First off, I wanted to let everybody know that my sofa table is being featured at Knock Off Decor today! I'm flattered that Beckie found and liked another one of my projects, and if you haven't checked out Knock Off Decor before, hop over and do so today -- it's full of fabulous projects inspired by designer decor and furnishings.
Now, back to regularly scheduled programming. I told y'all I would be back with some helpful ideas for working with wood putty... and here I am. I use wood putty for a lot of projects -- in fact, the only time I use spackle is when I'm patching walls or when I'm selecting a funny word to say 10 times in a row. Spackle. Ha.
See, spackle is softer and it will flake off and dent (like the wall). For things made of wood or wood products like furniture, trim, and cabinet doors, wood putty is really the way to go. It's stronger, harder, and will last longer. This is the type I always buy:
(image from Elmer's)
There are also stainable versions available, but I have yet to tackle a project like that (I do love my paint) so I can't advise you on that one.
If you've worked with wood filler before you're aware that it dries very hard. Because of that, you're not going to want to overfill it a whole bunch or you'll be sanding it down forever.
I fill it once as close to level as possible and then sand smooth. Because it also shrinks when it dries, you're not usually going to achieve a perfectly smooth finish after one go around, so at that point I repeat the fill/sand process once more and this usually produces a finish that's both level and smooth.
A trick I've found for larger flat surfaces with multiple problems like my newly painted black door with its pet nail marks (or a square bedbunk post that's also been shredded by a naughty kitty) is to use a wide flat tool, like the smooth side of a tile trowel or a large putty knife, to help smooth the entire surface out while the wood putty is still wet -- then after you sand it down the first time you can focus on the remaining divots instead of trying to sand a lumpy surface level as you go.
Another tip: after you fill and sand and you're 80% sure the surface is smooth, it's time to prime. It's much harder to see in the above photo that the surface is smooth, so when it's all the same color you can look for any remaining issues in the surface and they'll be much easier to spot.
Hopefully these tips will help you the next time you decide to whip out a bottle of wood filler and be the handy rockstar that you know deep down you are.
(Spackle, spackle, spackle. I love that word.)