View Full Version : Plug cutter question

Gene Eisele
03-16-2001, 11:48 PM
Has anyone tried the Veritas "Snug plug" tapered plug cutters? How do they compare to others, particularly Fuller?

Thanks in advance,


03-17-2001, 05:01 AM
Gene;I can readily recommend the Veritas tapered plug cutters.I have used both types in cabinet work and they stand head and shoulders above the regular cutters.Make sure you use a good bit,(brad point or forstner),to bore for the plug holes.

Bob Cleek
03-17-2001, 12:53 PM
Just a thought, but it occurred to me when I saw these tapered bungs that while they may be good for cabinet work, wouldn't the swelling of wood in the marine environment work to force a tapered bung out of the countersunk hole?

03-17-2001, 01:54 PM
What about the swelling of the surrounding wood? Would that make the hole smaller or larger?

03-17-2001, 03:10 PM
That's a good point Bob,but as the plugs are only tapered a few 1000's of an inch I think any swelling would just lock them in place.Of course,since I haven't yet bunged off a hull with these I may have to eat those words.Sounds like a test sample is in order.Drive a few bungs into a scrap and throw it outside for a bit.Worth checking out for sure.

Gene Eisele
03-17-2001, 06:13 PM
Bob - that's kind of what I was worried about too. I guess a test may be in order unless somebody has experience with them on a hull. I guess if they really are that good for cabinetwork it may be worth haveing two sets if they are no good for planking.


Scott Rosen
03-18-2001, 02:46 PM
It never occurred to me that the Fuller plug cutters needed to be improved.

03-18-2001, 03:17 PM
Nobody wants to engage in a discussion (admittedly an academic discussion) about whether the swelling of a piece of wood with a hole in it causes the hole to get larger or smaller? Come on! If this was a miscellaneous topic about abortion or something it would be about 3 pages long by now.

03-18-2001, 03:32 PM
I would have thought the plug would swell as it has a bigger surface area of end grain as a ratio to its volume than the hole in a plank.
I've always found shrinking of the plug later on is the problem, not swelling. This lends you to think that the argument in the first para is valid. QED.
Can I pick up my Phd on the way out?

03-18-2001, 04:16 PM
Interesting point about the end-grain. So the plug ends up with a higher moisture content than the plank?

Rob H
03-18-2001, 08:10 PM
We've kicked this around coffee breaks before. My bet is that if you take a dry plank, bore a hole in it, then immerse it in water, at first the hole will get smaller cross-grain as the water swells the wood locally around the hole, but then as the moisture content of the whole plank equalises,over a period of a few days, the hole will get bigger cross-grain.

Why don't you try it and report back?

03-18-2001, 09:08 PM
Maybe I will but I think I agree with you. I figure if you have a plug in a hole in a plank that is free to expand, and if they both end up with the same uniform moisture content, and they are both made of the same wood with the same initial moisture content, and no gap or interference before swelling, and the grain of the plug is oriented along the grain of the plank, then the plug and hole should both expand by exactly the same amount so you don't have to worry about the plug getting squeezed out or a gap developing.

How much more does wood expand across the grain than with the grain? Is it common practice to make sure the grains are lined up between the plug and the plank?

Gene Eisele
03-18-2001, 10:51 PM
I is my understanding that expansion/contraction along the grain is virtually nil and that across the grain is dependant upon species. I also seem to remember that the swelling/shrinkage tangential to the growth rings is roughly 2-3 times what it is radially this would mean that vertical grain planking would swell across its face more than through its thickness. Flatsawn would be the other way around. Either way you would be fine as long as you cut the plugs from the same stock as the planking. Assuming that casem is right, of course.

Also, I just found Fuller tapered plug cutters in one of these myriad tool catalogs that are always floating around. Don't know if they've always been that way or if this is new.


Ed Nye
03-18-2001, 11:55 PM
A very interesting question. I know that if you heat a piece of metal the hole gets bigger. I would just ass-u-me swelling wood would be the same. However, in the dry season, the raised panel joints in OPAL get loose. Is it because the cross grain panel gets smaller than the shrinkage in the parallel stile?

Rob H
03-19-2001, 05:06 AM

03-19-2001, 06:26 AM
Ed, that's kind of how I was thinking of it, like a thermal expansion problem where the rate of expansion is different in the different directions.

Don Maurer
03-19-2001, 09:39 AM
If you think of it as the number of cells or fibers that are cut by the hole, and then each of the fibers expanding as they absorb moisture, then the hole should expand across the grain. Likewise, a plug of the same material should also expand by roughly the same amount if it is placed in the hole prior to expansion. If the plug were expanded before it was placed in the hole, its shape would likely be different because of the difference in forces surrounding it.

Bruce Hooke
03-19-2001, 10:13 AM
Ed - If you are talking about the panel getting loose in the front to back direction, I think the most likely cause is that the edge that fits in the grove in the frame tapers somewhat towards the edge of the panel. In that case, as the panel shrinks the thickness of the edge of the panel where it enters the grove is reduced.

Matt J.
03-19-2001, 10:55 AM
I may be mistaken, I mean, there's always a first http://media5.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/wink.gif, but I think that "Tapered" means the end of the bung was tapered, kinda like rounded over. This make them easier to start, since the very end is slightly smaller than your bung hole (no comments from the peanut gallery).

Regarding swelling, I think that Rob's riding the fence too much http://media5.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/smile.gif, that hole's gonna get bigger (.) But the bung will, if same material, also enlarge.
No worries. Interesting, though, whether or not they will shrink the same, since the smaller bung will dry faster... we have a number of bungs which popped themselves, and our boat's pretty dry.

Ron Williamson
03-19-2001, 11:51 AM
sorry to inform you of this,but the body of the snug plug is tapered as well as chamfered.I think it's only a few thousandths,but it compensates for when your countersink is drilling off-center(like when the drill bit is too small because you broke it off and instead of buying a new one you take the next smallest size out of your set of bits.

Matt J.
03-19-2001, 04:11 PM
Thanks, Ron, for bursting my bubble and breaking my correct streak. http://media5.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/wink.gif

Bob Cleek
03-19-2001, 11:20 PM

You set the bung with the grain running the same direction as the plank with the hole in it. The bung is made of the same stock as the plank. Same moisture content, same absorption and evaporation rates, same coefficient of expansion all around. When the wood gets wet, the whole thing swells up, the bung and the plank around it. This puts shear tension on the internal across-the-grain grain structure of the entire unit. In a whole plank, no problem. It swells and shrinks. Put a sheared "cut line" between the side of the bung and the hole and you have a place where the tension isn't going to get transferred by the grain but rather, only by the glue across the end and side grain of the bung and plank. Seems that if this "cut line" across the grain is straight, the tendency to stay put is stronger than if it is tapered, or on an incline, in which case is operates as a wedge, permitting the stress to relieve by pushing the bung out. No? I mean, that's why you put the bungs in with the grain parallel to the plank grain, right? More to the point, as Scott said, what's wrong with straight sided Fuller cut bungs anyway? New mousetrap, but same old mice.

03-20-2001, 05:30 PM
Hey Rob H, I started that experiment this morning with a piece of red oak and sure enough, the hole is smaller (I can't get the drill bit back through). I'll report back in a couple of days.

landlocked sailor
03-20-2001, 06:04 PM
I have used snug-plugs for years in my cabinet work. The advantage is that they compensate for slight irregularities in the hole and give a more finished result. I have ONLY used these on my boats too and have had none of these purely theoretical problems that are discussed here. Rick

03-20-2001, 07:02 PM
I've been holding off thinking one of you would get to this. My question is, if you put a tapered plug in a straight sided hole until it's tight at the top, it will still be loose for the remainder of the depth, right? More likely to pop out if the glue or whatever you set it in gives out? Don't know, just asking.


Rob H
03-20-2001, 09:08 PM
We seem to have 2 separate discussions going here; one theoretical, the other practical.
I have used the Fuller (UNtapered) plug cutters for years and they work just fine. The only times I had plugs fall or pop out it was my own fault for not counterboring deep enough. I feel that bungs should go about a diameter deep to be secure. If they are too shallow, they are just little wafers waiting to break free.
The tapered plugs really come in handy when you want to make a plugged hole disappear. The taper makes a proper glue joint that closes tightly to the sides of the hole. There is, of course, some miniscule crushing of wood fiber as the bung and the hole accomodate themselves to each other, but wood is really forgiving stuff that way.
The taper on those Veritas plug cutters is real slow, by the way. Much slower than the Morse taper that holds the chuck in your drill press.
Casem, thanks for stepping up to the plate. I'll be looking forward to hear what you find.

Ross Faneuf
03-20-2001, 10:17 PM
I, too, have used the regular Fullers for years, and they've always seemed just fine. Certainly, they match very well with the Fuller countersinks.

steve sparhawk
03-20-2001, 11:03 PM
Man, this garbage is exactly why I only check in every few weeks. And this is why there are far more dry land dreamers than there are folks building boats. The old builders would laugh up a storm reading this. Drill the hole, drive in a screw and bung the damn thing.

03-21-2001, 07:35 AM
Hole's bigger now, but only in the cross-grain direction. It got kindof elliptical. I suppose that makes sense.

01-23-2005, 02:50 PM
QUOTE; "Man, this garbage is exactly why I only check in every few weeks. And this is why there are far more dry land dreamers than there are folks building boats. The old builders would laugh up a storm reading this. Drill the hole, drive in a screw and bung the damn thing." UNQUOTE
Amen to this. Sounds like an old time sewing bee at times. However, this much knowledge in the right hands could be useful? This is what forums are for maybe? Exchange ideas. Personaly, I did not get much out of this thread but I'm sure someone might have and...... that's a good thing....as Martha Stewart would say.

01-23-2005, 03:14 PM
Does the hole get larger or smaller when the wood drier?
Drill a clean hole in some green wood and put a dry dowel in it with a handle sticking out, let it dry for a week and try to pull it out.
You can't!!
They used to build windsor chairs with green elm seats and dry hickory spindles and no glue.

Peter Malcolm Jardine
01-23-2005, 05:31 PM
I use the Veritas plug cutters and the combined drill countersink units. Fine quality, no troubles.

Dave Fleming
01-23-2005, 06:41 PM
My .02 cents worth.

I have used first the Greenlee plug cutters,later the WL Fuller and, Forrest City ones for over 40 years.
I have a rather extensive collection of them from 1/4 inch to 2 inch in diameter. The larger ones are Forrest City brand.
Truthfully I cannot recall one problem with any of them.

It goes almost without saying that you make your plugs/bungs out of the scraps of the very same wood you are plugging. Matching grain and color, yes?
Store bought bags of ready made plugs may pass in uptown work but not on a boat.

I looked carefully at the Veritas/Lee Valley, TAPERED PLUGS and, IMOOP, I would not use them on a boat for exterior work.
Fuller et al. are full length plugs. Fit the counterbored hole snugly all the way. The tapered ones are...just that tapered with a very narrow contact area.

A side note: The Fuller family are very good about accomodating special orders ie. matching stepdrill/counterbores with plug cutters in either CS,HSS or TCT.

Dan McCosh
01-24-2005, 09:16 AM
I would think that using a tapered plug would meant that the hole has to be exactly the right depth for it to work properly. This doesn't always happen, and you now have the potential for more problems. I've found that plugs tighten when the wood gains some moisture. I could might see some advantage in cabinet work with very dense wood.

George Roberts
01-24-2005, 12:41 PM
Some issues should never be discussed. This is one of them.

Drill the whole, make a plug, set it in place with old varnish.

If you take a wooden ring (drill a hole in a plug), a put it in water, the hole will get smaller or get larger depending on how wide the wooden ring is. With a thin ring the hole will get larger. With a wide ring the hole will get smaller.