What is the best type of wood filler putty? I want something that will not fall off or change size, and that will take a stain well. I have not had great luck with the cheap stuff in the past. What type would you recommend that I buy?
Michael Dresdner: Best, like prettiest, is a matter of opinion. Most good name brands (Durhams, 3M, Plastic Wood, Dap, Famowood, Wunderfil, Mohawk, Behlen, etc.) make very good putty. Some focus more on one attribute than another, but for the most part, none will shrink or fall off easily. Some take stain better than others, but it is virtually impossible to have a putty that takes stain like the wood, in part because wood itself does not take stain uniformly. (Stain a piece of poplar and a piece of rock maple with the same pigmented stain and you will see what I mean.) Putty is cheap enough that you should buy a few and try them. The ones I listed above are some of my favorites, and you won’t go wrong with any of them. Try a few from the list and see which works best for you.
Rob Johnstone: I like the colored putty that you use after the project is stained and finished. I have never found a putty that stains in the same fashion as the wood in which it is placed. The other advantage to the after-the-finish putty is that you can mix it to get an exact color match … something you are only guessing at before you put the topcoat on.
Ellis Walentine: We did an in-depth comparison test at American Woodworker magazine back in ’97 and found a mess of complicated results. To put it in a nutshell, there are really two main choices — solvent based or water based. Solvent based putty is what most of the pros I know use, and Famowood is the brand I’ve spotted most often in professional shops. Elmer’s Pro-Bond Wood Filler also did well in our tests. The advantage of a solvent based putty is the drying time — about 15 minutes. After that you can sand and stain the piece and get on with your life.
Water-based putties have come into their own in recent years, but they typically suffer more shrinkage defects than solvent-based products, and they take longer to dry. Fix Wood Patch, Famowood Professional Wood Filler, Franklin Mendwood, Dap Latex Wood Dough and Zar Wood Patch also did respectably well in the test.
Whichever putty you use, run some sample tests in advance of the real thing, and test your stain colors and finishes on them if you want to predict the final results.