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Ask the Staff


Question:

I'm restoring an antebellum home and the upstairs heartwood pine floors have never been finished. After sanding for a week, I found numerous cracks, holes and imperfections. I want to fill all these and I saved the sawdust. I tried glue mixed with the sawdust, but it did not do well. Any suggestions?

Thanks!
Bill Muse


Answer:

Bill,

Yes, mixing sanding dust with glue for use as a defect filler has its drawbacks. There are ready made fillers and putties, made with wood flour and binders that will allow the dried product to be sanded more readily than a wood dust & yellow glue mixture. In addition, the glue in the homemade mixture makes the dried result difficult to take a stain (if you wish to stain the wood before finishing).

Do keep in mind that any ready made "filler or putty" will still have a drawback in that the filled area has a solid color and thus can stand out against the varied shades, tones and grain pattern of the surrounding wood. If you have some simple nail head holes, these are not very visible on a floor. If you have a defect the size of a nickel, that filled in area (even with a sublime color match) will still catch the eye since it looks quite different from the surrounding natural wood. Few go to the trouble, but you can "faux" grain lines using a fine sable brush and some color pigments. (Hey, it is just a floor and not a piano bench!)

The filler products we have will let you intermix colors to get the best match. Select the color based on shade and not the name of the color. You could also try to mix a good color match for the lighter colored "sapwood", and another batch for a good color match for the darker "heartwood" as well as for shade variation for the early wood and latewood (time of year the tree was growing). With these separate colors, you would "swirl" or layer them as best you can when filling the cracks to mimic the grain and to avoid having such a single solid color in the defect void to draw attention to the eye.

As far as filling cracks between boards, keep in mind that boards do move seasonally across their width and sometimes when walked upon if they are not secured properly. This can cause a wood putty to break away from the edges of the boards in the cracks and come loose. Depending on the depth of the crack, sometimes you can fill in the crack with clear epoxy level to the surface of the floor. This is not very visible with a film finish applied on the wood floor. The clear filled crack is now smooth with the surface of the floor and will no longer trap dirt and debris. The epoxy adheres better to the wood and will not be as prone to cracking and coming loose like wood filler.

Here are a few links to the products I mentioned that might be helpful:

StickFast 20-minute Epoxy Kit

Famowood Wood Filler

Famowood Wood Filler 8-piece sampler kit

And here is a great Online Wood Filler Color Chart. Keep in mind the color chart is a computer screen representation of a printed color chart of the manufacturers. It is a general guide for tone.

Regards,
Ed Scent
Highland Woodworking

 

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