Patching Brad Holes

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by Jerry posted 12-10-2010 07:18 PM 2317 views 9 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Jerry's profile


23 posts in 3527 days

12-10-2010 07:18 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wood putty tip finishing brad holes

I took a woodworking finishing class out at my local JC and the instructor taught me this very cool patch trick. If you do this correctly, your brad holes or other small voids will be, for all practical purposes… INVISIBLE! I have used this technique on a number of projects with excellent results!

The problem: When you patch a hole in bare unfinished wood with commercial wood putty it looks great! It looks great…that is…until you apply stain and/or clear coat. After the application of stain or clear coat, the brad hole patch stands out like a sore thumb because it’s now a different hue than the wood. To make matters worse, the round symmetrical shape of the patch only accentuates the color variation.

The solution: Take your sanded bare wood project and apply your stain (if staining) and then the first clear coat. It can be polyurethane, lacquer or whatever. Allow the first clear coat to dry. From this point forward, additional clear coats will not significantly change the color of the wood. Now, using white painters putty and universal color pigments, you can match the putty’s color perfectly to the color of the wood, fill in the holes, allow the putty to dry and then apply the remaining clear coats. Voila, a perfect match!

Required Materials: Rubber gloves, oil base painter’s putty (oil base will not shrink), and three universal colors, “raw sienna”, “burn sienna” and “burnt umber”. Use raw sienna for the yellow woods like maple & pine, burnt sienna for the reds like mahogany and koa, and burnt umber for the browns like walnut & teak. The theory is, “you can mix-and-match these three colors to match any wood color”.

Wearing rubber gloves, take a walnut sized batch of white painters putty and mix-and-match the universal colors into the putty until it matches the color of the wood. If there are variations in the woods color, match the lighter color first then break the putty in half and match the remaining half to the darker color. Now you have two balls of tinted painters putty, one lighter shade and one darker shade that match the colors in the wood.

Dry out the putty by working in a small amount of corn starch into the putty by rolling it between the palms of your hands. Don’t over do it, just enough so it’s not too sticky to work with.

Roll the putty to a fine point, push it into the void then break it off. Work it in with a small plastic putty knife or similar object if necessary. (I made my own small application tool by cutting up a bondo applicator.) Do not sand! Let dry for 24 hours. If the patch disrupts a line of grain, take a very fine artist brush and draw the grain line back in using the appropriate universal color(s). You can also use a colored pencil.

Now you can apply the remainder of your clear coats. The additional coats will not change the wood color or the putty color.

Store putty in plastic bag in the refrigerator. It will keep for a couple of days or so.

-- Jerry - Roseville, CA

12 replies so far

View thebigvise's profile


191 posts in 3379 days

#1 posted 12-10-2010 07:27 PM

You could consider epoxy putty which is tough and absolutely does not shrink as it cures. The color match could be done up front with dye powder. Just a thought…

-- Paul, Clinton, NC

View Jerry's profile


23 posts in 3527 days

#2 posted 12-10-2010 07:43 PM

I do indeed uses epoxy but for larger viod repaires.

-- Jerry - Roseville, CA

View HallTree's profile


5665 posts in 4246 days

#3 posted 12-10-2010 08:28 PM

Good Tip!
Question. I assume the the three universal colors, “raw sienna”, “burn sienna” and “burnt umber” would also be oil base, or would that matter?

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3593 days

#4 posted 12-10-2010 09:05 PM

thank´s for the tip something I never had thought of
becourse most of my earlier work (neraly all) had to be painted too

take care

View Jerry's profile


23 posts in 3527 days

#5 posted 12-10-2010 10:43 PM

The colors are water base but are also compatible with oil base. You can buy therse at Home Depot.

-- Jerry - Roseville, CA

View woody57's profile


650 posts in 3906 days

#6 posted 12-12-2010 02:32 AM

That is a great tip. Thanks a lot. I usually use colored putty after the piece has been stained, but I never get a real good match.

-- Emmett, from Georgia

View rance's profile


4271 posts in 3639 days

#7 posted 12-12-2010 04:00 AM

Good info. to know Jerry, thanks. Could you possibly show a side by side with the b ad way and the good way? That would be impressive. Just a thought. :)

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Carbide's profile


210 posts in 2924 days

#8 posted 09-15-2011 02:50 AM

I use the “color putty” brand non hardening putty after staining and before the clear coat. It has worked great for me in the past. Especially with walnut which never has a putty that matches.

-- When it feels like a job, it isn't a hobby anymore.

View Ken90712's profile


17707 posts in 3667 days

#9 posted 09-15-2011 01:46 PM

Very interesting, will have to give this a shot always looking for improvements like this.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Mauricio's profile


7163 posts in 3630 days

#10 posted 07-21-2013 06:04 PM

Just want to say that I’ve been using this trick and it works great. What kind of color pencil do you use to draw in the grain lines?

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Fuzzy's profile


298 posts in 4467 days

#11 posted 07-22-2013 03:09 PM

Another good technique is to lay down little patches of tape wherever you plan to shoot a brad … shoot it THROUGH the tape … fill the hole with untinted filler … remove the tape … stain & finish. It keeps the filler from spreading around the nail hole, which is what causes the big splotch !!!

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View Mauricio's profile


7163 posts in 3630 days

#12 posted 04-08-2016 04:44 PM

Bump this one again, this was a great post, very useful.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics