about a dollar. I never use sawdust and glue because I usually want to stain later and there is just too much glue and I still have to sand. It can't ever be a perfect match because of grain and wood/plug color unless you mix your own stain and filler colors, too much for me to do. It seems a waste of time to spend more time on the plug than drilling the hole and screwing the joint together. But, to each his own. A previous good suggestion was to put the holes where they won't be seen, like inside a cabinet when covered by drawers. Also, you could "mix and match", that is, use biscuits in places where you don't want a hole, pocket screws otherwise. Pocket screws are clearly much quicker than biscuits, but maybe it would be easier to use a biscuit instead of filling a pocket hole. The labor could be the same. As far as taking the plug down flush, here are ways I have used: (1) route close to the panel and then sand flush - with a random orbital sander or a Fein multimaster (to get into tight places). (2) run a panel through a panel sander. I think using a flush cutting saw or chisel would be harder unless you have more experience with these tools than than I do. One place I do use plugs is for "outdoor" projects. I don't want water rusting out the screws with the joint failing. But, here again, the plugs are usually unseen and I don't spend much time on them.

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