Dowell Plug - Staining Outline

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Forum topic by klinkman posted 01-17-2021 01:50 AM 489 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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73 posts in 884 days

01-17-2021 01:50 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing arts and crafts

Anyone have any ideas about how to keep stain from marking a dowel plug’s circumference?

I was going to be alright living with the mismatched grain, but now that I’ve stained this sample, really not happy with the results. I purchased some nice quarter sawn Oak for a craftsman plant stand my wife wanted duplicated. I think I have a good formula for finishing. These dowel plugs are going to hose it up though.

I’ve considered some paraffin wax to keep the stain out? seems iffy. Also considered shellac first, but the color doesn’t take as well.

Seems like my only alternative at this point is lose the screws—at least it’s a long grain to long grain butt joint. I just hate to put all 7 of these parts together (to form the central column) with nothing more than glue. Any ideas are appreciated. thanks

-- Klinkman, hand tool enthusiast

12 replies so far

View brtech's profile


1099 posts in 3931 days

#1 posted 01-17-2021 03:05 AM

Make it a feature. Use walnut plugs or some other highly contrasting wood. Alternatively, use a dowel or floating tenon instead of screws.

View Rich's profile (online now)


6526 posts in 1598 days

#2 posted 01-17-2021 04:09 AM

Stain has pigments that will settle into that joint. Dye doesn’t, and will color the wood with less emphasis on the joint.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View mel52's profile


1973 posts in 1273 days

#3 posted 01-17-2021 05:06 AM

I’ve done what ” brtech” said and they looked pretty good. I’m talking about the plugs. Mel

-- MEL, Kansas

View Tony_S's profile


1426 posts in 4091 days

#4 posted 01-17-2021 11:14 AM

lose the screws
- klinkman

You don’t need them. Just a waste of time, screws and stress.

-- “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

View Robert's profile (online now)


4440 posts in 2489 days

#5 posted 01-17-2021 11:16 AM

You’re way too picky. :-D

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View bondogaposis's profile


5949 posts in 3359 days

#6 posted 01-17-2021 01:55 PM

Glue them in with hide glue.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View splintergroup's profile


4669 posts in 2231 days

#7 posted 01-17-2021 04:01 PM

The stain loves end grain, which is ever so slightly exposed on the perimeter of the drill hole and plug. The only way I know to achieve your goal without changing your finishing schedule is to assemble and then plan on scraping/sanding away up to 1/16” to fully remove any exposed end grain areas.

Alternatively, the suggestions to feature the plugs instead fo trying to hide them probably is easier. You can make them square, slightly proud (Greene & Greene style), contrasting, even from soft metals like brass or aluminum.

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile (online now)


2651 posts in 556 days

#8 posted 01-17-2021 04:38 PM

I did these about three years ago, no screws, no problems – except on one of them the very bottom sapele panel glue-up has separated about a millimeter. I just turn it to the wall and dont see it.

-- WWBBJ: It is better to be interesting and wrong, than boring and right.

View klinkman's profile


73 posts in 884 days

#9 posted 01-17-2021 07:19 PM

Some great suggestions everyone, thank you for your inputs and education from your experiences.

I think I’m going to lose the screws to avoid the stain line all together. I’ll use a couple of 1/8 or 3/16 dowels on the mating surfaces for alignment during glue up. Adds another step but it should provide a simple and effective solution.

Really appreciate everyone’s ideas.

-- Klinkman, hand tool enthusiast

View HowardAppel's profile


44 posts in 4042 days

#10 posted 01-19-2021 03:04 AM

Another alternative where you absolutely need to use screws is to cut out a shape, e.g., a small tree, just as if you were putting in a bow tie, and then make the insert out of a contrasting wood the same color as your stain. More work though.

View pottz's profile (online now)


14799 posts in 1993 days

#11 posted 01-19-2021 03:32 AM

lose the screws
- klinkman

You don t need them. Just a waste of time, screws and stress.

- Tony_S

most of the time no,but sometimes their needed.even the great sam maloof used screws in his furniture.but he didn’t try too pretend he didn’t and used contrasting plugs as part of the design.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View Tony_S's profile


1426 posts in 4091 days

#12 posted 01-19-2021 10:54 AM

most of the time no,but sometimes their needed.

- pottz

Agreed. I have no aversion to using screws where they’re needed, but in this situation they aren’t. It’s a simple long grain glue joint. More than strong enough without fasteners of any type.
In reference to Maloof, yes, I’m very familiar with his construction techniques. He did use screws, but to the best of my knowledge, not on long grain glue joints. Only on small cross grain and end grain to long grain joints.

-- “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

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