Ideas from Ed: Plug that hole (Vol. 5, Issue 3)

I hate it when people do stupid things. A perfect example is the hole cut into the nice oak flooring, as shown in the picture below:


Yes, I recognize that there may be times when it’s necessary to cut openings for plumbing (as was the case here) but there’s a correct way to do it. The right way is to make the opening square or rectangular, cutting along the lines between floorboards on two sides, and perpendicular on the other two sides. That way, only two cuts are visible, and the piece can be saved and even re-inserted should there be a need to return it to the previous condition. As it was here, the jagged edges were cut by a butcher, making it very difficult to patch. Obviously the cutout was nowhere to be found, or I wouldn’t be writing this article!


Of course, to be REALLY nice, whole pieces of flooring should be cut and inserted into the damaged area. This month’s article shows the easier way of handling this, as long as a perfect appearance isn’t critical.


The first step is to make a good tracing of the hole. It’s easy to do if you place a sheet of paper over the opening, and then use the wide side of the lead to gently rub around the perimeter. You should end up with something like this. Be sure to show where the joints between boards are.


You’ll never be able to perfectly match the aged appearance of the old flooring, but at least use the correct wood – oak in this case. Cut several pieces if needed, matching the width of each piece to the width of the flooring. On the floor shown, three pieces were needed. I used rough-cut oak, and then planed things smooth after edge-gluing them.


I used old-fashioned carbon paper to trace the pencil outline onto the wood. I was a little off on the locations of the between-flooring joints, but that little bit doesn’t matter.



Before cutting the piece out on a bandsaw, change the table angle to something like 4 or 5 degrees, so the edges are slightly beveled downward. Then cut outside of the line, making a plug that should fit tightly in the hole without too many adjustments. (By the way, that’s paint on my fingers, from another project!)




Test the plug for fit. Minor sanding can be done manually or with a strip/belt sander like this one:


With a little care in doing the above, and maybe a little luck, the plug should now fit well, perhaps with some persuasion from your favorite hammer. Glue can assure the plug will stay in place.


To “finish” the plug, slightly chisel or scratch the between-board lines onto it. That’s why the slight error in placement noted above wasn’t an issue. Those original joints are wide enough that as long as they are close to the joints on the glued-up piece, the mistake can be easily corrected.


Here’s the plug, inserted. A little bit of filler will be needed at a few spots, the joints darkened slightly with a pencil, final sanding, and then stained as closely as possible to the color of the flooring.


I hope all your projects go well. Thanks for reading, and happy restoring!

Ed


If you’d like to download a PDF of this “Ideas” column, click here:

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