Filling Nail Holes on Pre-Finished Stair Treads

Tips on mixing wood filler out of glue and wood flour, to blend invisibly with the wood. March 4, 2009

Does anyone have a "recipe" for wood filler? I have tried the old glue and wood flour as well as using lacquer and wood flour but I’m still getting less than satisfactory results. I usually use Famowood but on the lighter species like maple it really stands out when the finish is applied. Ideally I am looking for something I can mix the flower from the actual wood I am using at the time to achieve the best match.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
Try the same kind of glue in a tube that’s used to assemble plastic model airplanes and ships and cars.

From contributor D:
Glitsa Finishes makes a solvent based wood flour cement that works well. It would be found at a local wood floor distributor.

From contributor O:
Try what contributor R said about using the airplane glue. If the color does not work, try a bit of stain mixed in to your filler. Works like a charm for us.

From contributor C:
What works best for me (if the damage is small) is a combination of superglue and applying it directly to the defect and sanding it right after, before the glue sets up - this will give you a mixture of the glue and the exact wood type you’re using and no need to keep sanding dust on hand.

From the original questioner:
I should have been more specific though. Your formulas are great for filling in small defects. What I am looking for is something to fill in a quantity of nail holes and make them disappear. I am doing a stairway for a client and the treads are going in pre-finished.

I am using Bullseye sanding sealer and ceramathane for the finish over red oak. I usually put on two coats of the bullseye and two coats of the final finish then once the stairs are done and before the plumber can trample over it with his mud caked boots do a light screening and put the third coat on. This is when I fill the nail holes and buff them flush with a ScotchBrite pad. I have been using famowood with limited success but it still stands out. Has anyone tried the real old fashioned way of using liquid hide glue and wood flour? Allegedly the hide glue will accept finish and match the remainder of the wood (I don’t think my customer will enjoy the stink of hide glue). I am going to have to fill approximately 100 nail holes through the treads. The skirts and risers are no big deal as I will put a final coat of paint on them.

From the original questioner:
I just started using the burn-in system. I have to say I like it. It is a bit of fiddling for doing that many holes but definitely a thought.

From contributor L:
Following the discussion as it leads to "hiding" fasteners: for small, "hide the thing for good," nails and screws, the best way is open a hole with the grain using a mortise chisel. Then drill or sink the fastener. Glue, replace the raised wood, and clamp. Obviously not for large jobs, but for repairs and building fine pieces it hides the "hole" forever.