If you constantly worry about the wood filler for your DIY wood project not matching the color of your wood after repairs, we have exciting news for you. We know how difficult it can be to make the filled area the same color shade as the other wood areas after stain is applied. So how do you make wood filler look like real wood, you ask?
To achieve wood filler looking like real wood, you’ll need to ensure that the color of whatever wood putty you choose is very close to the color of the wood for the project. This already solves half of the problem. To completely get the putty to look like real wood, sand a piece of scrap wood from the same project to form sawdust, then mix the putty and the sawdust and apply to the affected area. Once applied, allow to dry and sand down using 220grit sandpaper. After this, stain the wood.
As you can see, making wood filler look like natural wood is easy. The difference in color shade is a problem caused by the wood fillers infiltrating the surrounding grains close to the repaired section. Now that you’ve gone through the brief, we’ll go into a detailed step-by-step guide in the section that follows. After this, you’ll be given pro tips that will guarantee the wood filler becomes perfectly matched.
How Can Wood Filler Look More Like Wood?
Making wood filler look more like wood is a problem that woodworkers worldwide have struggled with. The best way to get wood filler to look like real wood after the repair is by staining the entire wood and ensuring that the stain is applied the right way.
When applied wrongly, the wood filler can cause the surrounding wood to appear slightly discolored, which is not what we want.
The reason for the varying stain absorption properties is traceable to the composition of these very different substances. Wood is side and end grained and, as such, is very different from putty.
Also, as we all know, wood is a substance that exists on its own. It’s natural. On the other hand, Filler is a combination of several organics and inorganics.
You’ll also notice that wood varies in density from one species to another, making it quite difficult for filler manufacturers to create a filler that matches these different densities.
Step-By-Step Guide to Making Wood Filler Look More Like Wood
Here’s the step-by-step tutorial you’ve been waiting for; follow it, and you will be able to get that repaired section to look like the surrounding wood from your project.
Step 1: Get a wood filler with the closest color to the wood
It all starts with getting the closest color wood filler; this ensures that the color matching process will be successful. Also, you need to ensure that whatever wood filler you choose accepts stain.
Step 2: Make sawdust using scrap wood from the project
It is crucial that you ensure that the sawdust you make is from wood from the same project; it aids in making matching easy. Also, ensure that you sand using fine-grit sandpaper, ideally 180-grit sandpaper. You can also collect sawdust from the cup of your orbital sander if you have one.
Step 3: Mix and apply sawdust and wood filler
Once the required amount of sawdust is gotten, mix the sawdust with the filler using wood putty. Ensure the mixing is done properly, and once the mixture forms a paste, apply filler to the repaired section, then top it up with the filler and sawdust mixture. Let it dry for 24hrs and sand the contours using 220-grit sandpaper.
N.B: When sanding, sand in the direction of the wood grain and not against. This way hiding the repaired section will be easier.
Once sanded, wipe off any excess dust you notice on the surface of the wood using a wet rag first, allowing it to dry, then a dry rag to ensure all dust has been wiped off.
Step 4: Choose a stain
Choosing a stain will not be necessary if the wood has previously been stained. All you need is to use the stain originally used. However, if the wood has never been stained, choose a stain that matches the entire piece of wood.
Step 5: Test the stain
To ensure if the wood will accept the stain and to determine if the chosen stain is the best color match, test the stain on a piece of scrap wood on which the filler has been used on. Once stained, alloy to dry. Once dried you’ll be able to determine if the stain is right for your wood.
N.B: Ensure you stir and not shake before applying stain on wood, this way, you can be sure that color pigments will not settle at the bottom of the container.
Step 6: Thin out the stain
After testing the stain, if it appears too thick, you’d need to thin out the stain. To achieve this, you’ll need to mix the stain with the mineral spirit or water and examine the result; this will lighten the color of the repaired section and make it match the other parts of the wood.
Ensure that you pour the stain and mineral spirit or water into a mixing bowl and stir well using a mixing stick. Then, apply the thinner little at a time and test until you attain the desired color depth.
Step 7: Apply the stain
In this stage of getting wood filler to look like real wood, it’s time to get out your brush and apply stain to the filler. The repair size will determine the size of the brush you’ll need. It is better to apply a thin coat of stain than to apply a thick coat of stain; if the stain is too thin, you can add a second coat; however, if the coat is too thick, things can get messy, but all hope is not lost.
Bonus tips to make your wood filler look better
Here are some tips from the pros. Put them at the back of your mind when working with and staining wood fillers and see your wood projects become better. Success is guaranteed when you remember to first test these procedures on scrap wood before applying them to the real deal.
Tip #1: For softwood, choose a pre-stain wood conditioner
When working with softwoods like birch, pine, and maple, applying a pre-stain wood conditioner before filling the holes is not optional, it is necessary for the success of your project. The pre-stain conditioner prevents the fillers from being absorbed by the surrounding wood.
Since most wood fillers need 24hrs to dry completely and manufacturers suggest applying stain 2hrs after applying pre-stain, we suggest applying a second coat of pre-stain conditioner. After this, wait 2hrs before applying the wood stain.
Tip #2: Remember to apply wood filler before sanding
It’s not news that sanding will reduce the textural difference between the wood and wood filler; hence, sanding after filling is crucial in ensuring that the disparity in color between the wood and the filler is almost unnoticeable. When the texture is the same, the stain will be absorbed uniformly throughout the wood.
N.B: Do well to remember that before you apply a single brush of stain on the wood, the wood is free of all sanding dust.
With the right stain, you can get any wood filler to look like real wood, all it takes is following the steps, tips discussed above and delving a little into your artistic side. Ensure you wait for the manufacturer recommended drying time before deciding if the stain is the right shade or not.