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Old 11-24-2018, 04:31 PM   #1
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Removing wooden plugs

I am going to refinish the interior of a 35 year old boat. The wooden sections of the interior are held in place with screws and the holes are plugged.
How can I remove the plugs without damaging the surrounding wood and still be able to remove the screws?

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Old 11-24-2018, 04:45 PM   #2
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I would use a forstner drill bit the same size as or slightly smaller than the plug and drill out plug almost to the screw and pick out the rest of the plug with some sharpe and then remove the screw. After a few screws you’ll get the hang of it . Good Luck .

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Old 11-24-2018, 05:19 PM   #3
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I have drilled a small hole in the middle of the plug and put a screw in and tightened the screw. The screw will go to the installed screw and the the plug will back out as you tighten it. Hopefully the plugs are not epoxied in. Try it first in an out of the way place first.
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Old 11-24-2018, 06:00 PM   #4
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I prefer Marty's approach... much less likely to break out around the plug if you just force it out,
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Old 11-24-2018, 06:05 PM   #5
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forstner drill bit
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Old 11-24-2018, 08:18 PM   #6
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Mr. 465. All good advice thus far although I would probably use Mr. PM's technique with a forstner bit no larger that 2/3 the diameter of the plug. My drill centering skills are not as acute as they once were and I have a bit more grace space if I'm a bit off center (NO nasty comments please!). You may have to be a more careful picking out the, now larger, pieces. I think Harbor Freight sells "dental style" and other handy picks.

One critical thing that should be stressed is damage the screw head as little as possible (or not at all) AND using a small pick, clean out the slots in the screw head really well. You may only get one shot at removal of said screw and you want the best shot possible. Invest in a high quality screw driver of the proper size and/or drive bits.
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Old 11-24-2018, 08:24 PM   #7
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I would recommend the Bosch screwdriver bits, as they seem to be a better quality of steel, and the phillips bits have roughened edges to lessen slipping. Replace them as they wear. They are cheaper than the time it takes to drill out, plug, and redrill a stripped screw.
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Old 11-24-2018, 09:36 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Pack Mule View Post
I would use a forstner drill bit the same size as or slightly smaller than the plug and drill out plug almost to the screw and pick out the rest of the plug with some sharpe and then remove the screw. After a few screws you’ll get the hang of it . Good Luck .
What he said. I use one a size smaller. The balance comes clean with a small pick or screwdriver. Or, just backing out the screw frequently takes out the balance of the plug.
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Old 11-25-2018, 06:37 AM   #9
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Lightly sand the plug to remove any finish that might be stuck enough to damage the surrounding wood as the plug is pulled .

The pilot drill and a screw system works great , esp as its simpler to line up a small pilot drill than a full sized bit.

The fastening screw is usually easiest to remove with one of the newer drills that hammer as they turn.

As a replacement screw, the ones with both a Phillips head and a square head give the easiest removal, IF they are driven with the Phillips and the square hole is reserved for removal time. Exterior deck screws are stronger than SS or brass.
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Old 11-25-2018, 06:47 AM   #10
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Agree with the comments suggesting cleaning the finish from the area of the bung. 1: You'll be less likely to have the finish on the bung lift chips from the surrounding wood. 2: You'll see the bung more clearly.

I find that the look of unbunged fastenings is growing on me. Use nice, new fillister-head (or oval-head) screws. That way, the job is finished after it's reassembled and w/o all that fiddly building up of coats on the bung and the last coat on the whole piece.
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Old 11-25-2018, 07:05 AM   #11
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I use a cut off sheet rock screw in a drill. The screw pulls out plug and usually splits it in half. Then I use a small screwdriver to pick out what's left.
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Old 11-25-2018, 07:57 AM   #12
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Drill a center hole down to the screw of a hole size which fits the larger outlet metal tubing of the air nozzle..
Take your air nozzle with PSI up to 100 lbs or more.
Put air nozzle into hole
Pull trigger.
Plug pops out.

Well maybe it will...
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Old 11-25-2018, 09:15 AM   #13
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Once the plug is out, and the screw is out, if it is a slot screw (most are) throw it away. Any other style, if it is damaged, throw it away. As you are in FL, re-install with Phillips head screws. If you were in Canada, you could use Robertson, the gold standard.
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Old 11-25-2018, 09:31 AM   #14
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I have always just chiseled them out with a tiny flat tip screwdriver. Chiseling from the outside in. small pieces at at time. I have done thousands and thousands this way. Then use the small screwdriver to clean the slot. use a bit brace to remove screws on larger #14 to #20 screws.
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Old 11-25-2018, 12:18 PM   #15
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Maybe it's just me but when I need to be careful and have to extract a screw without incident I go to a brace and bit. Nothing beats the control and torque of a brace and bit.
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Old 11-26-2018, 11:18 AM   #16
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I extracted every bung in my teak deck with a Swiss Army knife, small blade. Insert the tip in the bung along the grain and pry, the bung will disintegrate. Quick and easy.
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Old 11-27-2018, 03:21 PM   #17
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Fast bung removal trick

Many years back I needed to remove around 100 bungs to gain access to a fiberglass repair project. The wood interior paneling was varnished teak slats held in place by screws covered by those bungs.
A salty old woodworker came onboard with his drill driver in hand, and in that drill he has secured a stainless screw from which he had removed the screw’s head.
By placing the tip of the power driven screw in the center of the bung and driving it INTO the plug it screwed itself down until the driven screw tip hit the screw head below and covered over by the plug.
At that time the bung climbed up the threads of the powered screw, and I successfully removed the entire bung with no damage to the surrounding wood.
Don’t guarantee this technique will work for you, but I extracted around 100 plugs in about 20 minutes without any issues. Good luck….

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