Everybody who has tried to make some woodworking knows the frustration that occurs if some pieces leave a huge gap between them when assembled, or on the contrary, are too tight to fit together. The last case results usually with a piece too big cut/sanded off and still, a huge gap that wrecks the whole work. Or even worse, the workpiece cracks because of the humidity of the air. This can be even more irritating for the brave maker, who thinks that his artwork is now ruined because he/she doesn't have the money to buy some special wood filler (those things cost generally around 10$ a SMALL can - so if you want to have only a nip of it, you need to spend at least 10 bucks for a can, that will be living on a dark dusty shelf the rest of its can-life).
But what if I said you, that you can make your own wood filler, basically for free, in less than five minutes and without a sci-fi futuristic laboratory. And the best part is: it will have a coloring very similar to the repaired workpiece!!
So without any further to do, let's dive in!
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Step 1: Watch the Video
If you don't have time to read the whole Instructable, you can simply watch this video. It's 1:25 long and it gives you all the information you need to make the putty.
Step 2: Supplies
Here's what you need for this craft-hack:
- Some sort of glue (Wood glue/Craft glue - it serves as the binding agent. Almost any type of glue works. I like to use some multipurpose glue, as it's easier to clean than epoxy for example. Also, please use transparent or white glue, as coloured blues can stain the putty, and we don't want that)
- Sawdust(This can be salvaged from the building of the workpiece - if the sawdust comes from the same wood that the workpiece, the colour will be very similar to the original wood)
- Gloves (those are optional, but can really save you from a lot of cleaning and problems, if you are using a stronger glue)
Step 3: Gather the Sawdust
First, you need to gather some sawdust. I collected some when I was sanding some planks with a belt sander (those things produce A LOT of very fine sawdust really fast, so they are perfect if you want to get sawdust in bulk).
If you're in search for a perfectly colour matching filler, you should try to gather sawdust from the same workpiece you're working with. Like that, the filler will have almost the same colour as the wood around it, because the filler is made essentially of that same wood (seems pretty obvious).
The quantity of sawdust needed really depends if the size of the crack you want to fill. But keep in mind, that abundance is always better than shortage. For a millimeter large gap a tablespoon is enough. An amount this small can be obtained with a piece of medium grit sandpaper and five minutes to kill. If you plan to renovate your flooring, you'll need to find a more industrial source.
Step 4: Add the Glue - Make the Putty
Now put your sawdust in a disposable container or on a piece of paper (I LOVE to use post-its for this kind of small work). Then, add the glue of your choice, little by little. It a good idea to always mix the mixture to prevent adding too much glue.
*As I said before, almost every type of glue will work, but the PVA glue and the transparent multi purpose superglue work the best for this recipe. They don't dry for too long and don't give the putty weird tints either. Speaking of tints, keep in mind that yellow wood glue will definitely add a yellowish shade to the putty and therefore will make it stand out in the final workpiece.
Keep mixing the mixture until you get a toothpaste like dough, that's easy to stuff into cracks, but thick enough to stay there.
*THIS MIXTURE WONT LAST FOR VERY LONG, even in hermetically closed jar, so don't make too much of it, as the rests are gonna be wasted!
Step 5: Applying the Wood Filler
It's now time to put on your gloves, in case you haven't done it yet.
To stuff the putty into the cracks and cranks, the best method is to cover the working area with the filler and then wipe the excess away. If you're dealing with a larger crack, you may need to repeat this procedure several times.
If you want to get a stronger bond, you also may want to use a toothpick to push the putty deeper into the groove.
The end result should be a completely flat surface. So flat, that you can't tell, we're the crack used to be. Some glues will also shrink when drying. In that case, you should reapply some filler later on, or just build a mountain of putty on the crack (that's gonna be sanded down later on).
*THE PUTTY WILL DRY FAST! So be quick and dont waste time rolling your thumbs. Also, it's better to do the cleaning as soon as possible, because it's going to be a lot easier now, than later on, when the glue has bond itself everywhere.
Step 6: Sanding (and Rasping)
Sanding is usually referred to something annoying and boring, as it consists of making the same movement over and over again, without making any noticeable differences, but not in this case!
When sanding the surface, first, the larger pieces of wood putty will transform into gluerolls and fall away. Then, when sanding the surface further, small particles of sawdust will appear and dissappear almost instantly into the crack, where they will be kept by the glue. This will make the glue stronger and more similar to the real deal (the real wood).
*I used a rasp in the beginning to go faster, but you can also scrape off the excess with a knife or a sharp edge.
Afterwards, it's a good idea to first use a medium grit sandpaper (80) and then a thinner one (120). This will minimise the amount of work, while keeping those nasty deep scratches or of the way.
Step 7: The Conclusion
Well, there you have it, a cheap way to save woodworks or just make them look better/less amateuristic. This method has saved me many times and is definitely worth trying.
BUT you have to keep in mind, that the results of this method aren't as durable and strong as of a professional wood filler. So I wouldn't suggest using it outside or for things that need to be rugged like pocket knives or keychains (that spend a lot of time in a warm, humid pocket or hand). But for inside woodworks this method is perfect.
Also, I'm aware, that the joints don't disappear completely, they're just much less visible. But to make them almost unnoticeable, you'll just need to cover the item with a layer of paint, and it will make the whole thing look like a solid casted unit.
Thank you very much for scrolling this far! If you have any questions or suggestions don't hesitate to leave them in the comments and have a great day! ?
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