Wood Filler Blotches

stewiepopcornAugust 28, 2010


I have a seen a number of postings in this forum on the topic of blotches caused by Minwax "Stainable" Wood Filler. I wish I would have checked here first before applying this product to all of the nail holes in a house full of brand new windows. The damage has been done, so I don't need any recommendations on products that do work. What I need to know is how I can best minimize the discolored circles that surround the nail holes on my windows. One coat of stain has already been applied. Thanks

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Sanding. Lots of it.

That is usually a problem with lighter stains. Dark stains do the same, but are not as noticeable.

The problem is that sanding will also remove some of the stain. And you will need to reapply stain.

And that will probably cause the problem to reoccur.

Solution---and groan before you read further---is to remove the filler, stain, and use paint sticks or filler sticks to match the stain. Then finish.

I actually did that on three windows a customer had tried to do herself. She had the skills to do the trim work, but ran into the exact problem you have.

I simply used a drill bit just slightly larger than the filled hole in a cordless drill on the slowest speed. I did not need to drill to the nail head, but did often. The trick was to be able to control the side movement.

It took an hour to drill out the stuff on the three windows. But, the end result satisfied her.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 12:41PM
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AS I read it, you filled the nail holes on bare wood, applied a stain (oil base or water base) but as yet, have applied no finish. You have a ring or blotch because the wood filler not only filled the nail hole, but also filled the wood pores around the nail hole.
In this case, my suggestion to you would be to use paint remover to lift out the wood filler, then restain. Your last step would be to fill the nail holes with a colored wax filler stick or crayon after the finish is applied.
I can't recommend any other procedure because you did not provide the specifics like; type of wood; type of stain; if finish was applied; and at what point the filler was used. In other words, I need to know the wood and your schedule.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 3:21PM
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Omigosh, I cannot believe there is a thread about this problem! About 2 years ago, I had windows in my whole house replaced with unbelievably expensive kolbe windows trimmed in clear fir to match. My (totally wonderful) contractor filled the holes with the same product and every single one is blotched. He finished the windows and the trim with a marine oil, which is beautiful and holding up wonderfully, except for the splotches. Just yesterday I finally took a rag with the same marine oil and tried to rub out the splotches; it made no change at all. I know when he put first coat of oil on the wood, he cut it with mineral spirits, then another coat (or 2, 3 in the kitchen) of the oil straight. Can you suggest what might work on this finish to remove the splotches (short of sanding?) They don't show too much except at night, and with 26 windows - well, that's too much work. (asking him to fix it isn't an option). Thanks for any suggestions.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 6:36PM
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Paint grade vs. stain grade. Same work but about $20 an hour difference in labor to get it right.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 7:03PM
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The problem is in the wood/filler UNDER the finish.

I know of nothing that can be used ON TOP of the finish to fix the problem UNDER the finish.

The only way to fix the problem is to remove the problem and replace the area(s) with something that will not repeat the problem.

There are ways some people say will fix this problem. Gel stains(a glorified paint), washes, toners, and glazes. All those producyts have their place and use.

None will fix the problem being discussed, IMHO.

Finishing is much more than slapping on a varnish or lacquer over a stain or dye. Especially when a dissimilar filler is used. Many competent contractors/designers/craftspersons do not know or practice that fact. The results are usually what the OP and you now have.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 9:02PM
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In my case (see post above), the filler was added after the wood was finished with a marine oil (not a varnish or stain). Nothing is on top of the filler. So I was hoping more oil would dissolve/soften it in the splotches. Since mineral spirits thin the oil, would mineral spirits maybe dissolve/soften the filler?

Aidan, do you mean that the wood colored fillers that cause this problem are only designed to be used if you are going to paint over them? I didn't really understand your reply, except the $$ part. Thanks.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 9:37PM
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Depending on the final finish it is often far easier to leave the holes alone until all colored finishes are applied, then use shellac sticks (and even permanent markers to 'grain' larger patches) then apply a clear top coat.

It is a large amount of detail work, and often very expensive.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 9:39AM
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My point is that experience is well worth the price paid. This is case and point. Every finish carpenter started out not knowing the nature of wood, putty, stains, and finishes. We learned by making mistakes, noticing the mistakes, and figuring out how to make it better. All the advice over here is coming from those who have gone through the learning process.

Wood colored fillers are designed to sell and make money, just like everything else you buy. Selecting the right products and materials is what the craft is all about.

Your only option is to dig out the putty. A drill works well for the nail holes. For the putty nested in the wood grain, use a needle, x-acto knife, or seam ripper, to carefully scratch out the discolorations from the wood grain. follow up by sanding and wiping with mineral spirits. The mineral spirits should help you to see any remaining putty.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 3:15PM
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Tbanks aidan. Unfortunately, we who hire folks like my contractor, who is a wonderful craftsman, is a pleasure to work with, and who goes the extra mile for me, don't know what they know and what they don't. I'm sure he's done this over and over but this time it is more noticeable, or I'm pickier than some. It will be a lesson for him, but I likely will never have new windows installed again, so it's wasted on me. Thanks again to you all for your insights.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 5:08PM
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If your problem blotches are too much for you to live with, a way to ameliorate it would be this. On a piece of glass, mix some artist paint to match the color of your wood. One mix for the lighter color and one mix for the darker color. Then, with a fine brush, apply little dots over the blotched area till it blends in or is less noticeable. This is a technique sometimes used to repair antiques. If you don't like the looks of your first try, you can just wipe it off with a rag dampened with paint thinner. Then try again.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 6:04PM
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Thanks someone2010 for that idea. Who knew there are so many tricks for problems with wood! By artists paint, do you mean like oil paints? Sounds kind of scary, but I could try it on a less prominent window in a spare bedroom maybe. Interesting idea. The windows are finished with polymerized Tung Oil. Do you think paint thinner would still be okay?

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 1:52AM
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You are going to need a coat of clear finish on any paint/shellac stick/etc. type repair to protect the repair and hide the change in surfaces sheen.

Paint thinner will not harm cured finishes, except for removing any wax on the surface.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 10:17AM
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My finish now is polymerized Tung oil, nothing else. I would assume i couldn't put any kind of other finish on top of that, as wouldn't the oil keep it from adhering to the wood? I appreciate all the sharing of expertise here. Thank you all so much!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 12:51PM
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Two other proceedures you might consider. You can order felt markers for furniture touch up, on line. You get about ten markers and you can use these to make dots and lines to simulate your wood.
Another technique would be to use a card scraper. This is a thin piece of steel about the size of a playing card. You use this to scrape off the finish and hopefully the filler, then you apply the same finish. Finally you use a wax furniture repair crayon of the appropriate color to fill the nail hole. You may have to use a nail set to drive the nail a little way into the wood and leave a hole for the way filler.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2010 at 12:37AM
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The second to last word in the above post is supposed to be wax, not way.

I have several more ways to fix the problem, but they require more expertise and a higher initial investment. The manner I use depends on what is appropriate on an individual basis.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2010 at 1:11AM
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"I would assume i couldn't put any kind of other finish on top of that, as wouldn't the oil keep it from adhering to the wood?"

The repaired areas will have no finish to protect the repair.

Repairing defects in 'thin' finishes like Tung poil are always a problem, especially if you want to keep the rest of the surface 'as is.'

The best you can usually do is try to conceal larger defects and live with any sheen change at the repairs.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2010 at 10:15AM
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Thank you all again for sharing your expertise. The nail holes are fine, blend in perfectly. Around each nail hole is an area that looks like a fingerprint, where my contractor blended in the putty, then wiped it off, I assume. There is no putty that i can see or feel in the splotches and they only show at night. What it looks like happened was the putty was wiped on and filled the minute hairs of the grain (it is cvg fir)and then when the wood aged and darkened, the putty didn't, although he did use a darker putty so it would blend after the wood darkened some - the holes are a perfect color. I think the posts about just trying to blend a tiny bit of finish darker than the putty to mimic the fir color would work. I think the fir has darkened as much as it is going to. I'm going to try it on a less conspicuous window and see if it's an improvement. If not, I can sand and start over. Thank you all!!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2010 at 10:48AM
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