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3 Ways to Hide Screws

The top of this 40"-tall bookcase sits below eye level of most viewers, so only the nosiest inspector will see the screws securing the top to the carcase.

Place them out of sight

Perhaps the most obvious way to hide screws is simply locating them where they can't or aren't likely to be seen, such as the underside of a cabinet top or tabletop, shown above, or on the back face of a cabinet.

Cover them with other parts

If screws must be used on the visible faces of a project, take time during the design process to find or create locations where a length of molding or another part of the project will hide them as shown below. Just remember that once covered, the screws will be difficult, if not impossible, to access, so make sure you don't need to reposition or disassemble any parts before applying the concealing piece.

2 photo of box, before & after
Screws securing the slats on this planter disappear behind glued-on moldings that create the appearance of a frame.

Drawing of clock parts
On this clock case, part C covers the screw holding part B to part A. The screw through B, C, and D is concealed inside the clock case.

Bury them in counterbores

A counterbore recesses a screwhead below the surface of a workpiece, shown below. You then plug the counterbore to either hide it or highlight it, shown below.

Bit boring hole with screw
A counterbore bit drills the pilot hole, countersink, and counterbore in one step. A set for #6, #8, and #10 screws [Sources] will cover most situations.

You can buy plugs or make your own. Store-bought plugs rarely match the tone of your project stock. And because such plugs are usually cut from dowels, their end grain soaks in more stain than the face grain around them. As a result, they stand out instead of blending in. Of course, you can use this difference as a visual detail, even choosing a contrasting species.

To best camouflage a plug, cut your own from scrap material from your project, using a plug cutter in a drill press, shown below. This gives you a near-perfect match in grain and wood tone once the plugs are glued in place with the grain aligned as closely as possible, as shown below; trimmed with a chisel; and sanded flush.

4 plugs in a board
Buttons or flush-cut plugs fill counterbores. Depending on the desired look, you can make them decorative or blend them in.

Buttons stand proud of the wood's surface and serve as pronounced decorative elements. Find them in many different sizes and styles—even square-head types for an Arts and Crafts look.

Create plugs in a snap

To make your own wood plugs, use a plug cutter [Sources, below]. Sold in 14 ", 38 ", and 12 " diameters, plug cutters resemble drill bits with multiple fluted cutting edges. As they spin, they create plugs of wood that you then pop free with the tip of a chisel. Tapered cutters create slightly cone-shape plugs that wedge tightly into counterbores for a gap-free fit.

Because they lack pilot bits, do not use plug cutters in a handheld drill; you'll achieve the best results using a drill press.

Boring holes in board

Sources:
Insty-bit countersink bit set, #6, #8, and #10, woodmagazine.com/countersinks Snappy plug cutter set, 14 ", 38 ", 12 ", woodmagazine.com/plugcutters

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