How to Make Traditional Wood Filler

This is how to make traditional wood filler. Wood fillers are available everywhere. However, many times they are made from random ingredients. If you are looking for a traditional wood filler that has a long history of use, this is the one for you.

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Making Traditional Wood Filler

traditional wood fillerTraditional wood filler simply means a homemade filler material using traditional ingredients.

Many store bought fillers have plastics and modern ingredients. While these help make a good filler product, they are not traditional.

The old masters used the ingredients that they had at the time to make their fillers. They used sawdust and glue, and they also used sawdust and finish.

They knew that the color of the sawdust was a good match for their project, so they took it from the surrounding wood as they worked. 

Shellac was the primary film finish for a very long time, and this traditional wood filler recipe uses shellac.

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See Also: How to Use Wood Filler

Traditional Wood Filler Recipe Steps

Gather some sawdust that is the same color or a little lighter than the piece you want to fill. The color will darken some in the mixture, so test it out if you are concerned about a perfect color match.

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One of the best ways to make sawdust for filler is with a belt sander. Sand the rest of the wood on the project, and you will collect some dust to work with.

Use an air hose first to blow out the sander, as well as the dust collection bag. Make sure you spend a little extra time on this, especially if you are filling a lighter color of wood. If you are working with a dark or medium color, you can get away with more.

Once you have the belt sander clean, sand the heck out of a piece of wood that matches the color of dust you need, and collect it in the bag. This can take a little time, but you will soon have more sawdust than you will ever need for a few simple fills.

I collected a ton of sawdust when I restored my fathers workbench, which I used for the fills. This is how I used the same wood to make the fills, which put the wood I sanded off right back into the project itself.

Next, make some shellac. You can use store bought shellac if you like, but you can make it yourself too. I have an article on working with shellac if you need a little help mixing. Use a clear or blonde shellac, as anything else will alter the color too much. Again, if you are working with a darker wood, it will be far more forgiving.

In a small container, add an ounce of liquid shellac. Then start adding sawdust and mixing until you have a paste that is about the consistency of loose oatmeal. It should be easy to spread, not crumbly, and should not be liquid enough to drip. It should feel about like any other store bought filler.

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How to Use Old Fashioned Filler

traditional wood fillerThe easiest way to apply traditional filler is with a putty knife or curved knife. Pick some up on the end of the knife, and smear it into the area that needs a fill.

Over fill it slightly, as this kind of filler tends to sink a little.

Traditional fill material also sands very easily. This is why you see that I smeared it on without much thought about having to sand it later.

You can power through a thick layer of this kind of filler in a few seconds on the belt sander, or a little longer on the palm sander. If you over fill now, you won’t have to fill a second time later.

Once you fill all your voids, allow it to dry overnight. Depending on how deep the fills are, it can take several hours to fully dry. Don’t rush this step. The mixture needs to dry thoroughly before sanding.

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If you rush this step, it will ball up when you sand, and you will have to fill the voids again. After everything is dry, sand the surface flush with a power sander. Then, sand with the grain by hand with sandpaper and a block. Inspect the surface, and if you have areas that need more filling, address them.

If you have any questions about how to make traditional wood filler, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with your friends on Pinterest! Happy building.


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