One of these days (-ha!... them's famous words-) I'll save up and get a little lathe and be done with this issue once & for all.
In the meantime, does anyone have a source for 3/16"dia (or smaller) plug-cutters? All the common sets I've seen thus far only go down to 1/4". Curious.
Stainless steel, nesting/graduated tubing... Rabbit ears.
I took apart an old "rabbit ears" antenna and use the tubing for hole/plug saws. I hand cut the teeth, like Paul but they work just fine. The blades cut pretty well, don't bend out unless I put too much pressure on them and hold an edge much better than brass.
Since the tubing isn't exactly "standard" in diameter, I've had to expand a couple of holes a bit so the plugs fit but it's not been much trouble to do this so far.
I've been able to make small plugs using a leather punch in the drill press. Spinning the sharpened punch into hardwood cuts a perfect plug. The length is somewhat limited.
For filling machine head screw holes I use a Lee Valley grafting bit, sadly they've been discontinued. The bit fits in your drill and makes a hole exactly like a sharpened pencil. You put a dowel in a pencil sharpener and you've got a tapered plug.
So I finally used the "glue-a-block-to-a-dowel-and-turn-on-a-sander" method and it gave me the 6 spruce plugs needed.
Insofar as using a lathe goes, I would do the (relatively) laborious set-up and get it just right.... then crank-out plugs like there's no tomorrow! Spruce, maple, mahogany, whatever strikes the fancy. Lots of 'em.
Small metal lathes can be great for custom knobs and all manner of little doo-dads and they can be a lot of fun. I guess it's whatever a fellow enjoys.
Yowzuh... that's nice. Must try that one of these days!