How To Make Wood Filler Without Sawdust

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We’ve written of wood fillers in the past, and the most comprehensive piece published on these pages had to do with choosing the right wood filler for your project.  It will answer many, if not most, of the questions you have about wood fillers.

For instance, we covered the many types of wood fillers available today on the market.  Included in that article was a description of various types of commercial wood fillers in just a few words:

Key Points:

  • No sawdust?  No problem.  Don’t worry about making a wood filler without sawdust.
  • The necessary ingredients are likely already in your shop and home to make a filler without sawdust.
  • It’s easy and quick, won’t make a mess, and you can store any leftover homemade filler for future use.
  • Water-based wood fillers. Water-based wood fillers are easy to use and dry quickly. They are a good choice for small holes and gaps in interior projects and are intended for unfinished wood.
  • Oil-based wood fillers. Oil-based wood fillers are more durable than water-based wood fillers. They are a good choice for large holes and gaps and for use with exterior projects.
  • Epoxy wood fillers. Epoxy wood fillers are the most durable type of wood filler. They are a good choice for repairing large holes and gaps and for use with exterior projects.
  • Bondo wood filler. Bondo wood filler is a two-part epoxy wood filler that is very durable. It is a good choice for repairing large holes and gaps and for use with exterior projects.
  • Wax wood filler sticks.  They even come tinted, like Mohawk Fil-Stiks.

There are many commercial wood fillers among these various types, and the one you choose to use will depend on a number of factors for your woodworking projects. 

When it comes to using wood fillers, there are some important considerations, too.  What are you filling – small holes like nail holes and gaps? – or larger holes and gaps?  What’s the type of wood – hardwood or softwood? Did you know, for instance, that an oil-based wood filler can cause a softwood to swell?  That is not the case with hardwoods.

In another past article, we also discussed a DIY wood filler using things already present in your woodworking shop – a bit of glue, some sawdust from the wood you’re using for your project, a paper plate, and a piece of scrap wood for stirring. In that same article, we also examined just how strong wood filler really is.  You might want to check that out, too.

But what if you don’t have the sawdust handy?

You vacuumed it up, and it’s gone, and that container of wood filler you thought was on the shelf isn’t there?  Well, there are other options for a DIY wood filler, and it can be made from other “stuff” you already have in your home, if not your woodworking shop.

Homemade Wood Filler With Sawdust

We mentioned making your own homemade wood filler with items already in your shop.  It’s a pretty easy thing to make and will take just a few minutes.  Here’s what you will need:

  • Sawdust from the same type of wood as the project you are working on
  • Wood glue, perhaps a Titebond III, or simply Elmer’s Wood Glue
  • A mixing container like a paper cup, or a paper plate, as we mentioned
  • A spoon or stick for stirring
Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue, 16-Ounces #1414, 3 Pack
  • Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue, 16-Ounces #1414, 3 Pack

The steps are easy:

  1. Mix the sawdust and glue together. Add a small amount of glue to the paper cup or paper plate, and then add the sawdust. Stir the mixture until it forms a thick paste.
  2. Apply the wood filler to the damaged area. Use a putty knife or your fingers to apply the wood filler to the damaged area. Be sure to smooth out the surface of the wood filler so that it is flush with the surrounding wood.
  3. Let the wood filler dry. The wood filler will need to dry for at least 24 hours.
  4. Sand the wood filler. Once the wood filler is dry, you will need to sand it smooth. Use a fine-grit sandpaper to sand the wood filler until it is flush with the surrounding wood.
  5. Stain or paint the wood filler. If you are staining the project, you will need to stain the wood filler before staining the rest of the project. If you are painting the project, you can paint the wood filler after painting the rest of the project.

Here are some tips for making wood filler:

  • Use the same type of wood for the sawdust and the project you are working on. This will help the wood filler to blend in better with the surrounding wood.  It will also help the wood filler take stain the same way the surrounding wood will take it.
  • Add more glue or sawdust to the mixture until you get the desired consistency. The wood filler should be thick enough to hold its shape but not so thick that it is difficult to apply.
  • Be sure to sand the wood filler smooth before staining or painting with a fine-grit sandpaper. This will help to create a smooth, even finish.

Again, though, what to do if you have no sawdust?

A Homemade Wood Filler Without Sawdust

Corn Starch

No sawdust?  No problem.  Go to the kitchen and grab some cornstarch.  That’s right, corn starch.  What is it, you ask?

One ingredient you may not have handy, though, is petroleum jelly unless you have a jar of Vasoline in the bathroom.  That may seem odd because we know that petroleum jelly is soft and gooey, and how could that contribute to making a good wood filler.

But let’s look at both corn starch and petroleum jelly and understand how they can give us what we want.

What is Corn Starch?

Cornstarch is a fine, white powder made from the starchy endosperm of corn kernels. It is a common food ingredient used as a thickening agent in sauces, gravies, soups, and other dishes. Cornstarch is also used in many industrial applications, such as papermaking, adhesives, and textiles.

Cornstarch is a good source of carbohydrates and calories. It is also a good source of fiber, which can help to regulate digestion. Cornstarch is a gluten-free food, which makes it a good choice for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Here are some of the benefits of cornstarch:

  • Thickens liquids
  • Improves texture
  • Provides calories and carbohydrates
  • Is a good source of fiber
  • Is gluten-free

If you have eaten Chinese food before, you have consumed cornstarch.  It’s used to coat meats for stir-frying, and it’s used to thicken sauces.  While in the West, flour is commonly used for such things in the kitchen, but in the East, it’s a slurry of cornstarch and water that is common.

What is Petroleum Jelly?

Petroleum jelly is a semi-solid, colorless, odorless, and tasteless mixture of hydrocarbons. It is derived from petroleum and is used as a topical ointment for its healing properties. Petroleum jelly is also used as a lubricant, an emollient, and a protectant.

Petroleum jelly was first discovered in 1859 by Robert Augustus Chesebrough. Chesebrough was an American chemist who was working on a way to improve the efficiency of oil lamps. He noticed that oil workers would use gooey jelly to heal their wounds and burns.

Chesebrough eventually packaged this jelly as Vaseline.

Here are some of the uses of petroleum jelly:

  • Healing wounds: Petroleum jelly can help to keep wounds moist and protected, which can help them to heal faster.
  • Moisturizing the skin: Petroleum jelly can help to lock in moisture and prevent the skin from drying out.
  • Protecting the skin: Petroleum jelly can help to protect the skin from the elements, such as wind, cold, and sun.
  • Lubricating joints: Petroleum jelly can help to lubricate joints and reduce friction.
  • Removing makeup: Petroleum jelly can be used to remove makeup without irritating the skin.

And now, to that list, we can add homemade wood filler.

Should You Use Petroleum in a Homemade Wood Filler?

Yes, you can use petroleum jelly in homemade wood filler. Petroleum jelly is a non-toxic, water-resistant substance that can help to make the wood filler more durable. It can also help to prevent the wood filler from cracking or shrinking.

These are important considerations, and justify their use in your DIY wood filler.

Mixing The Ingredients For A Homemade Wood Filler Without Sawdust

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We’ve identified and assembled our ingredients and equipment, and we’re ready to start mixing our DIY wood filler.  It’s an easy process, too.

The Ingredients

  • White wood glue
  • Finely ground cornstarch 
  • Petroleum jelly
  • A mixing container, paper cup, or paper plate
  • A spoon or piece of scrap wood
  • Disposable gloves

The Instructions:

  1. Mix the glue and cornstarch together in a mixing container.
  2. Add a small amount of petroleum jelly to the mixture and stir until it is well combined.  Work it with your hands like you are kneading bread dough or cookie dough.  You want it to be mixed fully with no dry, crumbly, lumpy parts in the mix.  Too much jelly will prevent the mix from “curing.”
  3. Wrap the mixture tightly in plastic wrapper, making sure there is no air in the wrap, and allow the mixture to sit overnight or 24 hours.  The disposable gloves will keep your hands clean, but if you choose to use your bare hands, the mixture will wipe off with a damp cloth or paper towels.
  4. After the mix has “cured” and you are ready to use it, put it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it (depending on how much you’ve made or intend to use – you aren’t cooking it). Apply the wood filler to the nail hole, gap or damaged area using a putty knife or your fingers.
  5. Let the wood filler dry for at least 24 hours.
  6. Sand the wood filler smooth using fine-grit sandpaper.
  7. Stain or paint the wood filler to match the surrounding wood.

Here are some tips for using petroleum jelly in homemade wood filler:

  • Use a small amount of petroleum jelly. Too much petroleum jelly can make the wood filler too soft and difficult to work with. If you add too much and can not remove the excess petroleum jelly,  simply add more white glue and corn starch to the desired consistency and proper texture.  The texture of cookie dough is what you are looking for. 
  • Be sure to let the wood filler dry completely before sanding or staining just as you would any store-bought wood filler.
  • Petroleum jelly can make the wood filler more water-resistant, but it is not waterproof. If the wood filler will be exposed to water, you may want to seal it with a clear finish.

Overall, petroleum jelly is a safe and effective way to make homemade wood filler. It can help to make the wood filler more durable, water-resistant, and easy to work with.

Storing Surplus Homemade Wood Filler

If you have mixed more than you need, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap for safe keeping and put the wrapped mixture in a plastic bag, making sure you’ve squeezed all the air out.  The petroleum jelly and a tight wrap without air will keep the excess wood filler soft and prevent it from drying out.  Microwave it for a few seconds to soften it a bit before using it.  

It’s easy and inexpensive, and you did it by yourself with ingredients you likely have on hand already.  Save a trip to the hardware store, and likely save yourself a few pennies, too.  

Last update on 2024-04-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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