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Using Wood Putty

wood finishing

by Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher



Wood putty is a very useful tool for filling nail holes and small cracks during the building process. The two most common types are lacquer based and water based. Once cured, both types can be a problem to touch up in the finishing process because the binder that is used in each type will refuse to accept color. Here are nine tips for how to get past this issue and use wood putty in your projects successfully.

  1. Wood putty comes in the most commonly used cabinet wood colors.
  2. Water based fillers can be intermixed by thinning with water for a closer match. As the water evaporates the putty will thicken.
  3. If finishing with an oil varnish, mix touch up powders using shellac (1lb. cut) as a binder for an exact match. Varnish won't "pull" the shellac off the surface.
  4. If finishing with spray lacquer also use shellac. (1lb. cut)
  5. Water based finishes can be used underneath after the touch up is completely dry.
  6. Add alcohol dyes to the shellac/powder mixture and water based dyes to the water/powder mixture for even more versatility.
  7. Furniture touch up markers are great for small areas that you find you missed after applying the finish.
  8. Use a piece of glass to mix on over the touch up. This way the mixture is wet and will show the closest match.
  9. As always, practice on scrap first.


Visiting Atlanta? Attend one of Alan's upcoming highly informative Highland Woodworking wood finishing seminars:


May 29  Finishing the Finish

June 1 & 2  Antique Restoration

June 8  Secrets of the Scott Antique Show

June 15  Finishing 101

June 19  French Polish Workshop

June 29  Spray Finishing




Visit Highland Woodworking's Online
Wood Finishing Supplies Department




Alan can be reached directly via email c/o Alan Noel Furniture Refinishing at anoelfurniturere@bellsouth.net.


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