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A basic touchup sequence
Filling a Screw Hole
© Frank Ford, 11/28/00; Photos by FF, 10/16/00

Not everybody wants a strap button in the heel of a guitar. Taking the button out, there's a screw hole left behind, and the reasonable (if illogical) is, "Can you remove this screw hole?" Here's my approach to a strap button "hole-ectomy."

Like so many other new special edition custom guitars, this Martin OM-42 is less than a year old, and on its second owner, who doesn't like the gold strap button the first owner installed in the heel.

So, I unscrewed the button, leaving a nice deep screw hole in the neck.

Step "A" was to fill the hole. So, I took short piece of 1/8" dowel and introduced it to my little belt sander.

My little plug was just about the same size and shape as the screw that came out of the heel.

I stuck the dowel in the hole along with some yellow aliphatic resin glue (Titebond).

And pressed it about 1/8" below the surface.

Here, you can see the flat end of the dowel which fills the hole.

For my cosmetic fill, I wanted to use mahogany to match the original neck. To get a similar reflective grain, I shaped a chunk of mahogany in the same contour as the heel.

I needed a little plug that was a far cry from any of my standard plug cutters, so I made my own cutter from thin wall brass tubing.

These teeth are irregular and quite weak, but they are really sharp, so they'll be good for at least a couple of cuts.

Chucked in the drill press, I ran the cutter into the mahogany piece, approximating the angle and position of the screw hole in the neck.

before breaking out the pieces, I marked one end, so I wouldn't lose orientation.

The little plugs dropped right off when I cut them free.

I stabbed one of the plugs, and dunked it in glue. I used my clearest hide glue to avoid having any more of a visible glue line than necessary/

Sticking the plug into the hole, it was easy to keep it aligned, thanks to my little mark.

A quick tap, and the plug was tight, and ready to dry overnight.

Holding my big violin knife flat against the heel, I was able to slice off the top of the plug neatly without scarring the surrounding surface.

Preparatory to the finish touchup, I sanded a slight hollow in the area, being careful not to sand completely through the finish adjacent to the hole. I wanted to lower the level so I could add stain and lacquer without buildup.

A quick dab of orange shellac to seal the plug.

Some dark walnut paste wood filler to color and fill the pores.

And a coat of clear lacquer to seal the previous work. Now I could add stain to the surface, and scrape it off again if I wasn't pleased with the color. The clear coat of lacquer is a good safety net for the next operation.

Brushing on just a touch of stain was easy. What wasn't easy was trying to match the color. I used my little palette with dried bits of stain, wetting the brush with alcohol to pick up just a little, trying the color, wiping or scraping off, trying again, until I was more or less satisfied. This is where I had to make a nasty judgment call. If I tried to get it perfect, I might have been there all day. . .

After the stain, I used my little brush and built up the thickness with clear lacquer, and waited for it to dry thoroughly. It's only a tiny spot, but it is the full thickness of the finish, so it took as long to dry as a full finish would have - about two weeks.

After it was good and hard, all that was left was a bit of scraping to level, block sanding with 1200 grit, and buffing. Yes, it's visible, but all in all, it does look "well attended-to."

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