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We’ve been on a mission to find the best wood filler out there. We tried 7 popular store brands and now we’re testing out some DIY wood filler options.
There are two main benefits of DIY wood filler: it’s cheap to make because you’re using sawdust that you already have and since you’re using sawdust from the project, you might be able to get a better color match.
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So let’s put these three DIY wood fillers to the test! Overall, we liked the results of the sawdust and polycrylic mixture in terms of stainability and consistency, but the shellac won in terms of overall coverage. Keep reading to hear more about the results and details of each of the wood filler options.
Regardless of which DIY wood filler you try to make, the process is the same.
How to Make DIY Wood Filler
You will need:
- A white paper plate, a cup, or another clean surface to mix your wood filler on
- A plastic spoon, craft stick, or something else to mix your wood filler
- A binding agent like glue, shellac, or polycrylic
STEP 1: GATHER YOUR SAWDUST
Unless you always use the same type of wood, I’d recommend first dumping out the bag of sawdust that’s attached to your sander. Once it’s cleaned out, sand the wood that you’re going to apply the wood filler to.
Pay attention to where on the board you are spending the most time sanding. If there are a lot of knots, but your wood filler will be used on an area without knots, try to avoid sanding the knots since they are much darker than the rest of the wood.
Once you’ve gathered some sawdust, dump it out on your paper plate or the surface that you’ll be mixing your wood filler on.
STEP 2: ADD YOUR BINDING AGENT
Whether you use glue, polycrylic, or shellac is up to you. You can keep reading below to decide which mixer is best for you.
Add a small amount of the binding agent to the sawdust. You’ll need to work quickly on the next steps so that your homemade wood filler doesn’t dry out.
STEP 3: MIX UNTIL THE CONSISTENCY IS RIGHT
Mix your sawdust and binding agent together until the texture resembles that of cookie dough. The cool thing about making your own wood filler is that you can test out some options and decide which consistency is your favorite.
When the consistency seems to be getting close, I like to squeeze the wood filler together with my fingers to see if it’s resembling a putty-like texture. Once it is, you can move onto step 4.
If your mixture gets too wet, add some more sawdust. If it’s still too dry, add more of your binding agent.
STEP 4: APPLY YOUR WOOD FILLER
Press your wood filler into the area that you are trying to fill as you normally would.
You want to overfill the holes slightly.
STEP 5: LET DRY
Wait for your wood filler to dry. How long you have to wait will depend on how big and deep the hole is that you were trying to fill.
You can’t let it dry for too long though, so I would err on the side of waiting longer before moving onto the next step. I generally wait about 2 hours.
STEP 6: SAND OFF THE EXCESS
Once your wood filler is fully dry, sand off any excess wood filler. As with the store-bought wood filler, you’ll want to sand off any excess that’s not directly filling the hole or imperfection you were trying to fill. If your wood filler left any stains around the wood, try to sand that discoloration off as best as you can.
Now that you know how to make your own wood filler, let’s talk more in-depth about the experiment and three types of DIY wood filler we tested out.
The DIY Wood Filler Experiment
To test these wood filler options, we used the same process we used on our stainable wood filler test.
First, we added two nails and two screws to a spare board for each wood filler we were going to test out. Then we sanded it down with 120 grit sandpaper. We made and applied each wood filler and then waited 4 hours for the wood filler to dry. When we checked the progress at 1.5 hours, the glue and shellac wood fillers were both dry. Even at 4 hours, the polycrylic one wasn’t fully dry, but we decided to proceed anyway.
Once dry, we sanded off the excess using 180 grit sandpaper and then finished it off with light hand sand using 220-grit. This is to prep the wood surface for stain as we would a normal project.
We then applied a dark stain (Minwax Dark Walnut) and a light stain (Minwax Golden Oak) to each of the DIY wood fillers and compared them.
Now that you know how we tested it out, let’s talk more in-depth about the results. Let’s talk consistency and stainability of each of DIY wood fillers we tried.
Types of DIY Wood FIller
Option 1: Sawdust and Glue
Personally, I find this one to be the most difficult to make and get a good consistency, but it’s the most popular DIY wood filler option out there.
In terms of consistency, I find this one to be most similar to a wood filler you might find on the market. It’s not super smooth and looks like it has wood fibers in it when you apply it (even though it’s really just sawdust).
Note: I’ve heard that you can also use Elmer’s glue for this. I didn’t have any available to test out, but it’s definitely something to consider testing out in the future!
After applying and before letting it dry, I felt like this was going to be the best option because it was the lightest in color.
After letting it dry and sanding off the excess, I got a little less optimistic. It was now much darker in color. The saving grace was that some of the sawdust from sanding seemed to get stuck in the areas that I had filled, making it slightly lighter in some areas.
For the lighter stain color, it was basically tied for first place of the options, however it still stained quite a bit darker than the actual wood did.
For darker stain, it also stained a little bit darker, but didn’t stick out as much it did on the lighter stain sample.
Overall it stained about as well as a store-bought wood filler, but it was a bit more inconsistent in terms of both color and texture when stained.
Option 2: Sawdust and Shellac
The shellac option fell right in the middle of the glue and polyacrylic mixtures. It wasn’t quite as smooth and easy to mix as the polycrylic, but it wasn’t nearly as difficult to get a consistent texture as the glue.
The one thing I didn’t love about the shellac was how quickly it dried on my fingers. After mixing and applying the wood filler, my fingers were covered with shellac which can take some time to get off.
Once sanded, this was definitely the most solid coverage. The hole looked smooth and solid. I couldn’t say the same for the other two. Both of those lost some wood filler in the holes when sanding.
This was the clear winner if you were choosing to keep your wood natural. Out of the three options tested, this one definitely blended in the most with the raw wood once it was dry. I was pretty surprised since it was so dark when I originally mixed it.
Though it was really light before stain, it absorbed the most stain out of the options. It was definitely the darkest of the three once stained.
But again, it was the most consistent. The color was consistent across the entire sample and when you look closely, it had the most smooth and solid coverage.
If you value solid coverage and consistent coloring, this might be the best DIY wood filler for you.
Option 3: Sawdust and Polycrylic
This was my favorite consistency of the options we made. I probably could have gotten the other options to feel more similar to the polycrylic mix by adding a little more glue or shellac, but overall I just felt like the sawdust and polycrylic mixed together the easiest.
The interesting thing about this combination is that it takes a LONG time to dry. After 4 hours, it still wasn’t fully dry. It was starting to harden slightly, but it definitely wasn’t dry. That said, I was still able to successfully sand it even though it wasn’t hard.
Since it takes a lot longer to dry, it’s nice if you sand an area and then realize you want to fill it a little bit more. Chances are that you’ll still be able to use the original mixture instead of making another one.
Overall I would say this texture is much more similar to a wood putty than a wood filler.
In terms of stainability, this was the winner in my book. Sawdust and glue was a close second, but the polycrylic won in my book because the color was just a little more consistent throughout the larger holes.
With the darker stain, it was the closest to matching the actual wood.
One thing to watch out for is that you can’t spread this on, wipe off the excess, and then stain without sanding first. You really need to sand off the excess that’s around the hole (even if you felt like you wiped all the excess off). Otherwise… you’ll end up with a spot that just doesn’t accept stain.
The good news is that if this happens to you, you can quickly sand it down and try again.
Overall, the wood filler and polycrylic combo was my favorite of the DIY wood filler options.
That being said, I’m still probably going to stick with a premade wood filler for ease. However, any of these three options would be a great substitute if you’re willing to put in the time or don’t want to run to the store mid-project to grab more wood filler.
So which do you choose? DIY wood filler or store-bought wood filler?