Plug Repair for Maple Tabletop

Tips on patching a small hole in a Maple top before refinishing. October 19, 2013

Question (WOODWEB Member) :

I have non-figured, hard maple desk top. A dime-size hole in the top about 1/2" round and 1/2" deep was filled with 2 part filler years ago. Now I am refinishing the table using aniline dye.

Can someone comment on my plan? I will chisel out a rectangle to remove filler, and replace with a rectangle of maple hoping to align the grain, which is minimal. The rectangle will be 1/8th inch deeper than the new hole. Then will sand flush.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From Contributor A:
Your method will work, but it is unlikely that it will be invisible. If you can find a piece that matches well in the grain, you can get a good match, but not likely a perfect match.

From Contributor B:
Just a thought. If the top is wide enough and also since you are refinishing it, why not take top the off, cut out that 1/2" strip and reglue? Seems it would take less time and give a better result.

From the original questioner:
To contributor B: That's an unusual idea. But I only have a contractor's table saw. For some people not a bad idea. I plan to cut the chip first, then outline it on the table before I cut the hole.

How does one guarantee the chiseled hole is the same size as the chip? And what if the chip ends up smaller? I have never used a chisel on maple, and have little chiseling experience generally. An alternative might be to apply the aniline dye right over the mistake. Then use an artist's brush to apply paint to the mistake to blend in.

From Contributor A:
Do not try to cut the plug and the hole to the same size. Taper the edges slightly. The plug can then be tapped into the hole for a tight, gap-free fit.

From the original questioner:
Good idea, my friend.

From Contributor A:
Glad to help out! I first learned that trick when I worked for a stair company. The grooves in box stair stringers are cut with a dovetail bit. That way, when the tread is driven home and wedges added, the thin point of contact between the stringer and tread can compress slightly, forming a very clean joint. I have used the concept ever since. Let us know how your repair comes out.

From Contributor D:
Ditto on the tapered plug! Just use a block plane and if the plug is small move it (not the plane) over the plane. This way hopefully you won’t cut yourself. I learned this one the hard way!