Recreating Historic Period Wood Filler

How to mix up a batch of the wood filler our forefathers used to use. June 23, 2006

I am looking for a good homemade wood putty recipe. The application is for simply filling over set finish nails. I believe I once saw a recipe which included sawdust of the wood species one is working with, boiled linseed oil, and hide glue? Your help would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor L:
Why? There's a lot of commercial tried and true putty sticks on the market. Do you feel a home made one is going to be better? Not going to be cheaper, in my opinion, and if it fails, there is still the callback factor. If playing on your own time and projects, there are a number of old books with such formulas.

From the original questioner:
The reason I don't want to use modern wood putty is because it is modern - not period appropriate. I am looking for a recipe that is appropriate for American construction, 1840-1880.

From contributor F:
If the piece is stained, use beeswax and shellac colored to match. If it's painted, use putty. In some cases, a chip is carefully raised with a small gouge, the nail driven in and the chip glued back in place.

From contributor D:
How period appropriate are finish nails?

From contributor V:
It doesn't matter, cause they didn't have eyeglasses! If you want to go back to arcane recipes, you might have to find arcane supplies.

Here is a excerpt from one of my books:
Ready made stoppings can be obtained in sticks that need to be melted.
Beaumontage: A hard stopping for cabinet work. Mix equal parts beeswax and crushed rosin. add a few flakes of brown or orange shellac. Heat in a tin and stir well together. Add powder color to suit wood it is to match; vandyke brown for walnut and dark oak, venetian red, or red ochre for mahogany. Stir thoroughly and either keep in tin or pour out into the rounded corner of a tin lid to form into sticks. In the latter case, heat a pointed iron and press the stopping against it so that the latter run down into the hole. If kept in the tin, the latter is heated and the stopping applied with a pointed matchstick.
Putty: For painted wood or rough deal work. It will not absorb stain. Add boiled linseed oil to dried crushed whiting and knead well. It can be colored with venetian red powder to resemble mahogany or vandyke brown for dark oak.
Polisher's Putty: For filling holes in deal and other light woods. Add white polish to whiting, mixing to the consistency of putty. Give the wood a coat of French polish before pressing in the mixture. This stopping will take spirit stain.
Cheap Stopping: For cheap deal shelvings, fixtures, etc. It will absorb water stain. Mix plaster of paris with glue size. Press into the hole.
Other Stoppings: Heel ball, brown or black, can be used, but it does not set very hard. Sealing wax of suitable color is an alternative, but is brittle.

From the original questioner:
Sorry - I am filing over cut nails. I don't believe most modern carpenters have ever laid eyes on a cut nail.

From contributor B:
I like a trick George Frank wrote about using. Soft bread, moistened with saliva, tinted with powdered rottenstone, jammed into the holes.

From contributor S:
On walnut, use an old Hershey bar. It works, but destroy the evidence.