When the surface of the wood has cracks and blemishes or gaps between joints, we use putty or wood filler to fill these gaps. Although we use these two materials for similar purposes, they are distinctly different from each other. We also use each one for a specific set of tasks. In this post, we examine the differences between wood putty and wood filler and the advantages and disadvantages of using each one.
The primary difference between wood putty and wood filler is that we add sawdust or wood fibers bound with epoxy. On the other hand, Wood putty is a pre-mixed substance and has waterproof properties. In contrast, wood filler is not weatherproof, and you cannot use it outdoors.
Difference Between Wood Putty Vs. Wood Filler
In reality, manufacturers don’t produce two different products designated as “putty” or “filler.” The way we use the product puts it in either the category of putty or filler. Let us now look at the main differences between wood filler Vs. wood putty:
- Wood filler is typically water-based, but wood putty is oil-based
- You can sand wood filler, and we use it on unfinished wood. Wood putty, however, is used on finished wood, but you cannot sand or file it as it does not harden.
- Unlike wood putty, wood fillers aren’t weatherproof, so you cannot use them for outdoor applications.
We can best describe wood filler as something we use to fix wooden objects. We use it to cover up holes, cracks, or scratches on wood. The main goal of using wood filler is to cover up defects, making the surface look blemish-free. Since most wood fillers are water-soluble, we can add some water to get the required consistency.
If your project is more extensive, you may need a solvent-based filler. It is a more heavy-duty variety and considerably thicker than its water-based counterpart. No matter what type of wood filler you use, you will use it primarily to cover defects in your woodworking projects.
The ideal way of using wood filler is to mix it with sawdust, preferably from the wood you are applying. You can best use wood filler to fill holes in wood. Wood filler also serves well to cover nail heads after hammering them into wood, and you can create a blemish-free surface at the nail head location.
Pros and Cons of Wood Filler
Like all products we use in woodworking, wood filler has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few of the significant pros and cons that come to mind:
- Wood filler dries quickly.
- It is suitable for porous surfaces.
- You can fill big holes with it.
- It is possible to adjust the consistency.
- We can file and sand over it when it has dried.
- Wood filler tends to shrink or expand according to weather conditions.
- It is not suitable for outdoor use.
You can read more about wood fillers in another interesting post on our website.
Woodworkers often refer to wood putty as “plastic wood.” You will find this substance in most woodworking workshops. You should apply wood putty to wood only after staining or varnishing the wood as it can contain chemicals that could damage the raw wood.
The ingredients of wood putty may differ from one manufacturer to another. Still, the common factor is that they are all oil-based. The primary components of this product are boiled linseed oil, calcium carbonate, and pigment. Wood putty feels like a plastic resin, and it becomes soft and pliable on adding water. You have to use a putty knife.
Once applied, wood putty takes a long time to dry, much longer than the drying wood filler. Some putty comes with a hardener, which helps the putty to dry and harden faster. The extended drying time is by far the biggest drawback of wood putty. Because it takes so much time to dry, there is a high chance of accumulating dust and thereby darkening the areas where you apply the putty.
Wood putty comes in various colors, making it convenient to match it with the color of the stain used on the wood surface. Putty is a suitable filling agent for outdoor furniture and other outdoor wooden items because of its weatherproof properties.
Pros and Cons of Wood Putty
Wood putty is a versatile filling agent that you can use in your woodworking projects. There are a few downsides to it as well. Here are some of the main pros and cons of wood putty:
- Wood putty is a cost-effective solution to deal with defects and gaps in the wood.
- Oil-based putty behaves as an adhesive, so you may not need a wood sealer in many cases.
- Wood putty is ideal for outdoor furniture as it doesn’t shrink and expand due to changing weather conditions.
- It comes in a variety of colors.
- You can use wood putty as an adhesive.
- It has a much longer drying time than wood filler.
- Due to the lengthy drying time, wood putty attracts dust, darkening its color as it dries.
As you can see, there is a marked difference between wood putty and wood filler.
When you come to that stage in your woodworking project that you need to use a filler, you must consider the various factors involved. Each set of circumstances points to whether using wood putty or wood filler is suitable.
Remember that both wood putty and wood filler have their unique advantages and disadvantages discussed in detail here. For instance, if your project is for woodwork items for outdoor use, you need to use putty. Wood filler would be useless, as it cannot resist the elements.