Wood filler and wood putty are popular substances in the woodworking world.
It might not seem like it, but there are some massive differences between wood putty and wood filler. What is wood filler and wood putty? What is the difference between the two?
In this post, I’ll explore wood filler vs wood putty, which is better for your needs, and much more. Let’s get started!
In This Article:
What Is Wood Filler?
Wood filler is a type of paste that works to fill holes and cracks that appear in the wood.
As it dries, it transforms into a hardened material that won’t change shape. It dries on a raised level, which allows you to sand it down to finish your project.
There are four different types of wood fillers on the market that you should be aware of.
The first is latex filler. This water-based option is ideal for interior repairs, as it dries hard. Humid conditions have the potential to crack latex filler, so it’s better for indoor use. It can be painted or stained to match the wood around it, ideal for when the filler is used for furniture projects.
The second is DIY filler. Most people take sanding dust and mix it with wood glue to form a paste. If you want to stain your project, DIY wood filler is a great choice.
The third is wood grain filler. This material works specifically to fill the grains of wood with wider gaps, allowing for a smooth finish on any project.
The final wood filler is epoxy wood filler. This option is excellent when you need to support decaying or rotting wood. It prevents the rot from diving deeper.
When Should You Use Wood Filler
Wood filler is beneficial when you must handle flaws in the wood in a project you want to look finished.
It works as a way to fill cracks in wood and create a smooth surface before the addition of a stain or paint.
Filler hides many imperfections, such as:
- Nail holes
Anything that isn’t too critical can work with wood filler.
If you have imperfections and want a sleek finish, wood filler is your answer. It helps form a flawless finish on any wood project, from a scratched chair to a nicked table in your home.
How You Should Use Wood Filler
We’ve talked about what wood filler is and its uses for it in woodworking. Now, it’s time to discuss how you can use wood filler.
Here is how you can put wood filler to use:
- Mix: Mix the material until it turns into a peanut butter like texture.
- Apply: Add the material to the imperfection, ensuring it covers everything.
- Smooth: Smooth out the filler before it has a chance to harden.
- Sand: Once it dries, sand the filler flat against the wood.
- Wipe: Wipe away any excess material from the sanding process.
- Finish: Add your finish to the wood surface to disguise the filler underneath.
What Is Wood Putty?
Wood putty is a little different from wood filler.
It’s well-known as a form of “plastic wood” repairing holes and gaps in wood with its clay-like structure.
Wood putty often has more powerful chemicals than wood filler, so it’s best to use it after you finish a project to avoid damaging raw wood. Instead of hardening, wood putty remains soft and malleable.
You can take advantage of wood putty for indoor and outdoor projects because it can shift and adapt to changing weather and air, rather than remaining hard and cracking like wood filler.
Typically, you will find wood putty for sale in a stick form. Some options require mixing with a hardener. You can find many different colors, ideal for varying wood finishes.
Wood putty is similar to wood filler. However, it’s different in a few critical ways.
When Should You Use Wood Putty?
Wood putty can work on indoor and outdoor projects, such as furniture or other structures.
It often works well to fix imperfections after a finish has already gone on a wood surface. There are many colors to match any color already in place.
Here are a few of the best imperfections to use wood putty on:
- Nail holes
- Major cracks
You should use wood putty if you need a little more room for flexibility or your project is for outdoor use.
How You Should Use Wood Putty
Wood putty is very easy to use. Here is how you can put wood putty to use:
- Mix: If needed, you can mix the wood putty with a hardener before use. Some options require this process while others allow application straight from the tube.
- Apply: Apply the wood putty to the damage on the wooden surface, ensuring all imperfections and blemishes are covered.
- Mold: Mold the putty to the surface as best as you can. Use a putty knife to help shape the substance to cover any imperfections you might see.
- Cover: If needed, cover the wood putty with coloring to help it blend in with the rest of the wood. Take care to ensure it doesn’t stand out from the rest of the surface.
Wood putty is an excellent tool, right along with wood filler but there are still a few differences to consider.
Major Differences Between Filler and Putty
While wood fillers and wood putties are very similar in some fashions, there are som differences you should know before deciding which is best for your project.
Here are a few of the separations between the two:
- Color of the substance
- Consistency of the product
- Ability to flex
- Interior and exterior
- Ingredients inside the product
- Finished vs. Unfinished
- Painting and staining
Color is one of the first areas that stands out when considering wood putty vs. wood filler. One comes in a color that blends in, while the other requires the addition of a stain.
Wood putty is a putty. It can’t absorb wood stain or paint when placed on top, so it needs something else to work well in a project. You can find wood putty in many colors, which work to blend in with the hole you are filling. It’s necessary to match the color when you purchase putty for your project.
On the other hand, wood filler absorbs a stain or paint.
It doesn’t always come in colors, so you need to go over it with a stain to match the color of wood you are filling.
TIP: It’s difficult to find an exact color match when using wood putty. If you need a closer match to fill holes, using wood fillers is likely the better choice.
There is a significant difference in the consistency between wood filler and wood putty.
Wood putty is a type of putty with a texture is almost like clay or dough.
It has a thicker consistency and thanks to the thickness, most woodworkers need to take advantage of a putty knife to ensure the product spreads evenly across the surface of the wood.
Wood filler is different in that it has a texture almost like mashed potatoes or peanut butter because it combines multiple materials.
Wood fillers are easy to spread because of it’s consistency.
Flexibility and Durability
One of the big differences between wood putty and wood filler is how it dries and its final form.
Wood filler dries and hardens fast. Once the wood filler completely hardens, you can’t change the shape.
Wood putty doesn’t dry in the same manner.
Instead, it dries over a long time and remains pliable. Unfortunately, the length it takes wood putty to dry can allow debris to get stuck in the putty – which some people don’t like.
Interior And Exterior
If you have an interior project, it may need a different filler than one being used outdoors. Wood filler and wood putty operate differently for indoor and outdoor use.
Wood filler is a material that works well on projects indoors.
When it dries, it hardens and keeps the structures intact and a surface to paint over. When used outdoors, the weather can cause the wood filler to expand and crack – damaging your project.
On the other hand, wood putty dries much slower and remains malleable once it does. It works to adapt to the surface it’s attached to, giving it the ability to withstand tough weather circumstances. It’s a weatherproof material and can withstand the heat from the sun and the moisture from the rain.
TIP: While there are some wood fillers that can be used outdoors to fill small holes and cracks, you’re probably better off going with a wood putty to fill exterior gaps.
Ingredients are another place where wood filler and putty vary. It’s vital to note these, as the difference can have an impact on your project. If you have allergies, you may also want to consider these ingredients for your safety.
Wood putty is made of oil-based solvents, plastic, and ingredients like calcium carbonate. It’s a simple structure that gets the job done.
Wood filler is made of a mixture of basic components like wood fibers or sawdust and a type of binding agent that pulls the material together. Thanks to the simplicity of these ingredients, it’s easy to make wood filler yourself if you want to save a little money.
Finished Vs. Unfinished
There is a difference in the wood that works best with each product.
If you have unfinished wood, you may value one filler over another for your needs.
Wood putty is an excellent material, but it has many chemicals inside. One of them has the potential to harm raw wood. If you want to fill imperfections with wood putty, it’s best to use the product after it has been covered in a stain or a varnish for protection.
Wood filler s ideal for unfinished wood in a project. You can fill the faults, sand them down, and finish the wood with ease. It doesn’t have the same harsh chemicals that wood putty has inside its composition. In some cases, you can screw into wood filler to finish your project.
Painting And Staining
If you want to paint or stain a project but need to fill in gaps, it’s critical to know the difference between these two products.
Wood putty comes in multiple colors for a reason. It doesn’t absorb wood stain, so it needs to go on after the stain has dried on the surface. You need to pick a wood-putty color that matches your project, which can be difficult in some cases.
On the other hand, wood filler takes well to paint or stain. You can sand it down and cover it in a finish without much worry. It will absorb the color and blend in with the rest of the wood, no questions asked.
The two items vary in cost.
Wood filler is generally cheaper than wood putty. You can find tubs of it for a decent price at your local hardware store or on Amazon. You will also need to invest in gloves or a tool to help spread the material on the surface of the wood.
Wood putty is more expensive, but you use it less often than wood filler. Some types need to be mixed with a hardener, but others are fine on their own. You might need a putty knife to spread it.
There are varying options available for each product.
Thanks to the necessary color variety, there are tons of choices available for wood putty. It comes in multiple colors and a version that requires a hardener to work.
There is also variety in wood filler. You will find several different types to choose from on the market.
Final Thoughts on Wood Putty vs Wood Filler
Wood filler and wood putty are two popular products for woodworkers on the market today.
Wood putty comes in colors and has a thicker texture, much like clay and it never fully dries making it flexible and malleable. This is perfect for filling nail holes, minor cracks, and other DIY projects that might endure wood movement.
Wood filler hardens fast and is great for finished wood surfaces because you can use wood stains over it to get your desired color.
Wood putty and wood filler are both effective products, but they are not the same thing.