How to make color match wood putty

Sometimes we end up with deep scratches and gouges in wood that we need to repair. The solution is wood putty, but what if the wood putty doesn’t match? Here’s how to make color match wood putty, and/or make wood putty match stain.

What to do when wood putty doesn’t match

how to make color match wood putty
When you can’t get wood putty to match, you can mix wood putty with sawdust to get a nearly perfect match. Then you can use a clearcoat or a stain to make it even closer to perfect.

The solution starts with wood putty. Get the closest match that you can, and, ideally, get a type that can take stain. The closer the match you can get, the easier the next step is.

The next step is to sand the area you need to fix, or sand some wood of the exact same type. Save the sawdust. The sawdust is what you need.

To make your wood putty match your wood, mix the sawdust with the putty. How much sawdust you need depends on how close the match was to begin with.

Apply a bit of the raw putty into the area that needs repair, since the raw putty will stick better than your putty/sawdust mix. Then press in enough of your sawdust/putty mix into the area and shape it to match the rest of the wood. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s easier to form putty before it dries than it is to sand it down. To match a contour, cutting a contour into a cheap plastic putty knife can be a good aid in getting a good match.

Once you’re happy with the match, let it dry according to the putty manufacturer’s instructions.

How to make wood putty match stain

Now your wood putty resembles your raw, unfinished wood. That’s probably not what you want. To match the finish, the question is whether the original piece was stained. Not all wood is stained. Wet down the repaired area with some mineral spirits or even a bit of water and see how it looks. If the color is close to the rest of the wood, then all you need is a clearcoat. A bit of satin polyurethane may be all you need.

If wetting the repair doesn’t result in a close match, you need more than a clearcoat. Take a photograph of the wood and take it to the hardware store. If you can’t find a really good match in the stains, get the closest matches that you can, one lighter and one darker. Apply the lighter stain first, wipe off the excess, then let it dry. Then apply a little bit of the darker stain and wipe it off quickly. Repeat that process to darken it up until you’re happy with the match. Then apply a clearcoat to protect it.

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