Paste wood filler... yes or no?

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Forum topic by BradNail posted 03-22-2009 04:21 AM 22853 views 3 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View BradNail's profile


4 posts in 3346 days

03-22-2009 04:21 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I remember taking a finishing class (40 years ago) and having to use paste wood filler on open-grain woods such as oak and walnut. Recently, I decided to use it again but had a hard time finding the stuff in local hardware stores and even in the paint departments at Home Depot and Lowes. Whenever I asked for “wood filler”, they directed my to the putty type stuff for filling cracks. I finally found a dust covered can at in a paint shop. The guy said they hadn’t sold any for years.

My question is how many of you use paste wood filler on open grain woods? Is it necessary, or can multiple coats of wipe on poly make just as good a surface?

-- Brad, Sisters, Oregon

19 replies so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3955 days

#1 posted 03-22-2009 04:58 AM

I have never had any luck with any type of filler. Maybe I just don’t have the patience.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View wdkits1's profile


215 posts in 3320 days

#2 posted 03-22-2009 05:00 AM

Hi Brad.
I’ve had good luck just using multi coats of wipe on poly on wood such as walnut, mahogany and oak.What I have discovered is that light sanding with 320 grit between coats and applying upwards of three -five coats is usually enough to fill the grain. I seldom stain any of my work but the same method would apply except that I apply 2 coats before any sanding so as not to get down to the stain.

-- Mike --

View LesB's profile


1684 posts in 3410 days

#3 posted 03-22-2009 07:46 AM

Wood grain filler is still availiable from Woodcrafters (in Eugene,OR) and other mail order supply places. I have used it on open grain woods when I wanted a mirror type finish. It is a pain to use but the results are outstanding.
From my experience with wipe on poly it goes on so thin it would take about 10 coats to fill the grain with sanding between each coat to stop the surface coat from getting too thick. A brush on poly would build faster for the first couple of coats of grain filling then go to the wipe on for the final finish. It will still be hard to get the mirror finish of the grain filler.

After writing this I noticed you live in Sisters. I live down the hill just east of Springfield near Leaburg.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1519 posts in 4092 days

#4 posted 03-22-2009 03:27 PM

I’ve used a silica pore filler on mahogany to great effect. Need to dye it first (I used oil paints), as it’s too light otherwise, but it takes the relatively open grain of mahogany and gives me a smooth surface that I can still put a matte poly finish on.

But, like you, I had a devil of a time finding it, eventually had it special ordered by my local Woodcraft.

And I’ve got a piece in the kitchen that I tried to just use poly on that I’ll be re-finishing, because that mahogany just has too open a grain.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Julian's profile


880 posts in 3492 days

#5 posted 03-22-2009 03:43 PM

I use rottenstone mixed with boiled linseed oil on dark woors like walnut and mahogany, and pumice mixed with blo for woods like oak. It’s available at rockler and is very cheap and effective. There is no tinting or dying needed, since it pretty much wets out clear. There are plenty of tutorials on the web and this site on how to use the mix to achieve great results your first time.

-- Julian, Park Forest, IL

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3640 days

#6 posted 03-22-2009 03:45 PM

Shellac + pumice put whatever you want over it. Looks the best IMO than any other filler.

View stanley2's profile


344 posts in 3762 days

#7 posted 03-22-2009 04:39 PM

I have used Mohawk’s water based wood grain filler on white oak. While it did affect the opacity of the finish slightly it provided a glass like surface that I had not achieved with shellac.

-- Phil in British Columbia

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3640 days

#8 posted 03-22-2009 05:18 PM

With shellac and pumice you put down a thick half hazzard coat then grind it off with the pumice (which was cleared) Both the pumice and the shellac fill in the poors and everything else gets wiped off.

After that you finish with whatever your top coat is, even shellac. At that point finish quality is up to you, but I’ve gotten the smoothest, best looking finishes from this method.

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

5905 posts in 3320 days

#9 posted 03-22-2009 10:32 PM

I used some fillers from this place many years ago and I was happy with the product. But I don’t remeber what I used. Hope this link can help you.

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4185 days

#10 posted 03-22-2009 11:30 PM

I’ve used it. Can’t find it locally, but readily available online.

If you are looking for a mirror-smooth finish on an open grained wood, it’s a good solution. You can obtain the same result with multiple coats of wipe-on poly with intermediate sanding, but it takes more time.
These are two projects I used paste grain filler on:

Click for details

Click for details

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3360 days

#11 posted 03-23-2009 12:36 AM

I enjoy holes, knobs, curls and other imperfection in wood, I think they are part of wood and playing with them, furniture gets caracter, so I donot use that stuff

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1519 posts in 4092 days

#12 posted 03-23-2009 02:06 AM

Moai, the stuff I was talking about, and I believe what others are talking about, isn’t the wood putty used to fill major gaps (although I’ve been known to dye that dark and fill knots and such before milling the wood so that the surface is smooth but the knot holes are visible), but a much finer paste that’s used to smooth pores in open pore wood like mahogany.

In the end piece it isn’t really all that visible, it’s just that the surface is much smoother. In fact, depending on the finish, it might not even be visibly smoother; the only time you may run into the difference is how easily spills wipe up.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2781 posts in 3404 days

#13 posted 03-23-2009 02:28 AM

I’ve used wood filler on mahogany guitars. It comes as a thick past in an oil. I take it out as a chunk in a course cloth and rub it in the grain in all directions. Then with another rag buff off the excess. It needs plenty of time to dry before applying finish. One nice thing about wood fillers is that you can add tint directly to it and change the color of the wood some. The effect is that the wood actually looks that color because it’s not on the surface but in the pours. I’ve been able to turn some mahogany guitars golden or reddish with this method. The soft sheen is beautiful. Alas, that was long ago. I also ask about it and hardware stores have never heard of it even though they sold it to me years ago.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View blackcherry's profile


3337 posts in 3790 days

#14 posted 03-23-2009 03:29 AM

I’ve used Benny Moore Bentwood paste wood filler for years and find it extremely useful on oak. This is by far the best paste wood filler you can find. I thin it down with a little mineral and apply it with a cheese cloth wiping it across grain and then apply a 2nd coat lightly sand after it drys. It come in 8oz. can for a trail sample give it a try the end result is extremely smooth to the touch….Blkcherry

View stratiA's profile


101 posts in 3342 days

#15 posted 03-23-2009 04:17 AM

the timing of this post was right on for me. I am using some oak for a chess board and I really wanted a glass smooth finish. After researching whether to use a sanding sealer, multi layers of finish, putty etc all it did was confuse me more. I has recently seen a program on discovery channel, concerning the making of wooden headed golf clubs. During the building the head was rubbed down (insert joke here) with a paste, that when finished looked great. So I went to woodcraft in woburn, Ma. After discussing the pro and cons of all options and proper use of said he offered Bartley’s wood pore filler. They also offered behlen’s por o pac filler. Its use is as Cessnapilotbarry describes. Wrapping up…...
It does as it describes. It come out glass smooth. I finished it with general’s Arm a seal. I am thrilled. I wish I had used this with some other oak projects.

-- Strati Alepidis, Burlington, Ma, Member Red Sox nation

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