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Hey there boys and girls -- I’ve noticed the occasional question on filling holes in stocks coming along now and then. Here is my take on the issue. I prefer to drill out the old messy hole with a precision counterbore. These are designed to cut a clean hole from the outset, without splintering the initial cutting area, or top edge of the hole. Often a long-ish pilot bit is required to get well into the bottom of the hole, offering a firm guide for the counterbore itself. This operation is best done on a drill press. I would advise clamping the work piece before drilling, after getting things aligned. If you are going to counterbore something thin like a forend, I’d recommend having a backer block, a snug dowel works good, in the magazine tube hole to help prevent splintering or cracking as the bit passes through. A standard twist bit is not recommended for this as they tend to rough up and tear out material on the initial cut. Here are some examples of pilots and counterbores:
 

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Next you will need to fashion the plug. This is done with plug cutters. In the marine world they are often referred to as bungs. In the lower right corner of the picture is a tenon cutter. These will work, but I don’t think as well. Again using a drill press with these tools is strongly advised. The little cutting arms on the plug cutter will walk a handheld drill motor right out the door. The plug cutters come in different sizes as well as the counterbores. Make sure you get the same diameter for both.
 

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Next you will need something from which to cut the plug. The original wood in the stock area will present mostly two configurations; straight grain or flat grain. The flat grain having a broad wavy grain may take a little more planning to match, but may have no contrasting grain and make the plug easy to blend in. Pretty much luck of the draw here. This picture shows some of each.
 

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Once you have the plug donor material, you cut your plug. Run the cutter all the way into the donor block. The cutter will round over the end of the plug as it bottoms out in the cut. This rounded end is the one you want to start into the hole you have counterbored into your stock. Put some glue in the counterbored hole. Use a minimal amount. A q-tip makes a good applicator, then align the plug grain to the stock grain and tap the plug into place. I like to bottom out the plug in the counterbore. Let the glue set and chisel off the excess or sand it off. If you do this carefully and neatly, you may avoid a complete stock refinish. The plug can take a drop of stain, again a q-tip is good for this, and something like Minwax Wipe-on Poly can be applied to the plug. It will usually be far less obvious than a glue and sawdust based patch. Here is a picture of the counterbore and a plug. A screwdriver stuck in the plug cut will break off the plug in the hole. Going across the grain works best. Then we have the plug faired off. This chunk of fir was used to show grain, but would be a bad choice due to the distortion of the soft summer wood grain from the plug cutter. Hope this helps. Best regards. Wind
 
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