A Boat on the Side
28May/100

Timber Plugs

Scruffie Marine Build a Better Kit -  No 2

They are awkward little bastards but we’ve always recommended timber plugs as the best way to finish varnished work that has to be screwed in place. They are, however, a pain to cut and a fiddle to fit. They need to have the grain line up and a dab of adhesive applied before tapping in. Then you have to pare away most of the protruding material before planing with a small sharp block plane before sanding to finish.

The cutting is frustrating because no matter what you do the cutter clogs up after a series of plugs – sometimes you can get a dozen or more but often it’s only three or four. To minimize this a razor sharp cutter on the highest speed of the bench drill is needed.

Then there’s the timber itself. Some species are better than others. With Red Cedar we’ve substituted a slow growth red eucalypt whose name escapes me. It’s harder but has a tight grain, a nice deep red colour and it’s much easier to cut. You’ll have to remember to use a hard sanding block – i.e. no foam or rubber – to ensure the little buggers aren’t left proud.

We use them when fitting the deck or gunwale trims which are screwed and epoxied on. The clearance holes – around 4 mm – are carefully spaced bow to stern, allowing for the join(s) and ensuring both sides will match. We use tinted epoxy adhesive, well coved and chipboard screws to hold it all together. When properly cured the screws are removed and the clearance holes for the plugs accurately drilled. A sharp bit to exactly the right size is essential but you only have to drill 8mm or 10 mm deep. Finally using your wife’s eyebrow tweezers hold the plugs in place and tap them in. She won’t mind at all but clean any epoxy off with some thinners before putting them back – wiping them on your shirt is not good enough.

Arguments can easily be started with an innocent little sticky residue of epoxy inadvertently transferred to female apparel. Once again though, a timely offer of a dab of thinners on the outfit will soon have the matter settled. Hopefully she won’t mind too much if a little of the outfit’s colour is removed with the thinners – it’s clean, isn’t it?

 So, there you are then, a perfect varnished trim and a contented spouse. What else? On yes, I suppose we’ll have to supply them as standard now, having foolishly promised to list all improvements.

Next week – how to remove epoxy from hair and beards using nail scissors and common household products.

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