Any suggestions on how to fill or finish these nail holes?

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Forum topic by macintosh posted 09-16-2009 01:29 PM 12476 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View macintosh's profile


5 posts in 3184 days

09-16-2009 01:29 PM

We are currently building a dining room table from reclaimed barn wood. The wood is littered with nail holes, giving it just the right touch of personality and charm. We are not staining the wood, just simply finishing it with an oil-based polyurethane.

Should we fill the nail holes somehow to prevent food or beverage residue from getting into and being trapped in the nail holes? If you think it should be filled, what product would you recommend?

Its quite a challenge- wanting to preserve the wood and protect the nail holes from filling with debris – yet while not wanting to see any evidence that the holes were filled.

I would appreciate your thoughts and expertise. Many thanks,
-the wife

Here’s a sample…

23 replies so far

View Sam Yerardi's profile

Sam Yerardi

244 posts in 3889 days

#1 posted 09-16-2009 01:33 PM

I would consider epoxy, dyed or colored to match the hole coloring (assuming you are wanting to retain the black discoloration).

-- Sam

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3520 days

#2 posted 09-16-2009 02:09 PM

Yup, what Sam said…

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View okwoodshop's profile


448 posts in 3169 days

#3 posted 09-16-2009 02:33 PM

i have been using crushed stone (calcite) and super glue to fill voids in some of my rocking chairs and other projects, add a little copper or brass shavings. the calcite is a soft stone and sands easily. you cant hide em might as well make em pop.

View woodisit's profile


61 posts in 3236 days

#4 posted 09-16-2009 03:02 PM

You might want to go with a cut off rust nail color? To stay in character

-- Woodisit

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3887 days

#5 posted 09-16-2009 03:05 PM

I put fine grind “pure” pigment, mixing lamp black and burnt umber into either two part auto body filler or just “Spackle” drywall compound.

Its the only “filler” that doesnt fade with time

I prefer the dark colour near black as that is what is stained around the lead nail holes

I might add another tweo cents…...........I use a sharp “V” carving chisel to widen the cracks, then fill them and sand the filler out purposely leaving an “indent” along the crack lines….....seems to add character and warmth

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 3378 days

#6 posted 09-16-2009 03:06 PM

I would try just taping over or plugging the other side of the hole and flooding the holes and cracks with the same poly you are using for a finish. The first coat of course will soak in some and shrink some as it dries, and will take a couple days to dry but it should seal the wood up well as it dries. A second application (and possibly a third), flooded in to fill the holes again, should mostly fill it, with only a little shrinkage, then you should be able to finish the entire table.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View northwoodsman's profile


242 posts in 3740 days

#7 posted 09-16-2009 03:11 PM

I would leave them exactly the way they are. We have a large, expensive “name brand” table that was built rustic and distressed. It has larger voids and gaps than what yours appears to be. That’s why we purchased it. I think it adds to the character. If you do get crumbs in the holes/gaps just use the hose on your vacuum to clean them out.

-- NorthWoodsMan

View Charles Maxwell's profile

Charles Maxwell

1099 posts in 3801 days

#8 posted 09-16-2009 03:14 PM

I would use a clear epoxy. Naturally, you’ll want to try all the ideas above on sacrificial woods before you decide. Good luck. Max

-- Max the "night janitor" at

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10477 posts in 3422 days

#9 posted 09-16-2009 03:14 PM

My $0.2, epoxy and lamp black.
However, roman’s auto body filler sounds intriguing.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View tblrxdave's profile


47 posts in 3287 days

#10 posted 09-16-2009 05:00 PM

I’ve made plugs with “real wood” with good results, stained the head to match. I also have a harvest table mabe with reclaimed barn boards that was made back in the early 60’s. The nail holes were left alone. Over time with periodic oiling the holes filled in nicely. Your choice.

View WibblyPig's profile


172 posts in 3268 days

#11 posted 09-16-2009 05:16 PM

The first idea that strikes me is old nails with a rusty head. Clinch them from the bottom so they don’t move them finish right over them.

You may also want to consider some mini bowties so those cracks don’t spread.

-- Steve, Webster Groves, MO "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3297 days

#12 posted 09-16-2009 05:35 PM

everything i make is from reclaimed wood..which means lots of nail holes…depending on the finish look you want…to preserve the reclaimed wood look..leave them alone…..if you dont want the open hole..use apoxy with a black coloring…..and some times i have taken sad dust and grind it down to a very fine dust in a coffee grinder..mix it in with some tightbond lll….....if you do that make sure you leave it high and not it will dry and give you a depression…..good luck with your solution…...grizzman

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18266 posts in 3670 days

#13 posted 09-16-2009 10:10 PM

I’d vote clear epoxy too. They will crud up with food and dirt if you don’t fill them.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Julian's profile


880 posts in 3519 days

#14 posted 09-17-2009 12:11 AM

Another vote for pigment and epoxy. It’s going to last the longest and be the most effective solution out of the others suggested. You need to fill those cracks if you want an easy to clean surface which is important when you have kids.

-- Julian, Park Forest, IL

View Les Hastings's profile

Les Hastings

1305 posts in 3767 days

#15 posted 09-17-2009 12:13 AM

Your using reclaimed wood! Why fill them at all? Make them part of the design.

-- Les, Wichita, Ks. (I'd rather be covered in saw dust!)

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