Does Wood Putty Harden? How Long Does it Take to Dry?

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Wood putty is a popular choice in woodworking due to its versatility, which suits applications in various projects. Though it works similarly to wood filler, putties differ in characteristics, providing unique results. 

But does wood putty harden like other fillers? How about its drying process? Should you apply it in thick layers? Let’s answer these questions and get helpful tips from our wood specialists!

Why Doesn’t Wood Putty Harden?

Wood putty is a pliable product that won’t harden on its own. It may contract and expand with the wood, making wood putty excellent for any outdoor woodworking project.

For those looking for more solidity, the addition of suitable hardeners can make all the difference, speeding up the drying process and transforming it into something more robust than standard wood putty.

Benefits of Non-Hardening Wood Putty

Non-hardening wood putty is a great solution for outdoor projects, where exposure to extreme weather can cause significant changes in size and shape. 

person applying wood putty

Wood putty remains flexible, and it adjusts accordingly, while hard fillers would break away, leaving your project vulnerable. 

Wood putty provides an ideal flexibility that prevents it from damaging the wood, which could otherwise happen with a hard-drying alternative. 

Wood putty is also most commonly used on finished surfaces for its wide variety of matching colors and tones, avoiding any potential blemishes or blotches created when filling unfinished wood and then staining afterward.

Where to Use Non-Hardening Putties

Non-hardening wood putty is an excellent cosmetic solution to filling surface imperfections, such as small holes, nail holes, gouges, and scratches in finished wood. 

Wood putty can help create an even finish on outdoor projects like railings or furniture that may be exposed to extreme weather conditions.  

person applying wood putty hardener

Wood putty’s flexibility allows it to change with the shape of the wooden surface without breaking away, making wood putty an ideal product for these kinds of applications!

Can You Find a Wood Putty That Hardens?

When it comes to wood putty, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The type and its hardness both impact how long does wood putty harden and curing takes. However, some types harden more quickly than others.

Some examples of wood putties:

Titebond glues color sample

From hardware store shelves to online retailers, Minwax and Elmer’s Products Inc. are two of the most sought-after brands for DIYers and professional contractors alike for wood putty.

Their extensive product lineup includes wood putty that can be chosen depending on your intended use: from quick repairs indoors to outdoor construction projects with longer-set times needed.

Wood Putty Drying Time Per Type

Wood putty can take between two and eight hours to dry. But applying in thin layers can help speed up the drying process.  

However, the drying process of wood putty is influenced by whether it is water-based or oil-based. It is also important to carefully choose the appropriate type of wood putty that suits your requirements before commencing any project.

Oil-Based Wood Putty

Oil-based wood putty is ideal for those using oil-based topcoats on their wooden surfaces. 

waiting for wood putty to dry

After completing the finishing, apply a layer of oil-based wood putty and wait five to twenty minutes until it hazes over. Wood putty dry time depends heavily upon humidity and temperature levels. 

Remove any extra with a rag after a few hours, then consider reapplying if you’re unsatisfied with the appearance. Give your work at least 48 additional hours before assuming the wood putty is fully dried.

Water-Based Wood Putty

If you want to use a water-based topcoat on your woodwork, water-based putty is the way to go. After finishing, apply it and wipe away any remaining stains. 

Let the water-based wood putty dry for about an hour before sanding the surface using 320-grit paper. But don’t do anything unless the putty is completely dried.  

We suggest waiting at least 24 hours before applying the next coat of the water-based wood putty to ensure an optimal drying process.

How to Speed Up the Drying Time of Wood Putty

If you’re on a tight schedule and can’t wait for 24 to 48 hours, you can make wood putty dry faster with the following: 

reparing wood with KwikWood Wood Repair Epoxy Putty

Opt For Thin Coats or Layers

Use wood putty in thin layers. Filling nail holes doesn’t need a big amount of product, and using thick layers will only prolong the drying process. 

But be careful not to go too thin either since that compromises its structural stability. It’s better to take more time while applying the putty than have to start all over again due to inequality in quality standards!

Keep the Area Warm

To accelerate the curing process of wood putty, you will need to expose it to high ambient temperatures. 

The best way to do this is through natural heat – such as from direct sunlight or a home’s heating system. Alternatively, you can use a heat gun. 

applying Elmer's Probond P9890 Interior Wood Filler

If your area experiences cold weather year-round, plan for projects requiring quick drying during summer months when the warmer temperature can be achieved more easily and reliably outdoors. 

Maintain a Clean Area

Properly prepping your wood before you apply wood filler is a great way to make your wood putty dry faster without sacrificing the quality of the surface. 

Removing any dirt or moisture from the wood surface can drastically reduce drying time and keep impurities from hindering undesirable results. 

Taking this extra step guarantees you’ll be able to enjoy beautiful finished pieces sooner rather than later!

Use Hardeners

Accelerating the drying process of wood putty can be achieved using a hardener. Epoxy resin[1] is one option that works efficiently and provides exceptional results that makes wood putty dry. 

Nicpro Crystal Clear Epoxy Resin Kit

However, there are other choices available if you prefer variety, consult your contractor or supplier to see what else may suit your needs for your wood putty work.

It’s essential to follow the ratio specified by manufacturers, as strictly adhering to directions helps prevent ruining the product entirely!

Because if you add extra hardeners to putties, you’ll wind up with nothing, and this will swiftly solidify your wood putty quickly.

Proper Sanding

To save time when applying wood putty, make sure to give the surface a good sanding beforehand. Sanding will ensure an even application and help eliminate any ridges that could prevent wood putty from drying quickly. 

sanding dried KwikWood Wood Repair Epoxy Putty

Additionally, smoothing out your wood surface area can avoid suction issues which slow down dry time too!  

How Long Should I Wait for the Wood Putty to Dry Before Sanding it?

Before you begin sanding, dried wood putty must be hardened first. Oil-based fillers typically require one hour for drying time before being ready to sand. 

Water-based ones often take between half an hour and four hours. Once the proper amount of hardening has been achieved, your wood putty project is set to move forward with no further preparation required!

How Long Can a Wood Putty Last?

Wood putty typically takes 12 to 72 hours to dry, but the drying time may vary depending on a few factors. These include the kind of filler used and how thickly it is applied. 

Thicker or multiple-colored layers will take longer than thin single-color applications. Once dried, wood putty hardens so that sanding can begin at least 24 hours later for best results.

Wood Filler vs Wood Putty: Top Differences

Confused about the difference between wood putty and wood fillers? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Though they have certain similarities, wood putty, and fillers are quite distinct from each other. 

fiiling gap with Timbermate Wood Filler

Fillers Dry Hard But Putties Never Harden

Wood putty and wood filler are both materials commonly used to fill in holes, cracks, or minor imperfections found on wooden surfaces. Wood fillers contain sawdust mixed with a binder that hardens upon drying. In fact, you can DIY wood fillers using sawdust

The hardness of these mixtures gives it an advantage over wood putty, which typically consists of paste-like plastics like epoxy, fiberglass, or polyurethanes that remain pliable even after drying. Therefore, wood putty does not harden, unlike wood filler.

When wood filler hardens, it is best for filling large gaps as its structure provides some support, while smaller ones can be filled more effectively using wood putty due to its malleability.

Since wood filler dries hard, you can generally sand it after it has dried to create a smooth surface flush with the rest of the wood.

Wood Putty is not Suitable for Sanding and Refinishing

Even though the task of wood filler and wood putty is the same, they are different from each other in many factors.

sanding off excess wooden surface

The wood filler provides an ideal surface to make a piece of wood look seamless after filling voids. It can be sanded smooth, painted, and even stained depending on the product you choose – but always check first! 

Wood filler is a suspension of a sandable material in a solution of hardening resin that can soak into wood fibers, fill holes, and bond with them. 

A test patch should also be used when considering staining since reactions could create blotchy finishes around filled areas, in which case wood putty may prove more satisfactory than stain. 

Keep in mind that any color, like wood stain, applied will never exactly match its surroundings as regular wood does with traditional wood stains due to unique interactions between fillers and stains.

Wood putty offers the perfect solution to cover small imperfections in wood projects. Unlike sanding, its malleable texture means painting will not be successful as it may chip or peel off — but that’s no worry! 

applying System Three SculpWood Putty Epoxy Filler

Wood putty comes ready-made in a range of colors so you can match your project and surrounding wood perfectly and seamlessly mask away any blemishes from covering nail holes or marks on a finished item.

Applying is simple; wipe down with a damp cloth after application for realistic blending into surrounding materials before adding an optional urethane topcoat for beautiful results every time.

Wood Putty is Weatherproof, and Wood Filler Isn’t

Wood putty is the perfect choice for outdoor projects as it won’t be affected by changes in temperature and humidity. 

Its flexibility allows it to adjust to movement caused by weather, making sure your project stays intact even after long-term exposure outdoors. 

Wood filler, on the other hand, should only be used indoors or else risk breaking off from external factor fluctuations unsuitable for its hardening texture.

Rain or other precipitation will affect the outdoors, and wood fillers made with water-based formulas will be affected by rain or other precipitation. 

applying wood filler

Be sure to check the product label for usage indications – weatherproof products like Minwax High-Performance Wood Filler are labeled as suitable for outdoor work and often come in two-part formulae. 

Traditional one-part wood filler is best suited indoors; it can repair scratches, nicks, holes, and gouges on unfinished furniture/wood surfaces such as floors & countertops whilst also allowing you to mold broken edges too! 

However, even inside projects benefit from using higher-performance wood putty – perfect for both indoor & outdoor use!

Wood Fillers Dries Faster Than Wood Putty

Both wood putty and wood filler are two distinct products, with one key differentiating factor being their respective drying times.  

While a coating of wood filler can be dry to the touch in as little as half an hour, it takes several hours for wood putty to harden, usually anywhere between 2-8 hours. Know more about the drying times of wood fillers here!

preparing Bondo Home Solutions ‎20082 Wood Filler

Since most wood fillers aren’t tinted and don’t certain coatings readily adhere, the putty is for finished wood in your home’s interior and is recommended for unfinished wood that you plan to stain or paint.

See Also: Does Wood Filler Harden?


How thick can you apply wood putty?

You can apply as thick as half-inch with a putty knife, but don’t go beyond. 1/2 inch deep and 3/8 inches wide is good. Feel free to experiment with longer lengths of wood putty as desired; however, making it thinner will make wood putty dry faster.

What’s the drying time of Minwax wood putty?

External factors like temperature and product thickness impact Minwax wood putty drying time. Generally, it takes 2-6 hours to completely dry—but ambient conditions may accelerate or delay the process of wood putty.  


Wood putty has a malleable quality, which makes it uniquely suited to its role of fixing minor surface imperfections on wood, be it a water- or oil-based wood putty. But does wood putty harden? 

Yes, wood putty hardens, but it depends on the temperature, application, and coat. So, make sure to consider important factors before you proceed to avoid costly mistakes.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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