Before I paint a furniture piece, I will usually need to use a little bit of wood filler to fill in cracks, scratches, dents or holes.  Understanding how to use wood filler is important if you want to repair those imperfections in a piece that you are refinishing.  Here are some things to know before you start.

natural wood texture

Avoid Non-Hardening Wood Filler – I’m sure there are reasons why someone might want non-hardening wood filler, but I can’t think of any.  I have been really frustrated when I have bought wood filler and then been frustrated when I realized I accidentally bought a non-hardening wood filler.  Make sure you check the back of the container and make sure it’s not non-hardening.

Make Sure Your Wood Filler Has a Good Surface to Stick To – Wood filler is a strange thing because when you are applying it, it’s not sticky and you can pull it off very easily.  It’s only as it dries that it starts to adhere to your piece.  So, you won’t be able to tell right away if it will stay firm in the hole.  It’s good to scuff up the inside of the hole or dent just to make extra sure that the wood filler will adhere well.  Wood filler won’t adhere well to shiny or slick surfaces.  My husband sometimes drills holes into the part that he wants to fill with wood filler.  Then, he pushes the wood filler into those holes for extra adhesion.


When You Apply It Be Generous – Don’t worry about making the surface flat and smooth when you apply it.  Wood filler will shrink a little bit as it dries.  If you make it flush to the surface when you apply it, it will leave and indent in your surface as it shrinks.  It’s better to create kind of a mound on top of the hole you are filling and then sand it flat once it has fully dried and hardened.  That’s the best way to create a smooth, blended surface.