How to fill and finish any surface in your home
By: Roger King
Paint, stain, or clear finishes rarely cover up imperfections in wood. Often, they make things look worse rather than better. It pays to prepare your wood carefully before you add a finish. Fill in holes with wood filler and sand the surface smooth. If you’re applying a clear finish, limit your use of putty to small spots; even putty that is made to accept stain never quite looks like real wood.
Even if you’re going to paint the surface, cover exposed plywood edges. They soak up paint like a sponge and will look rough no matter how many coats of paint you apply to them. To conceal a plywood edge, cut a thin piece of molding to fit, apply carpenter’s glue to the edge, and fasten the molding with brads. You can also cover the edge with self-adhesive veneer tape. To apply, cut the tape with scissors, leaving at least ¼ inch extra on all edges. Apply even, steady pressure with a household iron set to high. Trim the edges with a sharp knife, and then sand the corners lightly.
Once the wood surface is prepared, match your paint or clear finish to the intended use of your project. To fill in nail and screw holes, use dough-type wood filler. Apply filler either before or after staining. Wipe away the excess with a rag dampened with water. To fill cracks around a knot, mix the putty to a paste like consistency and force it into the cracks with a putty knife. Allow to dry, then sand and apply a second coat if necessary.