There are many times in woodworking that it becomes necessary to fill in a hole, fix a scratch, or try to cover up a ding while working on a project. Often times wood filler you purchase from the store just does not match the color, tint, or grain of the wood you are working with. I will show you how to make your own home-made wood filler putty to match the species of wood you are working with and hide those flaws!
GATHER THE WOOD SAWDUST / SANDDUST: When you started your project, you probably used a handsaw or a tablesaw to cut your pieces of wood. During this cutting process, you may have noticed all of the sawdust collecting under your workstation. If you carefully sift through the sawdust you created, you will find that there are large chunks of wood, and a very fine powder of wood under your workstation. It is the very fine wood dust we want to use here. Remove the larger chunks of wood from the sawdust, and scoop a handful of fine sawdust onto the 4" x 4" piece of cardboard. If you happen to have sanding dust from the same piece of wood, use this instead of sawdust, as it is a cleaner, finer wood dust product that will work even better!
ADD GLUE: Now, we will use the 4" x 4" piece of cardboard as our mixing backing. The idea here is to mix about 3 parts glue to 1 part dust roughly. There are two types of glue I recommend using for your wood putty filler. If you are going to keep the wood's natural finish and apply a clear coat, use a PVA Yellow Glue, such as "Titebond Glue". If you try to use this glue and stain your piece, you will get ugly blotchy spots because this glue DOES NOT STAIN. If you want to stain your piece and give it a clean finish, then I recommend using a Hide Glue such as "Titebond Liquid Hide Glue". Hide glue accepts stain and wood dyes, which really helps when you're finishing a project. Once you have selected your glue, slowly mix it into your dust with your popsicle stick, or small dowel. You can also use you fingers, but this makes the job messy, and clean up longer.
KNEAD THE PUTTY: Now that you have mixed your glue into your sawdust, we want to work the mixture into a workable putty-like material that you can roll between your fingers, with a tacky feel. It is important to note that at this point, the putty should not be runny - or too wet, and it also should not be clumpy - or too dry. It should just be tacky to the touch.
FIX YOUR PROBLEM: With your finger or a putty knife, push the wood putty into the scratch, ding, gouge, crack, or hole that you want to repair. The wood putty should stick to the glue without aid. If the putty is a little dry, drip a little glue onto the putty, and spread this into the putty and the wood. If the putty is a little wet, sprinkle a little more dust onto it.
REMOVE EXCESS: Take a putty knife and even out the surface of the repair so that it is smooth and even with the surface of your piece. Remove as much excess material as possible so that you do not have to do a lot of sanding later. After the putty has dried, gently and lightly sand with a finishing grit paper of your choice. Now you can finish the piece with stain, paint, or clear-coat.
Step6CLEAN UP: Throw away the extra putty on the cardboard. It is not worth keeping, and you can easily mix up new putty as needed. Now, go wash your hands and admire your work!
It is best to use sanding dust as it is finer. If this is not available, use the finest dust that your saw or tablesaw created.
Use Yellow Glue if you are going to paint your project or apply a clear-coat
Use Hide Glue if you are going to stain this finished project
This putty works best for small holes and gouges and should not be used to span large gaps.