How to Fill Wood


Boards from the lumberyard rarely are perfect. So if you want a smooth surface for your woodworking project, you will need to fill the imperfections in the wood with a wood filler. Another use for wood filler is covering nail holes in walls when you change your décor.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood putty, plastic wood or wood filler
  • Putty knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint or stain
  • Test the filler on a piece of scrap wood to experiment with stain or paint so you can match surrounding wood. You can avoid any unpleasant surprises this way.

  • Decide whether you need to fill the wood with a hardening or non-hardening compound. Non-hardening compound, called wood putty or plastic wood, often is used for imperfections and nail holes. Hardening compound, called wood filler, is used for deep holes and knots.

  • Fill the wood with your chosen compound. With nail holes, a finger can do the job. With larger holes, a putty knife will give you a smoother surface and less sanding work later.

  • Apply your finish immediately if using wood putty or plastic wood.

  • Wait overnight if you're using wood filler, because it needs time to dry before it will take a coat of paint properly.

  • Sand the wood filler and apply your chosen finish or paint.

Tips & Warnings

  • Non-hardening compounds such as wood putty or plastic wood easily take a stain.
  • Hardening compounds, called wood filler, are easier to paint.
  • Check the label on the compound to be sure that it can be stained.
  • Gel stains are easier for beginners to use.
  • If you're using a solvent-based filler, ensure that you have good ventilation in the area.

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