Doing home improvement projects needs patience and skill; however, there are times you make a mistake, or you have a gap in your woodworking piece that needs filling.
While it may appear easy to grab some filler, you can quickly find there are a couple of types to choose from. The use of each will depend on where and how you intend to use these.
In our guide, you can learn the difference between wood putty vs filler and the one that will work best for your home improvement.
By the end, you’ll know much more about using these on different wood types and which is the most cost-effective choice for your furniture woodworking projects or outdoor wood repairs.
What is Wood Putty Used For?
Wood putty, also known as plastic wood, is a material used to fill imperfections in wood before completion, such as nail holes.
It’s typically made from wood dust, a binder, thinner, and sometimes it is already colored to match your work. (Learn How to Remove Adhesive from Wood)
Wood putty will most often be used on finished wood rather than raw wood because of its chemicals.
Is Wood Filler as Strong as Wood?
Wood filler dries extremely hard and needs sanding. Here are the steps on how you use it properly.
- Putty knife
- Oscillating sander
- Wood filler
- Rags and Tack Cloth
- Mineral spirits or acetone
- Sandpaper (various grits for a good finish)
- Wood stain
Mix Wood Filler
- First, to use wood filler, mix it with a putty knife in its container until it’s a consistent color and texture.
- Apply Filler
- Petroleum-based fillers harden quick, so you’ll have to work fast. Water-based stay wetter longer.
- Get a bit on your putty knife and press the wood filler into the crack and scrape off any excess.
- It’s tempting to load your putty knife with lots of filler, and inexperienced woodworkers think it can easily be sanded.
- Wood filler can harden rock-solid and difficult to sand smooth. If you’re filling softwood, you can find the filler stronger than the wood you’re using.
Smooth Using Finger
Press wood filler in the crack using a wet finger and then wipe off any excess from the wood. Remove filler from your finger with a dry cloth.
Sand Wood Filler Smooth
Let the filler harden for 30 minutes, minimum then sand using various grits until you have a smooth surface. (Read About Wood Chipper Rental)
Wipe Using a Tack Cloth
Dust from sanding can cause issues when you are using a stainable wood filler or finishing the surface. Liquids mix with dust and ruin the surface finish. A tack cloth is sticky and designed to remove dust from wood surfaces before treating.
Finishing Your Wood
Once clean, the filled crack is ready for stain or finish. Staining your project helps equalize color differences between filler and wood. Wood filler absorbs stain different from unfinished wood or timber so that the color won’t be a perfect match.
Use water-based stains if using a water-based wood filler and solvent-based stains if using petroleum-based wood fillers. You may need to use a darker stain to cover the gaps and hide the difference between the wood and filler. (Learn How To Clean Unfinished Wood Furniture)
What Is the Best Filler for Wood?
Wood filler is a substance used to fix wooden objects with minor defects like fill holes, cracks, scratches, or scrapes.
For larger projects, go with solvent-based fillers since they are heavy-duty and offer thicker application than water-based options.
Types of Wood Filler
Choosing the right wood filler is based on the surface you’re working on. You may need to mix in sawdust to get a natural look of your project.
- Epoxy: Epoxy wood fillers work on unfinished products.
- Latex: Latex is one of the most used wood fillers as they are water-based and easy to clean.
- Polyurethane: You’ll find this wood filler often used on furniture. Polyurethane seals the surface and protects against humidity, moisture, and more.
Why Use Wood Filler?
Here are some benefits to using wood filler:
- Quick Drying: Wood fillers are ideal when you need a quick fix. Apply wood filler, and it dries in less than an hour in most cases. Drying time will vary based on the type of wood filler.
- Porous Surfaces: Fillers are suited for porous surfaces. If a surface doesn’t work with your filler, sand the surface before you apply wood filler.
- Big Holes: Wood filler can deal with holes of significant size, and you need a repair in the surface of your wood. If you need to use wood filler for a big hole repair, smooth out the surface. Let the filler dry and paint right over for a smooth surface.
Wood putty and wood filler are used in different areas. Here’s an overview of wood putty.
Many methods are used to make wood putty, although most manufacturers make oil-based components and calcium carbonate. When you add water, wood putty acts like soft clay.
Wood putty can remain wet for extended periods. You’ll also find using wood putty is best suited to finished surfaces as the chemicals in the mix shouldn’t be used on raw wood. (Find the Best Random Orbital Sander for Woodworking)
Why Use Wood Putty?
There are several reasons to use wood putty vs wood filler on your woodworking project.
- Easy to Apply: Wood putty is easy to apply to any wood surface. Use a putty knife to cover sizeable areas or the tip of your finger on smaller areas.
- Various Shades: Wood putty can come in colors to match your stained finished piece.
- No Adhesives Needed: Wood putty is perfect for fixing cracks or holes yet can be used as a sealing agent, and you can avoid purchasing a separate adhesive sealer for your project.
- Cost-Effective: Wood putty is beneficial is through savings it offers over time. Since wood putty is durable, it means you won’t need to fix the repair repeatedly.
Wood Putty and Wood Filler Comparison
Here you can find the differences between putty and wood filler in applications compared to each other.
- Wood Application: Wood filler and wood putty are used on wood, so it makes a big difference when either is used. Wood filler is used before staining or finishing, while wood putty is best used after the surface has been stained or finished.
- Material Types: Wood filler usually contains a solvent or bulking agent to help it bond. The type of wood filler you choose will differ in composition and contain a variety of compounds. Clay, wood fiber, epoxy, and latex are examples of such materials.
- Drying Time: Wood putty takes a long time to dry compared to wood filler. Wood filler takes 15-20 minutes to dry before sanding (larger holes take longer). Wood putty takes a long time to dry. Before you can finish it, it takes several hours to dry and up to 24 hours in some cases.
- Used: Wood fillers are used on interior furniture (unless you use a specific exterior wood filler). On the other hand, Wood putties are suitable for indoor and outdoor woodworking as the material maintains shape and is resistant to both high temperatures and water.
Does Wood Putty Get Hard?
Wood putty products are like plumber’s putty and are oil-based, so they resist moisture. Over time, they can harden yet never completely lose flexibility.
Putty is based on manufacturer ingredients. Almost all wood putty contains a specific subset of ingredients and possibly wood fibers. Though the vast majority uses oil-based compounds, some can deviate slightly due to color or tone.