Ahhh, the magic of wood filler. But for all its merits, it can cause more trouble than it’s worth. Here are some tips on how to deal with two of the more common problems with wood filler.
Filling nail holes and other small blemishes is a good idea if you want a clean, smooth look. But wood filler doesn’t take stain. One option is to mix it with some of the stain you’re going to use and try for a match. It won’t match exactly, but might be better than the light color you’d get otherwise. So, first decide on how you want the nail holes to look when finished. But beyond that, apply the filler before you sand, rather than after, as is often recommended. Here’s why. Because the filler contains moisture, it will seep into the wood around the nail hole, potentially leaving visible spots where the surrounding wood won’t take stain. A full sanding after applying filler, rather than just a quick buff to take off the excess, will remove a thin layer off the stock, usually taking care of the area where the filler has seeped.
Filling larger spots in refinishing projects can be tricker, since the filler is going to be visible no matter what (if you’re staining, and not painting, that is.) If the material is knotty pine or a similar, darker grained or knotty wood, you’re in luck. Go with a darker shade than the wood or the stain you’re using. Then, instead of a big light patch standing out, the filled area will suggest a knot.