Driving Out Wooden Pegs

By Rudy R. Christian

Driving pegs is always a challenge.  Here are a few pointers in order of importance:

  1. Always drive the peg out in the opposite direction from which it was driven in.  Sometimes this can be a bit tricky, particularly when the hole isn’t drilled all the way through the timber.  I have found that often what would appear to be a “blind” hole, actually is a nearly complete hole that the framer stopped drilling when his auger bit poked through the inside face and would no longer “feed”.  By punching the hole through from the inside with a sharpened pipe or conduit, you can easily find the point of the peg.

  1. Use a hollow pointed peg driver that is close to the same size as the hole.  We have a number of sizes of peg drivers that are round bar stock hollow ground with a taper or countersink in the end.  The hollow point fits nicely over the tapered end of the pegs and helps keep them from “mushrooming” in the peg hole as it is driven out.  By keeping the peg as intact as possible it tends not to get jammed in the peg hole.

  1. Switch to a smaller peg driver when the peg is driven back to the tenon (2” to 6”).  Since peg holes are almost always “drawbored” (misaligned to tighten the joint), the full sized peg driver will get stuck when you try to go through the tenon.  We actually use a 5/8” carriage bolt with a bend in it to chase the peg through the tenon.

  1. Don’t try to drive pegs out of stressed or heavily damaged joints.  Pull the joint back together as best you can, and if the peg is still frozen, drill it out.

  1. Use at least a 3 pound sledge (short handled) to drive pegs out.  It just isn’t worth the effort with a framing hammer or mallet.

  1. If you have to drill, use a smaller bit diameter than the peg diameter.  Often you can save the peg hole by pulling out the peg shards with a pair of long nosed pliers.

A final word:  Obviously brace and stabilize a frame before removing the pegs, but don’t forget the important part.  Document, document, document!  Film is cheap. Good drawings and measurements are invaluable.

Rudy R. Christian of Christian & Son (Burbank, OH) is a leading timber framer.  He managed the raising of the famous Malabar barn in 1994.  He can be reached at rudad@aol.com.