Introduction: 6 Ways to Plug or Fill Pocket Holes
In this Instructable I'll show you 6 Ways to Plug or Fill Pocket Holes with a variety of methods. I'll break down the 6 ways into 3 fillers and 3 plugs made from wood. Each of these has their pro's and con's and I'll cover each of them in detail along with application methods and results after sanding to 150 grit.
If you want to see a little more detail and a quick jig I made to cut the plugs for my favorite method (#6) then you can head over to my 6 Ways to Plug or Fill Pocket Holes post on my site.
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Step 1: Get Your Materials and Tools
Here is what you'll need for the build. The links below are affiliate links and help support my channel and let me build more projects.
Step 2: #1 - Filling With Wood Filler
The first filler method is traditional wood filler or wood putty. Applying it is very easy, I just filled the holes to the brim with wood filler then set it aside to dry.
The holes are deep so I ended up having to wait overnight for the wood filler to dry. I thought it would crack or shrink, but the filler did a great job. After sanding it was very smooth and ready for paint.
Pro’s: Smooth finish, easy to apply, sands quickly
Con’s: Long drying time, uses a lot of filler per hole
Step 3: #2 Filling With Sawdust and Glue
The second filler method is using sawdust and glue. I'd never used this before, but I got a tip from Instagram to try it out. I’m not sure I got the mixture right, but I just dumped out the dust from my orbital sander and mixed it with glue into a paste. I mixed it and put it in the holes and it made a huge nasty mess. This stuff was pretty hard to spread.
I let this one dry overnight as well and it was actually still rubbery the next day almost 24 hours later. I tried sanding it and it turned into a big mess and totally gummed up my sandpaper.
Pro’s: Ummm, I guess it’s the cheapest
Con’s: Everything else, this one was bad
Step 4: #3 Filling With Bondo
The third filler is Bondo. I also got this tip from the Instagram community. The bondo has a putty and a hardener you mix together. I followed the directions on the can and stirred it up until it was an even salmon color.
I filled the pocket holes with the bondo and overfilled them to make sure it would be flush when I sanded it back. It took a little to get used to the thick consistency but wasn’t too bad to work with, though it did have a somewhat strong smell.
The bondo dried much faster than first two fillers and was ready to sand in about 2 hours. It also sanded way faster than I thought it would. It only took 10 or 15 seconds more than the wood filler to sand. And the finish was glassy smooth, even better than the wood filler.
Pro’s: Super smooth finish, dries faster than other fillers
Con’s: Bad smell, needs to be mixed before use, any material mixed but not used is wasted
Step 5: #4 Plugging With Store Bought Plugs
The next 3 methods are using wooden plugs. I put a picture of the different types of plugs and I'll go over each one in detail. If you wonder why my fingers hate #5 then go watch my YouTube video for this tutorial.
The first plug method is using store bought plugs. The ones I used for the test were oak but they come in several varieties. You just put some glue in the pocket hole then push in the plug.
The fit on these plugs was pretty loose for me so I had to let the glue dry for about 30 minutes before flushing cutting with my flush cut saw.
Pro’s: ready off the shelf, available in different wood species
Con’s: inconsistent fit, more expensive
Step 6: #5 Plugging With 3/8" Dowels Angled-cut
The next way is to basically recreate the store bought plugs using a 3/8″ dowel and a little jig. You just drill pocket holes in a scrap piece then insert a 3/8″ dowel into the hole and cut it flush on the bandsaw or with the flush cut saw. This gives you a plug that looks just like the store bought ones.
The problem is with the installation. I had a really hard time getting these installed. I tried using a rasp and also the Kreg Mini Jig which has a little spot for pushing the plugs in. Neither of those worked great and I ended up not getting the plugs set totally flush. I let the glue set for about 5 minutes, since it was a tight fit the plugs were pretty secure, and then cut them flush with my flush cut saw.
The angled dowels left some gaps that would need to be filled since I wasn’t able to fully seat them. But other than that they did a good job.
Pro’s: most efficient use of material, uses inexpensive dowels
Con’s: hard to install, finger busters
Step 7: #6 Plugging With 3/8" Dowels Straight-cut
The final way to plug pocket holes is my favorite. The idea is the same as the angled plugs except you cut the plugs into 1.5″ sections with a straight cut. Apply your glue and use a hammer to tap the plugs into place. No rasp, no Kreg Mini, no busted knuckles. Just a few easy taps with the hammer and you’re ready to go!
You can cut these flush almost immediately, but I do wait about 5 minutes just to be sure. Then cut them with the flush cut saw. After sanding the surface left behind is very good and only needs slight filling or additional sanding if any.
Pro’s: easiest installation for plugs, tight fit so minimal waiting for glue to dry, uses inexpensive dowels
Con’s: uses more material than angled dowels