Wood Trim Touch-Up

Advice on touching up trim when filler in the nail holes doesn't quite match the main finish on the pieces. November 9, 2008

I have a house trim project that includes the reinstallation of 19th century walnut trim. The nail holes (there are quite a few because the trim was salvaged and reused) were filled with a common (shaded) hole filler, then the final (4th) coat of orange shellac was applied. As one might expect, there is some shading difference and touchup of the filler areas is required. My thought was to utilize an artist's brush to apply stain, but was unsure as to what product to use on top of the shellac.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor S:
Any alcohol or acetone soluble dye (NGR dye if you have it) will bite into the shellac and work fine and fast. Make up your color, and add a little shellac as a binder if you want. You can add dry powder pigment also if you need to.

From contributor P:
What about using artist oil paint? It can be blended to infinity, has a good open time, can be opaque or translucent as required, and when it dries you either leave it or use a little aerosol varnish. None of this will affect the shellac.

From contributor D:
My first thought would be powder colors or dye concentrate such as Transtint dye mixed into a thin shellac - maybe 1lb cut - then touch it in with an artist brush. With a little patience and a delicate touch, this would be a finished touchup in one shot. Using a small selection of dyes and/or powders you can adjust the color according to whatever variance is encountered as I'm sure it will take more than one color. However, if you find you have need of an aerosol finish to go over any spot work, you can buy Zinsser shellac in aerosol form at most any home center or paint store.

From contributor G:
If the filler is lighter, you can use something like Mohawk Touchup markers for an acceptable repair. If you need to make dark filler lighter, contributor P is on the right track, but I'd use acrylic artist paints to improve the dry time. A tiny spot of filler isn't going to need a huge amount of color matching.

From contributor B:
Sounds like a lot of good suggestions, except for the Zinsser spray. Those cans can't be controlled for a small area or delicate touchup. They really blast a large area. I like the powders with shellac. Fast and accurate with a teeny brush (like 000).

From contributor D:
Good catch and thanks for jogging my memory. Actually, I agree with you about the aerosol shellac. I only used that product a couple of times long ago. I remember now that it is designed to be sprayed as a coating in itself, unlike the aerosol lacquer touchup sprays I use all the time in spot repair work. Regardless of that, no aerosol is needed using the method of touching up that I described.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the input. The filler is somewhat lighter in every case and I used a flattener with the shellac topcoat, so it's a satin to semi-gloss sheen, so I don't think I'd need to make an effort to topcoat to match the sheen.