Putty comes in two forms, pre-colored or as a stainable wood filler designed to fill minor imperfection such as nail holes, cracks, and gouges in the wood surface. Putty will display stain a bit differently than wood, so it is not a "perfect" fix, but a good one.
The goal is to get the best possible color match to either the color of the raw wood or the color of your existing finish.
The easiest route is to buy a putty that is pre-mixed with color. Both Famowood and Timbermate make colors of putty in several shades. Famowood is available in both oil-based and water-based formulas. Timbermate is an interior grade water-based filler and comes in 13 pre-mixed colors.
Be careful to note if you are buying a solvent (oil) based putty or a water-based putty. Either will work as long as you observe opposing dry times when switching as you would do for finishes.
- Water over oil: a minimum of 72 hours
- Oil over water: a minimum of 24 hours
If you cannot purchase the right color match, you can tint the putty with stain to create a custom color. For example:
- Prep sand your piece. If you are using with an existing finish, thoroughly prep clean and scuff sand your project first.
- Press wood filler into defected area.
- When dry, sand flush with surrounding surfaces after approximately 15-30 minutes, depending on temperature, depth of fill and whether the putty is oil or water based.
Finally, another good putty is Color Putty. They make both water and oil-based versions in ready-made colors. This is a soft putty that can be used AFTER the project is finished to fill nail holes or small imperfections.
ALWAYS TEST filler, stain and finish combinations on a small area before applying to your project.