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I recently ran into a small, but not insignificant, problem while replacing an old GPS plotter on the flybridge of my boat. The ample size of the connectors for the brand-new unit’s cables prevented their passage through the hole in the steering console that had heretofore accommodated the old unit’s cable connectors. More to the point, based on installation info that came with the new plotter, I needed to turn the old, 1-inch-diameter hole into a somewhat larger, one-and-one-quarter-inch-diameter hole.

Right off the bat, I could see hard times comin’. The upper surface of Betty’s steering console is high-profile, by which I mean it is flat, smooth and carefully coated with white Interlux Perfection paint. There was no room for ragged edges or irregular-shaped enlargements of existing holes. Such things would be noticeable, perhaps even unsightly. So it was almost immediately obvious to me that none of the sophisticated tools I had at my disposal were up for the job.

And although a common, appropriately sized hole saw would generate a nice, finished look, getting one to work in this situation seemed unlikely. After all, because there was nothing within the existing hole to stabilize and guide the saw’s pilot bit, attempting to use one free hand, I felt, darn near guaranteed a botched job with rough-and-ready tooth marks all over the place. What to do?

When a hole saw won’t work, the ol' wooden plug trick comes in quite handy.

When a hole saw won’t work, the ol' wooden plug trick comes in quite handy.

The solution came to me after a good night’s sleep. Why not gather up the conical wooden plugs I keep stowed in a locker with flares and other emergency-related paraphernalia, find one that would fit slightly proud of the hole I wanted to enlarge and then drill down into the top of the plug with the pilot bit of a hole saw of the appropriate size?

The idea behind this nifty little procedure is simple. As the pilot bit goes deeper and deeper into the plug, the teeth of the hole saw ultimately engage the surface, eventually going all the way through while the plug continues to stabilize and guide the bit until the bitter end.

There are just two things to remember if you should decide to employ this stratagem on a future project. First, if a given plug is overly proud of a given surface, you may have to switch from a regular to an extra-deep hole saw to be successful. And second, while the largest wooden plug in most sets on the market today tends to have a diameter of, say, 1.5 inches, care is recommended when using such a plug with a larger hole saw. Mixing a high-powered electric drill with a 2-inch (or even larger) hole saw can be dangerous. 

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