I was working with a construction professional to fix some doors in a rental house. We had some holes that didn’t line up, which meant we needed to patch them before we could drill new ones. He asked me for some toothpicks. It turns out toothpicks are a fast way to patch screw holes in wood.
In a pinch, you can get by with just putting a toothpick in each hole, cutting or breaking it off flush with the wood, then drilling your new hole.
Better yet: If you have time, put some glue on the toothpick, then put it in the hole and break or cut it off flush with the surface. Ordinary white glue works fine for this purpose. When you apply a small amount, it dries pretty quickly, and it bonds readily to all types of wood.
If the hole is too big for one toothpick, use more than one. To make the repair less visible, sand the surface a bit to generate some sawdust. The sawdust will quickly mix with the glue, and when dry, it will look like one piece.
The toothpick helps keep your drill bit and your screw from wandering into the old hole when you have to drill a new one. It also gives the screw something to bite into on that side.
It’s a quick fix, but sometimes a quick fix is all you need. Not only that, it’s stronger and cheaper than wood putty.
Normally we think of toothpicks as the quick fix for a stripped-out screw hole. But they work really well to fill or patch screw holes in wood too.
Keeping toothpicks and glue in your toolbox may seem strange, but if you start, you’ll be glad you did. A box of toothpicks is cheap insurance, and when you need one, you’ll probably need it badly.