DSC_0030I had meant to post on this some time back and forgot. I don’t altogether like plug cutters much, but good quality ones work well in drill presses (pillar drill UK). It’s the drill press that’s the problem more than anything. Often when I need a plug we don’t have a drill press handy. We look bemusedly at the plug cutter and the wood and then the hole. Now I can always make a plug in a minute or two with a 1/2” chisel just fine and that’s generally what I do, but when we need a dozen or more hand cutting can be tedious and that’s where I find plug cutters fit the bill. A few months ago I was in Lowes, a US big box store, and I saw a plug cutter with a difference made by Hitachi. they are available individually or in a pack of three; 5/16″, 3/8″ and 7/16″ I think.

DSC_0035I wanted a plug cutter I could use in an electric drill or better still a battery-driven screwgun/drilldriver and as soon as I saw this I knew it would work. Regular plug cutters without a centrepoint spin off course straight away and leave the surface badly scored and rough. They are virtually impossible to hold on centre in other words and they just will not work without a drill press. In this case, set it up in a Dewalt screwgun, and, cutting spiral-grained mahogany, the bit centred immediately and without effort to cut a perfect plug. Furthermore, the developed plug is tapered slightly and so any variance in drill bit sizes will generally be accommodated.

So, here is the result. I first drilled the hole for plugging with an auger bit and brace. DSC_0038


I glued the plug and aligned the grain to the main grain axis  of the block.DSC_0040 Tapping the plug home tightened the plug perfectly and the plug disappeared. DSC_0043DSC_0041DSC_0045The plug in this section of wood is found by the blue pen dot.

All in all, the only minor flaw I found wasn’t a flaw in use. The centrepoint feels a little loose and allows a little off-centre play. Surprisingly this made little if any difference to the quality of the cut and every plug I made came out perfectly round. The main reason is that the spring-loaded centre point retracts into the main body of the plug cutter as pressure is applied via the screwgun. The minute fractional hold by the pointed centre pin is enough to allow the circular cutter to scribe the inner rim of the cut and so allow the outer rim to further keep the cutter perfectly aligned and without wander into the full depth of the cut. All that remains is to remove the plug by levering the core with a slim screwdriver.

As you can guess, this plug cutter is a great addition for concealing screws and eliminates filler whether the chosen finish is clear varnish or paint. I found that the cutter works best in close-grained hardwoods at a slower speed and higher torque set. I also found that it worked will in softwoods and softer woods such as spruce and pine but at full speed with slower feed.


  1. Brandon Avakian on 13 June 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Wonderful. Great post Paul. This would make a perfect addition to your workbench series if readers want to know how to easily plug the screw holes.

    • Paul Sellers on 14 June 2013 at 10:12 am

      Yes, I think that people may want to use this on several different projects. I like to combine screws with some projects rather than just rely on glue alone so I often use this method. We will do video on how to use it probably, although it is dead simple.

  2. J Guengerich on 22 June 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I just saw the package of three on ebay for $18.99 US (plus about $4 shipping) and the sizes were 3/8″, 1/2″, and 5/16″, like you said.
    Since I don’t have a Lowes close, I think I’ll order them up for my tool box.
    Thanks for the information… again Paul!

  3. Ed on 11 December 2015 at 12:44 am

    Looks like Hitachi has discontinued these now.

    • Paul Sellers on 11 December 2015 at 9:17 am

      Someone should pick this up. It is one of the best of all. Glad I have mine then. Also, I found they can be sharpened with a flat file. The concept of manufacture is simple enough, I am sure we could just make our own.

      • Ed on 12 December 2015 at 1:12 am

        What size(s) do you find most useful?

        There is a self centering plug cutter by a brand called Montana and one by Kobalt (Lowe’s house brand?), but I do not know if they are any good.

        • Paul Sellers on 12 December 2015 at 7:43 am

          I use the 3/8″ the most and found I didn’t really reach for the smaller or larger ones as the 3/8″ one will do ninety percent of screw heads. I used to get the Hitachi from Lowes so perhaps as Kobalt is Lowes line they have started to make their own since Hitachi stopped. They may have done a deal with Hitachi to have them made with their name on. Bit like Spear and Jackson of Sheffield UK having their saws made in Taiwan but putting Sheffield on the wrapper.
          I would love someone like Veritas to pick this up as all other plug cutters are made for use on a drill press and no use to those who don’t have a drill press (like me).

          • Stuart G. on 19 March 2016 at 4:14 am


            What about starting the plug cutter in a shallow hole drilled to the outside diameter of the plug cutter? Sort of a reverse-pilot hole.

            Thanks so much for all of your sharing!

          • Paul Sellers on 19 March 2016 at 7:17 am

            That will work too.

  4. Ed on 12 December 2015 at 12:36 pm

    The Kobalt plug cutter photo does look like the Hitachi, so perhaps you are right. I’m not in Lowes often, but will look for one of these and give it a try. I’ll let you know if I find one.

    Veritas sells a plug cutter with the claim to fame of cutting a slightly tapered plug, but there’s no center on it, so presumably it requires a drill press. I have an old, old Delta drill press that was rescued from a shop’s junk stack. The runout isn’t great and the motor turns itself off after a few minutes of moderate load, but it could cut plugs. Some day, I’ll figure out how to fix it.

  5. S Richardson. on 7 October 2017 at 11:46 am

    Paul, do you know if there is a definitive work on plywood for the Uk ? with respect to the plug cutter and battery (or corded) drills, I have always found that if you clamp a bit of scrap with holes drilled in it the same size as the outside diameter of the plug cutter,to the piece of wood you want to make plugs from, you can get away without the skating about.
    This might work even better if you scored the surface by running the drill in reverse to start with. I have also found this to work with those savage things used for cutting holes for hinges in UK kitchen cabinets !

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