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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Many older boats have beautiful original joinery.
To do a refit however some of it may have to be removed to create access to critical systems.

Are their any tricks to getting it back to the way it was or maybe better?

I can think of three possible paths after the plugs are dug out and removed.

1. Replace with finish washers.
2. Refinish sticks outside of boat. Replace screws and plugs and repair surface.
3. Strip outside of boat. Rescrew and plug and finish in place.
4. Replug and refinish and match existing finish.
5. Fill the holes with those plastic plugs
6. Fill the holes with raised mushroom pre-finished plugs depending on location.

Option 1 and 3 would work but would be massive work.

Option 2 and 4 I don't even know if it would work, probably not.

Options 5 and 6 change the look but are probably the most practical.

What can be done?
What do the pros do.

Their would be a significant benefit if the solution would make future removal easier.
 

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newhaul is close but the plug cutters in the link are crud. Do not use them, the plugs will not be snug. I use tapered plug cutters for a flawless fit:

Veritas® Tapered Snug-Plug® Cutters - Lee Valley Tools

I've done the job many times and newhaul is correct that it's easiest and provides the best finish if the wood is removed from the boat and finished in a shop where one can work properly. When reinstalling, fasten with screws and tap the tapered plug into the hole. Trim the plug with a 1/2" chisel and 220 sandpaper. No glue is necessary. Yes, the surrounding finished will be scuffed, but that's ok because you're going to go over the whole surface with a final coat (or 2, sanding with 220 and tacking between coats). This is the fastest method with controllable, quality results. All the trim in the following photos were finished with this technique (lots of plugs)

 

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Best way to prevent 'tear outs' of the surrounding wood surface when removing plugs is to cut into original plugs by using a forstner bit and portable drill press; run the forstner 'backwards' (CCW) so that it cuts the depth of the outside of the 'circle', then reverse the drill to cut in the normal CW manner to finish the hole down to the embedded screw. Hand sharpen your forstner bits every day with a fine'saw file'.
Also, to further prevent 'tear outs' of the surrounding surface: make up a drilling jig with a thin washer welded (or similar shape cut into) the bottom surface of the jig/drilling plate- press down the jig when drilling ... so if you do hit a 'hard/dry spot' in the wood, the tear out will be minimal and protected by the drilling jig. Tear-outs of plug margins are the bane of boat interior restoration.

Even if you do have a 'tear-out', simply use the next size of: forstner, counter-sink/counter-bore. Always run that forstner 'backwards' (CCW) when making that initial 'cut'.


Cabinet washers and mushroom plugs are for 'clorox bottles'.
But then again, Im the type of person who flat-sands prime varnish jobs, then 'hand rub' it with rotten-stone, etc. then power buffs (....... then find a 'crater'/blemish, and start all over again)-- called 'finishing' the varnish/lacquer/etc.

General Tools & Instruments 36/37 Accu Precision Drill Guide - Power Tool Accessories - [email protected]@[email protected]@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/[email protected]@[email protected]@41ReN4wWweL
 

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The above is all good advice. But keep in mind that the screws may not be all that holds some interior pieces in place. Catalina interiors for example can be almost entirely removed after you take the screws out. But some may be glued as well and screw removal won't help.
 

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Best way to prevent 'tear outs' of the surrounding wood surface when removing plugs is to cut into original plugs by using a forstner bit and portable drill press;
Quite a technique you have there Rich. I am wondering how to use the portable drill press on vertical surfaces. I find it the most difficult task is to find the center of the plug with the little point of the forstner bit - one tiny bit off and the whole thing is damaged.
Would you have a picture of your jig with the washer as described? I am having trouble picturing that.

The above is all good advice. But keep in mind that the screws may not be all that holds some interior pieces in place. Catalina interiors for example can be almost entirely removed after you take the screws out. But some may be glued as well and screw removal won't help.
+1 on that.
I have found glued trim after removing the plugs and screw. In this case I used the multi tooll with a very thin blade to cut the glue under the trim piece. Some trim pieces are also held by brass tacks, and again the multi tool was used to cut the tacks from underneath the piece, since removing the entire tack would leave a hole and most of the time it would cause "tear outs".
 

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Best way to prevent 'tear outs' of the surrounding wood surface when removing plugs is to cut into original plugs by using a forstner bit
An easier way is to use a wood chisel to take them out. Use a chisel 1/2 the size of the hole and starting from the center, undermine the plug. Work around the plug and then use the edge of the chisel to pull the plug away from the side of the hole. A plug can be removed in about a minute or less. Using tapered plugs covers any small tear outs.

One problem with the forstner technique is bottoming out the bit on the screw head and instantly dulling it, or worse. However, it's not hard to center the bit with the pointed tip. Can easily be done with a hand drill.... I've done it. But using a sharp chisel is so much faster and less error prone.
 

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+1 on that.
I have found glued trim after removing the plugs and screw. In this case I used the multi tooll with a very thin blade to cut the glue under the trim piece. Some trim pieces are also held by brass tacks, and again the multi tool was used to cut the tacks from underneath the piece, since removing the entire tack would leave a hole and most of the time it would cause "tear outs".
My point was that if the item is glued in place you may destroy it in removal. Better to tape and re-finish in place as a pro would.
 

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Gee--Maybe it's just me but the traditional way of removing plugs that I learned as a kid was to drill down to the underlying screw with a small bit at the center of the plug and to then use a fine wood screw, screwed into the newly drilled hole, that, once in contact with the underlying screw-head, slowly but surely lifted the plug out as the screw was turned. I have had the misfortune of having to remove hundreds of plugs in such manner and have with little difficulty or damages to the host woodwork.

FWIW...
 

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Gee--Maybe it's just me but the traditional way of removing plugs that I learned as a kid was to drill down to the underlying screw with a small bit at the center of the plug and to then use a fine wood screw, screwed into the newly drilled hole, that, once in contact with the underlying screw-head, slowly but surely lifted the plug out as the screw was turned. I have had the misfortune of having to remove hundreds of plugs in such manner and have with little difficulty or damages to the host woodwork.

FWIW...
svH, you're making the astoundingly WILD assumption that the plugs have been put in properly in the first place (ie: not glued in by some rank amateur).. :p :)

..but if the timber is particularly porous, even when properly fixed in with varnish the varnish can wick into the timber making them hard to remove.


I've found the chisel method Sabreman mentioned to be the most sure-fire way to tackle plugs when you don't know what you're up against. Then, if you find after the first few that they come out relatively easily, you can revert to pulling them out with a wood-screw.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ok, I can see how it the stick was finished out side then screwed in place.
A tapered plug was inserted and trimmed with a sharp chisel.
Lightly sanded then varnished it would look OK.
The plugs would have a few less coats of varnish but you would probably get away with that.

What about if you didn't want to refinish the whole piece.

The original finish would be a lot darker than the new finish on new plugs.

Has anyone manged to blend it in OK somehow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
svH, you're making the astoundingly WILD assumption that the plugs have been put in properly in the first place (ie: not glued in by some rank amateur).. :p :).
So plugs should not be glued?
Stick them in with varnish or nothing?
 

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What about if you didn't want to refinish the whole piece.

The original finish would be a lot darker than the new finish on new plugs.

Has anyone manged to blend it in OK somehow.
You never want to get too many layers of varnish on cabinetry - the finish will just get darker and darker and may eventually pull away from the timber (bubble).

Best suggestion is to fine sand the entire piece (just taking off a layer or two off the top - not back to bare timber!) and then a apply fresh coat or two over the whole piece, including the plugs. Unless there are significant differences in grain between the plugs and the base timber, after two top coats it should all blend in nicely.
 

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svH, you're making the astoundingly WILD assumption that the plugs have been put in properly in the first place (ie: not glued in by some rank amateur).. :p :)

....
Ah...Well... I made my comment with respect to David's original question beginning with:

Many older boats have beautiful original joinery. To do a refit however some of it may have to be removed to create access to critical systems.
In my experience, older boats with beautiful original joinery that have plugs have original, properly done, plugs, inserted when very dry (so that they have shrunk somewhat) and most often with only a swag or no varnish, and certainly no glue (which would cause a slight but obvious ring) at all (and joinery was hardly the work of an amateur). As the dry plugs take up moisture from the adjoining wood grain, they swell slightly and are so held firmly in place. The plug's grain was aligned with the grain of the host and the plug shaved flat with a very sharp knife or had hand plane with due regard for the "dip" of the grain in the plug. In fact, so done, some plugs are all but invisible but under strong light and close inspection. Moreover, if the plug was swagged with varnish, that tends to hold the grain of the adjoining host material together while the grain of the plug itself is weakened by the threads of the extracting screw. I learned the foregoing from a very old, knotty, "Joiner" at a boatyard when I was young, who reportedly began his own career plugging deck and hull planks (hence the old saw, 'Just Keep Pluggin')

But hey...what do I know...
 

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I do as HyLyte suggested. This how I was taught! I am in the process of re-installing part of our interior and I center drilled the old plugs, used a screw to extract the plugs! No tear outs chips or any such thing! I'm not saying the process won't cause tear outs, but even in WoodenBoat I've read that, this is how it is done! You would also cut all but about an 1/8th inch of plug off to see how the grain ran out, so as not to get it to finish lower than the main piece, being bunged!
 

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Gee--Maybe it's just me but the traditional way of removing plugs that I learned as a kid was to drill down to the underlying screw with a small bit at the center of the plug and to then use a fine wood screw, screwed into the newly drilled hole, that, once in contact with the underlying screw-head, slowly but surely lifted the plug out as the screw was turned. I have had the misfortune of having to remove hundreds of plugs in such manner and have with little difficulty or damages to the host woodwork.

FWIW...
Thats all great if the original plug was either a friction fit or a 'varnish' glued plug; but, nowadays many of the plugs are quite shallow and are 'glued' with 5 min epoxy or styrene and youre not going to jack out such a plug with a screw in the middle of the plug.
 

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im doing a full refit on my irwin 28 a leaking hull deck join(common)/ missing joint screw's caused leaks into the cabin rotting all the teak bulkheads. i yanked one side out and am replacing it with cored fiberglass panels and am going to edge everything with mahogany. i used a 1/4" chisel like said above to remove the plugs. its was the best thing i have seen other ways but your never going to reuse them gain so just chisle them out and taper plugs are the best for fit i think
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
am replacing it with cored fiberglass panels and am going to edge everything with mahogany.
Where did you get the cored fiberglass? G10?

And how are you going to fix the hull deck joint leak?
 

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Made it 3/4'' rigid foam from the hardware store with 2layers of 12oz biaxial and one layer of 6oz Plain weave s-glass on both sides then tape the edge with 2layers. I also vacuum the panels when I lay it up for best resin to glass ratio. Never have to worry about rot again and it's harder than wood

Hull deck joint I'm striping the gel coat 6'' each way they going to router the edge round smooth with epoxy/milled fiber mix to keep the shape then lay 3 layers of tape 2'' plain weave 4'' biaxial tape 6'' pain wave and peel ply it to the hull to dry then sand fair and paint. The whole boat is getting repainted inside and out
 
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