How to stain a plug with contrasting color and not sand it off

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by DW833 posted 05-03-2016 12:38 AM 2489 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View DW833's profile


245 posts in 3124 days

05-03-2016 12:38 AM

I’ve created a bench that uses screws for most joinery. Counter sunk holes for plugs. I made a few sample plugs and soaked them in ebony stain for a contrasting color. They fit well and look good. However, I have a problem that I did not account for. When I use a hand plane or sand the plugs flat, all or most of the stained part of the plug is gone and the wood color is not what I want. How do I keep the plugs the stained color when sanding/planing them flush.

16 replies so far

View OSU55's profile


2830 posts in 3231 days

#1 posted 05-03-2016 12:54 AM

The natural wood color of the plugs needs to be correct. You could try to color the plugs after leveling.

View bondogaposis's profile


6046 posts in 3592 days

#2 posted 05-03-2016 02:55 AM

Use plugs of a different species to get the color you want and skip the stain.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View jumbojack's profile


1691 posts in 3865 days

#3 posted 05-03-2016 04:12 AM

How about trying a permanent marker to ‘color’ the plug. The finish coat should seal the color. Try on scrap.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View a1Jim's profile


118253 posts in 4818 days

#4 posted 05-03-2016 04:20 AM

I agree with Bondo,trying to stain a sanded plug is very tough.


View PineSucks's profile


283 posts in 2269 days

#5 posted 05-03-2016 12:13 PM

Only way I know of to get a consistent contrasting color is with a different species of wood for the plugs, but the idea of using a fine-tipped sharpie pen could work if you have the dexterity to color within the lines on your plugs.

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 2472 days

#6 posted 05-03-2016 12:52 PM

use a contrasting wood and dont use stain.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View Ocelot's profile


3394 posts in 3879 days

#7 posted 05-03-2016 08:07 PM

I like using poplar plugs in cherry. What species is used for the bench?

There’s a guy on ebay that sells dowels in bloodwood and purpleheart etc.

154woodblanks is the name. You can email him off of one his listings to ask for something if he’s not selling what you want at the moment.

That 1/4” and 1/2” assortments he has listed at the moment look interesting to me.


-- I intended to be a woodworker, but turned into a tool and lumber collector.

View DW833's profile


245 posts in 3124 days

#8 posted 05-04-2016 12:43 AM

Thanks for the feedback. The wood is western red cedar used on an outside bench.
Just got some free walnut from a neighbor. Will try a few of those to see how they look.
Now I have 3 plugs to remove from the bench also.

View DW833's profile


245 posts in 3124 days

#9 posted 05-16-2016 01:42 AM

As an update, the walnut plugs worked out good. I thought it would be much simpler to use the contrasting wood instead of making plugs and matching the grain. Found that to be the case and expect to use contrasting wood for plugs in the future.

View WildRodrigues's profile


1 post in 214 days

#10 posted 03-19-2021 03:19 AM

Ive been staining over my plugs after I apply just a little watered down titebond to them. They keep most of their original color. I usually only go light color plugs though.

View azwoodworker's profile


74 posts in 3023 days

#11 posted 03-19-2021 08:43 AM

Love the Solution of the different type of wood for contrast or matching. Something I had not thought of. Thanks for the website on the supplies.

View LittleBlackDuck's profile


8097 posts in 2062 days

#12 posted 03-19-2021 11:40 AM

Depending on the size of your plugs, there are many different plug cutters out there to make your own out of contrasting timber of your choice. You may need to shop around… maybe try pen suppliers for an appropriate blank.

Alternatively, if you have access to a lathe, turn your own… you only need a short piece… you can “under plug” with anything simple like pine.

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

View tvrgeek's profile


2283 posts in 2890 days

#13 posted 03-19-2021 01:09 PM

Dye, not stain.

View firefighterontheside's profile


21501 posts in 3098 days

#14 posted 03-19-2021 02:15 PM

Are you using end grain for plugs or side grain? I make all of my own plugs out of the same wood I’m building with unless I want contrasting plugs. End grain is always going to take stain different than side grain. Put your plugs in proud of the surface and plane or sand flush. Stain everything after that.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View Mike_D_S's profile


796 posts in 3456 days

#15 posted 03-19-2021 05:40 PM

One thing I’ve done for contrasting woods for small insets where sanding was creating “staining” of the sawdust into the grain of the contrasting wood was to set the inset slightly deep below the other surface and then float shellac or epoxy over the top of the inset. Then when you sand you’re really sanding the coating and not the wood itself.

This should work for plugs as well though you’ll have to go through the trouble of presanding the end and cutting to length as well in order to set at the right depth.

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

showing 1 through 15 of 16 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics