This Old Erie House
By Linda Martin Community Blogger
Owners of old houses have so much in common that house talk comes easy between us. Please join in the conversation as we try to fix, restore and update our old Erie houses.  Read more about this blog.
Posts tagged ‘grain filler’
Posted: March 3rd, 2010

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.

Posted in: baseboards, finishes
Posted: February 18th, 2010

So far I’m a bit disappointed. I mail ordered the Timbermate Wood Filler because it sure looked like it worked really well in the YouTube commercials. It’s water based and no waste as you can add water to the sanded off powder and reuse it.

I first tried it on about a 6 ft piece of 8-inch wide, old-growth white oak baseboard.

I diluted it down to the consistency of thick paint and smeared it on the board. I left it proud of the surface so I could sand it down flat and smooth. When it dried I started sanding it off with 120 sandpaper. The directions said not to use coarser than that. It sanded pretty easily and turned into a powder like corn starch. You can save the powder and add it back to the bucket and reuse it. It sanded off nice and smooth. Then I brushed on my first coat of garnet shellac. The white-oak colored Timbermate took on the color of the garnet shellac and looked good. But the grain and ridges still started to build like it does when I don’t use wood filler. You can really see it in the raking light.

Shellac has that tendency to “pucker” up along the ridge lines because of the surface tension of the quick evaporation of the alcohol in it. I ended up having to do just as much sanding and rubbing back as I normally do. Maybe I sanded it down too far.

In the next try I made the mixture a little thicker and this time I sanded it off using 320 sandpaper and didn’t sand down all the way down to the wood. I could see the grain but I didn’t feel the grain. It took a lot longer to sand with the 320 sandpaper. I thought that would work better than my first try. It did, but I still didn’t get that nice smooth surface you see on the commercials. I think perhaps it was because of the nature of shellac. I did get my final smooth surface with no grain showing with less rubbing out. I guess I was looking for miracles.

I have more baseboards to do. My next try will be to put Waterlox Original on top of the grain filler as a first coat and let it dry overnight. Maybe if I can keep the the shellac from soaking into the grain filler, it won’t pucker up on the ridges. I’ll let you know how that works.

Posted: February 12th, 2010

Thursday: Feb 12, 2010

I’m having a heck of a time refinishing the woodwork in my house because it is oak with deep grain and pore patterns. Either you have to use a grain filler or you have to put on lots of coats of shellac and sand it back until the pores are filled or it looks really cheap. I’ve been doing the latter. It’s been a battle on all the window woodwork, the colonnade, and the stairs. I tried grain filler before and it was so much more work because it dried like cement. I even tried using a watered-down plaster mix for the filler but it didn’t take the stain well and the one window has a “pickled” look to the grain. It would work well for something painted that needed the grain to be filled and it certainly was cheap! I’ll have to redo that one at some point because it isn’t painted.

I saw a commercial for Timbermate on YouTube and ordered some. It came yesterday and was frozen solid and hidden in a snow drift that developed on my porch. I didn’t hear the doorbell ring. But right on the package it says it is not affected by being frozen, thank goodness. Hopefully I’ll get to another of the baseboards this weekend so I can try it out. I’m moving right along on my projects but at a snail’s pace.

I also received my quart of satin Waterlox so I can top coat my baseboards to cut the (garnet dewaxed shellac) shine to a satin finish. I have “Shellac Flat” but I like the way Waterlox dries so slowly and evenly for my top coat plus the extra protection it will give for spills and other accidents that may happen (we have cats.)

Hopefully soon, I’ll have some photos to show you how good it turned out (or not.)