I have oak trim — doors, baseboards, window casings — throughout my house. When it was originally finished, the craftsman used “oak filler” followed by stain and varnish to finish the wood. He used Pratt and Lambert products. I am told that using “oak filler” was a common practice … back in the day. But now that the woodwork has aged about a dozen years, the “oak filler” is turning blond in color and looks awful. I want to strip the old finish off and refinish the woodwork. Yup …. it will be a retirement project. What stripper can I use which will take off not only the varnish layers but also the “oak filler”? – Jerry DeBoer
Rob Johnstone: Hoo-boy, I don’t think there is a stripper that will solve your problem. Pore filler is designed to get into the pores of porous wood like oak and stay there. (Is there a product that will do the trick? Maybe, but I don’t know of one.) I stripped hundreds of lineal feet of red oak trim in a 1906 house I restored and the pores of the oak did not give up their color — and that was from a tinted spirit varnish. And sanding down far enough to remove the filler would be a Herculean task — especially if the molding has profiles shaped into the wood. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I don’t think you will get that filler out of the wood. In my opinion, you need a Plan B.
Chris Marshall: I’ll bet the oak filler hasn’t changed color at all, but the oak is darkening with age. I don’t envy your task, Jerry. If the contrast between the filler and the surrounding wood is really terrible, maybe stripping off the old finish and choosing a lighter color stain alternative would help blend the blonde pore color better. Still, the wood’s color will darken over time, no matter what. Any chance you’re up for trim replacement?