As a woodworker, you’ll encounter nuanced tools and materials as you further hone your skills. Wood putty and wood filler are two commonly used supplies interchangeably used but, in reality, serve different purposes. But what’s the difference between the two?
Read on as our pro woodworkers detail everything you need to know in this in-depth wood filler vs wood putty comparison.
About Wood Fillers
A wood filler is generally used to fix and fill in holes and gaps. It is distinguished by its formulation of wood dust and fibers held together by a binding agent.
A wood filler hardens in minutes, so it’s advisable to use it for interior woodwork tasks like repairing damaged fixtures and interior walls.
Thus, most wood fillers are not recommended for mending deck boards, exterior woodwork repairs, and outdoor furniture. Also, it tends to expand and contract depending on the ambient temperature.
When Should You Use Wood Fillers?
A wood filler is generally untinted and can easily attach and harden on wooden pieces. Therefore, it’s advisable applying on unfinished wood that you plan to stain, paint, or apply a clear coat on.
Here are some other applications when you use wood filler:
Pros and Cons of Using Wood Fillers
Wood Filler Pros
Suitable for Unfinished Wood
They’re made from non-harmful materials such as wood particles that you can apply to natural wood.
Stainable and Sandable
It can be stained and sanded down to get a smooth finish.
Best for Large Projects
It can be used for large areas and wooden pieces.
Wood Filler Cons
For Indoor Use Only
It’s only ideal to use wood filler indoors since it tends to expand or contract depending on the temperature.
Steeper Learning Curve
It takes a lot of patience to use a wood filler, especially for first-time users.
Limited Colors or Stains Option
Wood fillers have a limited selection of wood tones, colors, and stains.
About Wood Putty
Wood putty is also known as “plastic wood,” made from plastic-based and oil-based compounds. These include boiled linseed oil, calcium carbonate, and universal colorants.
Due to its chemical composition, it is not recommended to use wood putty on raw wood, as it can cause unwanted damage instead of repairs when directly applied. So we suggest putting a barrier, such as a stain, before the application.
When Should You Use Wood Putty?
Pros and Cons of Using Wood Putty
Wood Putty Pros
Flexible and User-Friendly
Wood putty remains flexible, so it’s easy to use when making repairs. It also has different variations, like putty sticks, that make it easier to spread on surfaces.
Many Color Options
When you choose to use wood putty, you’ll be surprised by the different colors available. This is much easier to blend with the wood stains of your choice.
Not Fully Hardens
Its constitution resembles a putty-like compound adhesive, which does not fully harden.
Wood Putty Cons
Minimal Effect on Sanding or Finishes
Sanding or finishing with the putty on create an unnoticeable effect on wood.
Unsafe Due to Hazardous Chemicals
Its chemical constitution makes wood putty not ideal for direct application on a raw wood surface. It can only be used on finished furniture.
Not for Large Projects
It needs more time to completely dry, making it unsuitable for large projects.
Wood Putty and Wood Filler Comparison
If you compare wood putty against wood filler, the former is more expensive. This is because it requires more chemicals and materials to create.
Wood filler and wood putty have different lifespans. Most fillers dry in a matter of minutes, while wood putty takes hours to dry.
User-Friendliness and Sandability
Wood putty is easier to sand but needs a putty knife to aid its application. On the other hand, a wood filler is pliable, but sanding and finishes have minimal effects.
Unfinished or Finished Wood
It is recommended to apply wood filler on unfinished furniture, but you can still apply it on finished surfaces. Meanwhile, putty is only recommended for finished wood furniture.
Material and Coating
Wood putty is made from plastic mixed with an adhesive. Wood filler, on the other hand, is made from wood fibers and particles. Furthermore, fillers require a stain or a finish to adhere to the surface or material.
How To Fill Wood Gaps & Holes
After learning about the similarities and differences between wood putty and wood filler, you need to know how to fill wood gaps and repair holes properly with these formulas.
Using Wood Filler
With the use of wood filler, filling holes and gaps are more effective. Also, it covers imperfections on lumber, which you can improve further by sanding it down and applying a sealer or stain for a complete finish.
Using Wood Putty
Putty is much easier to use since it has a shorter drying period. You can repair cracks, fill holes, and do other home repairs. Exterior wood putty is also good for some outdoor tasks.
Factors to Consider in Buying a Wood Filler
Ingredients and Amount
Check the ingredients and how much is in the product. They should reflect wood fibers and cover your project sufficiently. Do not purchase if it indicates that the product has no adhesive.
Due to its distinct smell, ensure to wear a mask and protective eyewear.
Color and Finish
If you intend to use the wood filler on unfinished wood, make sure it can be sanded and stained. Also, take into consideration the wood colors and types it can blend in.
Review the uses of the filler to assess if the filler is appropriate for your project.
Consider the drying time to plan and fully prepare your project’s execution. Note that wood filler hardens dry after a few hours.
Brand and Price
Consider brands like Minwax and DAP when purchasing a filler. In terms of price, fillers normally cost between $1 to $4 per ounce.
Make sure the filler isn’t expired yet. Check the expiration on the packaging to see if you can still use it effectively and safely.
Is it okay to apply wood stain on wood fillers?
Yes, you can apply wood stain on the surrounding wood filler. There are several stainable wood fillers available in your local hardware shops.
Is using caulk better than wood filler?
It is always better to use fillers in making exterior repairs. A caulk may not work well when filling nail holes and cracks.
Can I make my own wood putty or wood filler?
You can make your own wood putty and wood filler by combining adhesives such as wood glue and sawdust .
Is wood filler and spackle the same?
A filler and spackle are similar, but the latter is used on plaster and drywall, whereas the former is used on wooden pieces.
We hope this article has shed light on the difference between wood putty vs wood filler. But before everything else, assess the severity of your project and the materials you’re going to use.
You will choose either wood putty or a wood filler based on such factors and which of the two will be the best fit for your requirement.
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