Wood Filler is Your Friend.
The other great tool I use for building the dollhouse is wood filler, wood putty, plastic wood, miracle Minwax. This stuff fixes pretty much everything that I do wrong.
As hard as I try to cut all my joins nice and tight, I can never seem to get them perfect. Don’t even get me started on trying to figure out how to get angles to match up, I’m pretty sure every time I get out my protractor, aliens wrinkle space time around me and shove my brain into my butt. I don’t know if I’m ruler-disabled, or just spacially challenged, but I never seem to get my joins perfect.
That means, every time I go to finish a join, I have three options: do it again, sand forever, or splotch on some wood filler. Because I’m such a fan of doing things the easy way, I almost always scrape a bit of this on my finger, and squeeze it into the crack. Once this stuff dries, I can sand it and paint it and it’s impossible to tell the difference between the filler and the wood. (Note: this stuff does not seem to take stain well.)
This is the grease that makes the world turn… or… it’s the difference between a swiss-cheese join, and the appearance of Amish-built craftsmanship.
But wait! There’s more!
If you think wood filler is great, (you’re right), you’ll be happy to know that if you’re in a pinch – you can make your own. As long as you have some spare saw dust lying around, just dump a bit on the table (or wax paper) and add a drop or two of wood glue. Then, knead it into a paste and voila! Wood filler.
There are a few things to point out about this stuff:
- I’m pretty sure Paul Sellers hates this stuff. And if Paul Sellers hates it, then it is no good. But then again, I will probably never be as good as he is, so I’ll be stuck needing crutches like this to help me out until I get my ninja woodcrafter star. (This is not an example of Poe’s law. I genuinely admire Paul Sellers.)
- There are different kinds of wood filler, water-based, and petroleum-based. I’ll leave it to you to decide what works best.
- Some wood filler says that it’s stainable. Then again, I used to tell people my dad could beat up their dad, and I didn’t know their dad. I just said it. Like people just say that this wood filler is stainable. The point is: people lie. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that wood filler is stainable. (Then again, I could be lying… oh no. Who to believe?)
- It dries as hard as wood. When I am smearing it on, I always think, “You don’t have to get it perfectly smooth Josh, you can just hit it with some sandpaper when it’s dry.” This is true… but it’s just as hard (maybe harder) to sand this stuff as it is to sand wood. Try to make it as smooth as you can before it dries.
- It basically calcifies on my finger. Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t be using my finger to put this stuff on my dollhouse – but I don’t care. If you’re like me and you don’t want to dig out a sponge, just know you should probably go rinse it off before it dries on your hand.
- This is not glue. It kinda smells like glue, and it dries hard like glue, and it even seems to hold two boards together (like glue.) But over time, the wood will change shape with humidity. When it does, you’ll find out the hard way that this is not glue. The wood will split at the join, and this stuff will come crumbling out like crusty ancient wooden mouse turds. Keep your seams as tight as you can – and only use this for cosmetics. If the gap is greater than 1/8th of an inch… this isn’t the solution.
What others have to say:
Here are a few other places where you can read about paying attention to the details, or find inspiration for your own DIY details:
- The Spruce has an article all about wood putty – what don’t they have an article about?
- SF Gate (mute your volume) has a good bit of info on wood filler – and they start by saying it’s a wood crafter’s best friend. If they agree with me, they must be right.
- WoodWorkersJournal has an article on how to make your own wood filler.
- TheCraftsman looks at a number of different ways to patch wood.
- HighlandWoodworking has a nice little Q&A on using wood filler.