In this illustrated guide (with pictures) I will show you how to make your own DIY wood filler that will match your project in color and appearance, as well as being stain-able. Fixing errors is just part of woodworking. Dings, dents, voids, and those unfortunate instances when the wood just blows out from a knot or when planing end grain – all can make you project not look ‘perfect’. Over the years I’ve made my share of dings/dents/gaps, and voids in projects. I’ve often heard it said that the difference between an amateur woodworker and a professional is the ability to hide mistakes! Well, this is a DIY tip to help you save a little money fixing small errors in your DIY projects by making your own wood filler.
Now, I’m not saying mixing up a batch and storing a tub of something like you can buy at Home Depot. This is just a little ‘mix it up when you need it’. The problem with wood putty or wood filler that you buy is that it never seems to match the wood you are using in color or texture. The final product after using this DIY wood-filler will match the color of your original wood really well, and after drying overnight can be smoothed to a fine finish.
It is really easy to make your own wood filler
This DIY wood filler has two ingredients:
Yep. That’s it. Just two ingredients that you can generally mix up on the spot. Using those two items has been used historically for simple cosmetic fixes. If you are attempting to use fill a huge void that needs to support a lot of weight or be structural in nature, you should consider doing something else. Most wood filling compounds are not considered structural in nature, due to shrinkage differences, etc.
So, how do you make it? Below is my process on making your own wood filler to fix gaps, voids, dings, etc
How to make your own wood filler using sawdust and wood glue
Sawdust – the amount you need depends on how large of a hole/void/gap you are trying to fix
Woodglue – any glue that bonds to wood will work. I’m using Titebond 2 because I had some on hand. But, anything that will set up and cure to wood will work, such as varnish or shellac.
Scrap ‘stirring’ stick, popsicle stick, etc – You need something to help mix the compound, and it helps in applying it
Scrap wood, paper plate – some surface that you don’t mind having a small pile of glue on. I used a simple paper plate in this guide.
Putty knife – it can be handy to help give the mixture a somewhat smooth/flat finish once you have filled it in. Or you can just use a small scrap splinter, etc.
Paper towels – these are obviously handy to have around whenever you are using glue. Just to keep the project nice and neat or clean your hands.
A project that needs a little ‘fixing‘. I was making a small dovetail box and had a knot on one of the pins. Really I just wanted to practice making dovetails by hand, and by making a box I got to practice multiple skills at the same time. The reason I have so many knots, is that this was just construction lumber that I had planed square/straight – so it has quite a few knots! (But it is the cheapest wood to use while practicing new techniques)
Luckily I was able to save the knot, and slide it back into place before fixing it.
How to Make Your Own Wood Filler – Illustrated Guide with Pictures
Place sawdust and glue on your scrap wood or paper plate. You need to use enough sawdust to fill your gap/void. I just estimate how much, then put a little bit more on. Now, the finer the sawdust the better the final product. Since I was cutting dovetails, I had a saw with a lot of small teeth, which means really fine sawdust. Alternatively, you could use a random-orbital sander with dust collection bag to generate some very fine sawdust too. Just use fine grit sandpaper (like 200 grit).
Just squirt a small amount of glue. You really just need enough to mix well with the sawdust.
Mix the sawdust and glue together either using your fingers or a stir stick. I just get a drop of glue on the end of a stick and roll it around in the sawdust repeatedly until I’m satisfied it is well mixed. If you are mixing a lot of wood filler to fill a longer gap, you may want to wear latex gloves. You will repeat this step as necessary until your hole is filled.
How to apply your own DIY Wood Filler
After the sawdust and glue are thoroughly mixed, start dabbing it into your ‘hole’ or void. Keep applying it and using the stick to push it in until the hole is completely filled. Be generous with how much you use, as you want to completely fill it. Besides, its not like this wood filler is expensive!
Use another piece of scrap or putty knife to scrape away excess wood filler
Let the mixture dry overnight
Use a file or sandpaper to smooth it out. I really like a flat file, as it allows me to keep the surface even with the non-damaged areas.
Final Results – DIY Wood Filler
After using a file I made my ‘void’ virtually invisible. So, not only was I successful in gluing a knot back into place, but I made the surrounding area look like it was always there.
I mean just look – My project went from this
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Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over six years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you!
Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!