In my last post I said I wouldn’t need grain filler on the baseboards I removed from the wall because I used the card scraper to strip them of their shellac. When I sanded them lightly to smooth them out before finishing, I noticed some areas that sanding dust was setting in the grain so I decided I need to go ahead and grain-fill, which I did with Timbermate. I let it dry and sanded it lightly, cleaned it off with a tack rag and then applied Waterlox on top letting it dry overnight. They came out looking nice and smooth. I put on several layers of dewaxed garnet shellac and still had to sand back to keep it smooth, though much less than if I didn’t fill the grain. I think had I used any other finish than shellac, I wouldn’t of had to sand back at all except for the final.
I have tried the Behlens grain filler (solvent-based) a long time ago and it was such a pain and dried really hard and took so much sanding that I ended up stripping it back and started over without filling the grain.
There are very little reviews out there about Timbermate wood filler as of this posting. Charles Neil (woodworker) has posted on some message boards that he likes it and uses it. He likes it because he says it doesn’t shrink because it uses silica as a base instead of gypsum. I think it depends on how much you thin it down. If there is a lot of water in it, I would think it would have to shrink some as it dries.
I was taken in by the commericals on YouTube. I paid $18 for a quart of Timbermate plus $11 for shipping. I thought that was really a lot. I just checked Behlen’s water-based filler price and it was about the same. And Behlens solvent-based is almost $24 a qt. Wow, that’s a lot. I don’t remember how much it was when I bought it several years ago. I’m trying to find products that do the job at a reasonable cost. After all, we have a whole house to do. After my quart of Timbermate is used up, I’m going to try this plaster method again, below. There are also photos below.
I read about how they used plaster of paris in the “olden days” to fill the grain. So after the bad experience with the solvent-based grain filler (this was years ago,) I tried it on one of my window sills. It was easy to put on and squeegee off. It will clog your sink up so don’t pour leftovers down the drain. It is super cheap and can buy it just about anywhere. I was disappointed as it dried white in the pores and didn’t take the shellac color hardly at all. If the right amount of color or dye had been added, it probably would have worked good. The window sill still has light pores and redoing it is on my to-do list. It works good for these people at the link below.
When researching online, I found this website that finishes pianos in the UK.
They use plaster of paris as a grain filler but color it. Boy, would that be cheaper to use. Of course the secret to using that would be getting the color to be a little darker than the color of the finish so it would look natural. That would take some experimenting because it wouldn’t show the end result color until it was dried and the finish put on. You’d have to buy some kind of water-based tinting pigments to add to it.
Here is my experience with the plaster of paris. I only put the plaster on the bottom sill. If the color had been right, it filled the grain nicely. You can see the open grain on the sides of the window woodwork. I enlarged the areas where the arrows point for detail.
In this detail photo you can see the pores and grain are not filled. (above)
Here the pores and grain are filled but they appear light because I didn’t add dye to the plaster. It looks almost like the effect when you put on a “pickled” finish. I think it would work well if the color was right as you can see how well it turned out in the photos of the piano maker in the link above. And best of all, I remember it as being easy to do.