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Using Wood Grain Filler
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crystalac wood grain filler Ever wonder how expert wood finishers get the mirror-like finish you find on examples of fine furniture? It isn't by hastily slapping on a coat or two of standard-issue polyurethane varnish. There are a number of steps involved, beginning with the way the piece is originally constructed on through several coats of clear finish and final hand-rubbing. In between, there's the all important step of filling the wood grain pores to produce the perfectly flat surface that gives the final clear finish depth and a glass-smooth shine. Crystalac Clear Waterborne Wood Grain Filler makes the process about as easy as it can be. And in case you've never used wood grain filler, here are a few filler facts to help you see why.

Wood grain filler is used strictly to fill wood grain pores and should not be confused with "wood putty". Wood putty (or wood filler) is a much thicker mixture, and is used to fill larger cracks and voids in the wood. Grain filler is a binder mixed with a filler material, such as silica, "micro balloons", clay, or calcium carbonate to for a thin paste. Most grain fillers are roughly the viscosity of pancake batter, making them easy to work into the grain of the wood, but still thick enough to span and fill the open pores of the grain.

Grain filler is most often used on “open- grained” woods like oak and mahogany. Open-grained woods have large open pores that are difficult to fill with clear finish, and cause the texture of the wood to show up on the finished surface of the wood. In terms of the strength and resilience of a finishing job, filling the grain is an optional step. If you like to see the texture of the wood telegraphed through the final coats of finish, then skip the grain filler; it won’t matter a bit in terms of the durability of the finish. But if you want to produce a glass smooth "piano" finish, especially on an open-grained species, grain filler would be pretty tough to do without.

There are two main varieties of wood grain filler: Oil-based or waterborne. Oil-based filler is as old as oil-based finish itself, and has a dedicated following. Waterborne wood grain fillers are the new kids on the block, but are rapidly gaining favor because of the easy soap and water clean-up and greatly shortened drying time it offers. You might think that using a waterborne filler would limit you to using a waterborne finish, but that's not the case. A waterborne filler like Crystalac can be used under any clear finish, and is actually less finicky than an oil-based filler when it comes to accepting the final clear finish.

Application varies some from filler to filler, but in general, you trowel or brush the filler on, squeegee or wipe of the excess, wait for it to dry, and sand it level with the surface of the wood. Grain fillers are fairly easy to use, but one thing does take a little skill and thought: getting the color right. And getting it right the first time is important. Most wood grain fillers won"t take a stain very well after they dry; whatever color of filler you stuff into the grain of the wood will be a highly visible and permanent change. Most grain fillers are either tinted to emulate the color of various woods, or come in an opaque "neutral" color. With an opaque filler, you’re almost guaranteed to need to do a little tweaking of the color to get the effect you want.

Crystalac Clear Waterborne Wood Grain Filler, on the other hand, dries water-clear, which can be a real advantage: You don’t have to worry about getting the perfect color, nor do you have to worry about getting every last bit of the excess filler sanded off: If you leave a little behind, you’ll never see it. Aesthetically, the color of the filler you use has a tremendous impact on the look of the wood. A clear grain filler on an open-grained wood has the effect of adding depth. If you want to experiment with colored filler effects, Crystalac takes any water or alcohol soluble tint.

Wood finishing is an art form, and the more you're at it, the more you see that it isn't an "after-thought". It's often the make-or-break point of a project, and can involve several steps. Adding wood grain filler to your finishing repertoire is a great way to bump your wood finishing results up to the next level. And fast, easy sanding, forgiving Crystalac lets you do it with exceptional results and virtually no learning curve.

posted on February 16, 2007 by Rockler
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82 thoughts on “Using Wood Grain Filler”

  • Sean

    I am building an oak coffee table. I plan to use a finish of tung oil, linseed oil, and poly (like Arm-R-Seal). How would I use this grain filler along with this type of finish. Which should I do first?

  • Blog Editor

    Thanks for the question. Crystalac grain filler goes under the final finish. Work it into the pores, squeegee off the excess, let it dry and sand with fine grit sandpaper. You can apply Crystalac to raw wood or over a stain or washcoat. It's recommended for use with waterborne and oil-based top coats.<br /><br />If you are new to a finishing procedure or type of finish, we recommend going through the entire process on a piece of scrap first. Bob Flexner's <a href="http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=11436" rel="nofollow">Understaning Wood Finishing </a> goes through the process in great detail, if you'd like a more in-depth look at grain filling.<br />

  • I am finishing a buffet, purchased from unfinished furniture this time. Is there a product an amature can use to fill the grain and slight imperfections in the wood like wood grain filler.

  • Blog Editor

    Thanks for the question. Crystalac doesn't require wood finishing expertise. It's pretty user friendly. As an alternative, you could try <a href="http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?Offerings_ID=2003" rel="nofollow">Wunderfil</a>. It comes in more of a "putty" form, but can be thinned down to fill grain. It also comes in eight shades, and can be custom tinted. Be sure to read the <a href="http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?Offerings_ID=2003&TabSelect=Reviews" rel="nofollow">customer reviews</a> for a few tips on how to get the most out of it. Hope this helps.

  • snicky

    I want to reface oak cabinets and paint them white. I dont want to see the grain when I have completed the project. Is this product ok to use before painting with Cabinet Coat paint?

  • Blog Editor

    Yes, you could use Crystalac, but again, for what you are doing, Wunderfil might be a better choice. Part of what you are paying for with Crystalac is the fact that it dries perfectly clear, giving you control over the appearance of the wood and grain pores. Since you are painting the wood, using an opaque filler - like Wunderfil - is not only acceptable, but may help you to see that you have the grain adequately filled and sanded out to the point that there are no lumps of filler that will telegraph through the paint.

  • I am refinishing my oak table and the edge seems to be made out of a different type wood. Any idea what this is and what would be the best way to finish it. It seems to just soak up the polyurothane.

  • Blog Editor

    Without seeing the project, we'd guess the table top is an oak veneer over a substrate, and that the edges of the table are the substrate. The end grain of "lumber core" plywood would soak up a lot of finish, as would MDF (medium density fiberboard). If you've already started applying poly, the color is OK and you're just wondering if it will ever stop soaking up the finish: it will. Just let it dry thoroughly and sand lightly between coats. It may take a few coats, but it will seal eventually.

  • Jim

    I would like to get a mirror finish on my oak projects. I have used Crystalac but it seem to move away from the grain of the wood in some areas. I squeege it off perpindicular with the grain. I have put two coats on and it still does not seem to fill the open grain completely. I have stained the wood so I cannot sand the surface too much. Should I water it down and let it soak in on the first coat?

  • Blog Editor

    You could experiment with thinning the mixture a little, but it might just be a matter of perfecting your technique. You might have better luck if you squeegee diagonally across the grain, doing two coats in opposing directions (with a light sanding in between to knock down any ridges). Adjusting the angle of the squeegee could help as well. The goal is to work the filler into the open pores. If the blade is perpendicular to the surface of the material, it tends to just scrape off the filler without forcing it into the cells. Angling the squeegee downward will help force the filler into the pores, and will help you keep from dragging filler out of the openings in the process. I hope this helps.<br /><br />Anyone else have tips?<br />

  • diane

    I want to change my oak kitchen cabinets to a faux painted cherry wood look. (I do faux finishes and murals for a living) I was told to use grain filler on the center panela of the doors to rduce the appearance of the oak grain. Can I use wood filler instead or is the grain filler better? I was going to do that then prime the wood then do 2 coats of the paint faux finish. Please let me know

  • Blog Editor

    Since the finished faux painting will be completely opaque, then either grain filler or Wunderfil will work, and you might find the latter a little easier to work with.

  • John

    I stripped the old paint from a quartersawn oak piece and would like to refill areas where the porous, softer grain was removed in the paint removal. I don't want a mirror surface on the wood but neither do I want that just-stripped look that you see on refinished pieces. Can I use Crystalac to replace some of the open grain. Can I add color to the filler to cover and obscure any tiny pieces of paint (pink!)left in the grain? If I don't want a perfectly smoth finish is burlap a better applicator than a squeegee? Thanks!!

  • Blog Editor

    Without seeing the piece, it's hard to say for certain. Grain filler isn't designed for filling large voids in wood, but for just a few fibers that softened up and got pulled away during the stripping process, it might be worth a shot. Even with a fair amount of tint mixed in to obscure the leftover pink flecks, the translucent effect might be more appealing than an opaque wood filler.

  • Bill Burger

    <br />I am building a dining room table out of solid Walnut, the walnut I have has different colors between the boards it seems this wood was outside for several years when I re-sawed the wood, I got some pieces with black grain areas which is ok but was wondering if I should put a black walnut stain on the entire piece to try to get the color more consistent. I also want to fill the grain and have no experience with that process at all. I want the top of this table to be very smooth.<br />

  • Blog Editor

    Staining the wood with <a href="http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=10927" rel="nofollow">walnut stain</a> could help to even out the colors. If you're planning to spray the top coat, you could use a layer or two of toner, which can be easily made out of thinned down finish and <a href="http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=11448" rel="nofollow">TransTint Dye</a>. Toner may be more effective at evening out the color, but may tend to obscure the grain pattern more than stain.<br /><br />A grain filler is typically advised for walnut when a glass-smooth surface is the desired outcome. Either Crystalac (mentioned above) or <a href="http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=18655" rel="nofollow">Bartley</a> solvent based grian filler will work. Remember that Crystalac recommends staining before applying the filler, which can make sanding the surface flat without affecting the stain a bit tricky.

  • I am finishing an oak bar top and this is the first project I have used Crystalac grain filler. I am concerned about the trowel and brush marks that I can't sand out due to the danger of removing the stain which I applied first. Will the diagnal brush marks be visible after I apply the polyurathane finsh coat, or will I be forced to sand it down and start over?

  • Blog Editor

    No matter how careful you are when you apply it, water-based grain filler usually requires sanding after it dries, which makes using it over stained wood a bit trickier. As much of the filler on the surface as possible should be sanded off. Dried Crystalac should sand easily, so if you are careful, you have a good chance of getting it flat without damaging the stain.

  • Renee

    Our oak cabinets are covered with either shellac, varnish or polyurethane. Of course, I am hoping it will adhere fine to the "finished" surface if I clean and dry the cabinets prior to applying the grain filler. Is it necessary to remove the finish before applying the wood grain filler or will it adhere well to a cleaned finished surface? Thanks.

  • Blog Editor

    Renee - thanks for the comment. Your best bet would be to scuff the surface with fine sandpaper first. You'd want to do that anyway before applying a topcoat. If the wood is stained, be careful not to sand through the finish. Just rough it up enough to give the surface a little "tooth".

  • jasfwood

    I recently bought a home with bleached/light colored oak cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms. I'd like to paint all of the cabinetry black and don't want to see any wood grain in the finished product. My plan is clean, sand, prime, and paint each cabinet and hope for a modern look. Will woodfill help me to eliminate any woodgrain that might show thru the coats of primer and paint? Any idea if a matte black or satin black is more in style?

    Thanks for any guidance you can give me.

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team April 9, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, grain filler will help hide the wood grain of oak under a new coat of paint. It sounds like you have the sequence down. After you clean and lightly sand the cabinets, fill the grain and sand the filler flat. We don't think you'll risk a fashion faux pas with either a matte or a satin finish. If it's a toss-up aesthetically, you will probably find a satin finish easier to care for.

  • Susan

    Hi. I bought an old end table made of a very dark wood that has a grain to it. It has a flat top with wood-rope detailing around the edges and spindle legs. I want to paint it in the Victorian cottage style, which has a very smooth finish. Would CrystaLac be a good choice to fill the wood grain, even on the spindles and rope detailing? What would be the best way to apply it to such rounded and intricate surfaces?

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team April 15, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Thanks for the comment. Any grain filler could be made to work. Since you are planning to paint the piece, the color of the grain filler isn't an issue. So, you might consider using Wunderfil. Some people find it easier to work with than other fillers. It cleans up with water, and can be thinned to various consistencies (something you might want to experiment with for the curved rope molding). As for the application, you might not find a better instrument than your fingers. You could also experiment with “custom” tools. A thin strip of wood whittled and sanded into a shape that matches the contours of the molding would help you scrape off excess filler, especially in hard-to-get-at corners. You can also wipe off excess filler with a damp rag, as long as you are careful not to wipe too hard and undo the work you’ve done. Even if it seems tedious, doing a good job with the wet filler will save you lots of even more difficult sanding later on.

  • jursiguy

    Hi. I'm refinishing red oak kitchen cabinets (currently golden oak stain), and I'm experimenting (unsuccessfully so far) with trying to get a tan-ish (versus gold/red) color and a more even stain color (less visible grain). Would grain filler be helpful? (or should I give up trying to make red oak look like it isn't?!)

  • Niki

    We just bought unfinished oak kitchen cabinets from a chain
    hardware store. I want to stain them with a gel stain that looks heavy around the creases and lighter in the middle. I have seen this done on thousands of maple cabinets with glazes
    and gel stains but want to know if the crystalac would help hide the grain before I stain? Does this product hide the grain enough for this type of staining? Thanks!

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team September 23, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Thanks for the comment, Niki. You might consider using Wunderfil (http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=2003). It can be thinned down to a consistency that would let you fill the pores to an almost completely flat surface in one or two coats. Unlike Crystalac, Wunderfil is opaque and available in several colors. You could buy a color close to the desired look, and even go so far as to custom tint it with universal tinting colors (available at most paint stores). Crystalac recommends staining before filling the grain, so it might not be the ideal choice in this case. As usual, we recommend experimenting on a piece of scrap before taking after your new cabinets. Hope this helps!

  • Clay

    I am trying to repair teak and holly floorboards from my boat. Most of the boards have been fine - I stripped the old coating, sanded, and applied three coats of polyurethane for a protective covering. However, one of the boards has five deep gouges into the teak. I've tried filling it with wood filler but nothing will match the natural teak color. Any ideas?

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team January 8, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Thanks for the question, Clay. It's tough to get a good match with a filler straight out of the can, even for common wood species where premixed colors are plentiful. Famowood solvent-based filler might be a good choice. They used to sell a Teak filler, which you may or may not still be able to find. Currently, their "Oak" filler (as opposed to their "Red Oak" filler) is actually labeled "Teak/Oak" (http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=18537), and would be a good starting point, even if you had to tweak the color slightly with universal tinting colorants (available at most paint stores).

  • Kevin

    Hi. I've just recently been introduced to my new toy store, Rockler! I just need more projects. My question is about refinishing builder standard golden oak cabinets. I want to paint them white. I've read about and plan to fill the grain on the doors and sides. I plan to use an oil based paint and do the work with a brush. You seem to lean to Wunderfil for this but isn't it waterbased? And what impact will that have on finishing with oil based paint? Secondary question, am I too optimistic about a smooth finish with filling the grain and using a brush? Thanks for any feedback.

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team January 13, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Kevin, thanks for the comment. Yes, you can use oil-based paint over Wunderfil. Just follow the paint manufacturer's directions for surface preparation. As far as being too optimistic: it depends both on your method and your expectations. No matter how much care you take, the finished product will probably not look like it just came from a factory. But if you carefully sand the surface, clean it thoroughly and use a good quality enamel, following the manufacturer's recommendations, you may be very happy with the results.

    It sounds like a big project. You might consider a trial run. If you can lay your hands on an inexpensive subject - possibly a beat up cabinet or cabinet door from a building materials recycling center(?) - it would give you a chance to get a feel for the process and preview of the results.

  • Walter

    I am building a white oak entertainment center and do not plan to stain it but I would like to get a "piano" finish. Would it be beneficial to use CrystaLac on the majority of the project and Wunderfil only where there are small imperfection? Beginner wood worker but highly motivated!

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team February 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Yes, Crystalac would be would be appropriate for filling the grain, and Wunderfil for small chips, cracks, holes, etc. Here again, we recommend a trial run on pieces of scrap. It's sometimes necessary to tweak the color of opaque filler (like Wunderfil) to get a good match, and the only truly accurate way to judge the color match is after all of the the finishing steps are complete.

  • Bob Wade

    When using Crystalac, what is the best thing to use as a squeege and is it best to apply with the grain or cross-grain?

  • Harry

    I am trying to fill red oak grain with Crystalac. I have stained the wood with Zar oil based stain and have applied two coats of grain filler. I am not getting the grain filled. Do I have a compatability issue with the Zar? I sand aggressively as the Zar is very forgiving on restaining.

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team March 31, 2010 at 6:32 am

    Thanks for the comments. Bob - a plastic spreader works well for applying the filler. It doesn't need to be anything special - an inexpensive plastic 6" drywall knife, available at any hardware store, will work fine. The direction is up to you, but a couple coats at opposing 45 degree angles to the grain seems to work well. Harry - Crystalac can be used over oil based stains, but as with any water-borne product, the stain needs to be fully cured. In general, it's best to let oil stains cure for a few days at least before using a waterborne products.

  • WannaBeWood

    I would like to stain my light oak kitchen cabs darker, but I also want to eliminate a lot of the oaks large grain. You say to stain first, then apply the CrystalLac. I realize that it dries clear, but I am having a hard time understanding how the finished stain will look uniform. Due the the large grains in oak, won't the stain be darker in the larger pores?

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team February 17, 2011 at 5:48 am

    Thanks for the comment, WannaBeWood. Crystalac recommends staining before using their product, but you are right - doing so can make the appearance of the grain pores more pronounced. According to finishing expert Bob Flexner, you can stain water-based wood fillers with water-based stain or stain with lacquer thinner as a solvent as long as you do it before the filler is fully cured. As always, we recommend experimenting on scrap beforehand.

  • Lisa

    Hi, I am in the process of remodeling my kitchen. We hired a local cabinet builder to make all new cabinets for the kitchen and new vanities for the bathrooms. I ordered them to be built out of Alder wood because
    I do not like the look of a grainy wood. Well, there was a mix up somewhere and they were built out of red oak. Now my cabinets are here and hung and built beautifully but out of the wrong material. Is there
    any way that I can make these cabinets look like alder wood or something with lil grain. I really don't want to paint these cabinets but I want a stain look without all the grain. Thanks, any suggestions would be
    greatly appreciated!

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team March 3, 2011 at 6:03 am

    Thanks, Lisa - Oak and alder are very different in appearance and it would be a feat to make one look like the other. But by using a tinted grain filler and stain, you can tone down the appearance of the grain quite a bit. This can be a big job, however, so be prepared. The entire process involves too much to cover here. You might consider picking up a book on finishing (we frequently recommend "Understanding Wood Finishing" - http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=11436). Getting a few scraps of oak to practice on would also be a good idea. Good luck!

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team March 7, 2011 at 5:48 am

    Hi Marie. You might be thinking of a pour-on epoxy finish, such as "Glaze Coat." We don't happen to carry it, but it's fairly common and you may be able to find it at a hardware store. It's clear and much thicker than varnish or polyurethane, so it will fill in shallow depressions in a surface. If you try it, be sure to follow safety precautions on the package.

  • Tony B

    I have an oak butcher block that has been finished with several coats of salad bowl finish (http://www.generalfinishes.com/retail-products/oil-base-top-coats/salad-bowl-finish). But the pores are not filling in at all. Can I apply a grain filler now, and then some more finish on top? Or would I have sand it down first (which I would prefer to avoid)?

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team April 29, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Thanks for the question, Tony. If you scuff-sand the piece and use an oil based grain filler, you should get roughly the same adhesion that you are with successive coats of oil based finish. Now we'll play the broken record: if you want to be sure, try it first on a piece of scrap.

  • Vince

    I'm building my first workbench. It has a oak laminate top. Should I apply a wood grain filler to the oak for this type of project?

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team September 1, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Vince - there wouldn't be much advantage in filling the grain on your workbench, unless you want it to look really nice and are willing to go the extra mile to get there.

  • Schueler

    I put Crystlac clear water based wood grain filler on a mahogany table top that had been sanded but not sealed. It left streaks after it dried.
    Is that typical if I haven't stained the wood? Do you have any suggestions on how to make the finish even?
    Thanks for your help.

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team September 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Schueler - We could see that happening if there are ridges of grain filler on the surface. If the wood is not stained, you can sand it flat again using a sanding block and the streaks should disappear. Let us know if that doesn't work - thanks.

  • Schueler

    The sanding took care of the streaking. Thanks for the help.

  • JBradley

    I have a large black walnut slab that I'm making into a dining room table. It is very figured, has super curl, and amazing color. Just sanded it is a show stopper. I want to keep it as natural looking as possible and only highlight the beauty of the wood. I want a completely smooth finish without any grain. On a test piece of wood, after four coats of varnish, I still see grain coming through the finish. Would you recommend that I use Crystalac Clear on the raw wood, sand and then apply my varnish?

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team February 13, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Sounds like a nice piece of lumber - it's good that you're trying things out on scrap. You can use Crystalac on raw wood, but you might try a coat of dewaxed shellac first, followed by a light sanding, under the Crystalac. That may give you a better finished color. Let us know what you decide, and how it works out.

  • JBradley

    What's the approximate square foot coverage per quart?

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team February 15, 2012 at 11:01 am

    It's difficult to give approximate coverage with fillers because it really depends on what you're filling. If you are filling relatively fine-grained wood and carefully scraping the excess back into the can, it will go a lot farther than if you're piling it on wood with large pores and other imperfections. For comparison, 125 square feet is fairly typical for waterborne polyurethane. But again, there's no way to give an accurate coverage dimension for a filler.

  • David McDougall
    David McDougall March 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    I have built a red oak fireplace mantle and I am trying to deemphasize the grain. I want to complement our dark reddish (close to Miniwax Red Mahogaony Stain) maple kitchen cabinets.
    It doesn't have to be a perfect match, but hiding some of the oak grain would do the trick. Would a dark grain filler to the trick and what sequence should it be applied?

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team March 26, 2012 at 9:10 am

    David - If you use an oil/varnish based filler in the color you want on raw wood, it will act as both stain and filler. If you still want to downplay the color of the grain after that, you could use a toner. Try the filler on scrap first. It's not extremely difficult, but can take a little practice to get the hang of it.


    The only problem with "waterborne" filler is it's tendencey to swell when being used with a waterborne finish and then shrink when drying. Old scholl thinking perhaps but I guess it depends how on picky you are on your results. For a good "piano" finish" use an oil base filler

  • Varun

    I am looking to build a computer desk where I need a smooth enough finish where a pen/pencil won't poke through the paper while I'm writing. I believe the grain filler should allow me to do this, is this correct? Also, I'm hoping for a "two tone" finish where the color looks reddish-brown looking at it one way and darker brown looking at it another way. I believe to do this, I would start with a Sable stain and then finish with a Ebonized Cherry toner with a clear coat on top. Can this be done with two different colored stains or will the colors blend into a different color? Here's another question, do I stain with the Sable stain first, sand, add grain filler, sand, then add more Sable stain, sand, then apply the toner and finish with the clear coat? If I start with an oil based Sable stain, can I still use the water-based Crystalac and continue with oil based stains, or do I stick with water-based the entire way through. I'm not looking for a high gloss finish, maybe a satin finish where the surface is smooth enough to write on without making marks in the surface. Also, if I am making a bookshelf to go next to the desk, will the grain filler affect the look of the desktop enough to make the pieces not match in color? I do not plan to grain fill the the rest of the desk since they are not writing surfaces, is that a bad idea? I have built many wood projects, but they have all been painted, so finishing did not matter. This is my first real finishing project, so I really appreciate any help any of you can give me.

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team July 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Varun. According to the manufacturer, Crystalac can be use with oil-based stains, provided they are fully cured. The recommended sequence is: stain (with plenty of cure time) then filler, then (toner if desired) and clear coat. Toner doesn't have to be the same color as the stain. If the stain is cured, the colors shouldn't blend together. It's common to fill the top surface of a table or desk and not the rest of the piece. The top and the rest of the desk will have a different look and feel, of course, because of the different treatment of each. Whether that's good or acceptable is a matter of preference. We recommend testing the entire process on scrap of the same species. It can turn out to be time very well spent, especially if you are not familiar with the process. Look at the product reviews for some great tips on applying Crystalac (http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=17353). Good luck with the project!

  • Faye Erickson

    I am restoring an old dresser that had veneer on it. I stripped the veneer off, removed all of the glue, and sanded. Some areas of the dresser had deep cracks and gouges where the veneer was loose or had come off and had to use wood filler to fill this in. The grain on the top of the dresser is quite profound so with the areas of the wood filler which is now smooth I thought I could use grain filler in the areas not covered by the wood filler. Will this work having grain filler and wood filler together ? I plan on painting the dresser.

  • charles

    hi- i have a large table which has been stained and then coated w/ minwax oil-based poly. I plan to use Crystalac grain filler to make the surface glass-smooth. Is it safe to use the Crystalac over the Poly? thanks

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team August 9, 2012 at 6:55 am

    Thanks for the question Charles. In your situation, an oil based grain filler might be a safer choice.

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team August 9, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Oops - Faye, we missed your question. If you're planning to paint the dresser, you could use Wunderfil (http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=2003). It can be used as a "putty" type of filler for larger voids and also thinned down to grain-filling consistency. A primary motivation for using Crystalac is that it's clear, and in your case, color doesn't matter.

  • Rob

    I am stripping the dark brown finish off an Oak table, paint stripper seems to work OK with a light sanding afterwards however in the grain there is black stuff, it looks as though the grain has been painted in. I have been told this could be grain filler.
    Do you have any tips on removing this filler?

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team October 3, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for the question, Rob. If it is grain filler, it should be made of something that a stripper will dissolve. If it's way down in the grain pores, though, it may still be difficult to clean out. Once you have the bulk of the top coat off, you could try hitting it again with the stripper and a paint stripper brush, taking care not to rub so hard that you damage the wood, of course. Sorry we don't have a magic answer for you. It may just a little patience and elbow grease.

  • Royce palmer

    Hi I'm the factory manager of a joinery in Australia and we currently have a full house to build cabinets for the majority being teak veneered plywood. The client wants a grain filled Matt finish (30%) we use polyurethane paint regularly with tassie oak and New Guinea rosewood but have never had a job of this size requiring a flat finish. My only method was to use a sanding sealer to begin with possibly two to three coats then finish with clear sealer and top-coat. Turn around seems to be around 4-5 days using this process. We spend a day doing prep work cleaning it down with acetone then sanding and cleaning again. Any ideas on how we could speed this up? Will the product you are suggesting be compatible and what are the risks. On 300k worth of joinery I'm a little worried of trying a new approach but I'm all ears.

  • Tom Egan

    Most of the applications for Crystalac clear grain filler above are for furniture finishing. Can this product be used for exterior use? I'm talking about a wooden boat, which is about as exterior as you can get. I have some teak I am refinishing with deep grain lines I would like to fill. I will be using a 2-part "acrylic urethane enamel" finish called "Honey Teak" as the final finish. Honey Teak has excellent UV inhibitors. Please advise.

  • Tom Egan

    ...oh, and I'm applying this on a vertical surface (grain running up-and-down). Just to be clear, this is teak trim, it is not on the hull or below the waterline. Thanks.

  • Jason

    Hi I'm building oak bar tables with maple trim. I've stained the oak a dark walnut and left the maple it's natural color. I'm planing on using crystalac clear grain filler to create the glass top look/ feel. My question is after sanding the filler can I stain again to insure an even color throughout?

  • tom pestotnik
    tom pestotnik June 18, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    I am working with some walnut burls with large voids or cracks. What can I fill these with and then finish it so that the grain shows and the filler is transparent? What is the best way to tint filler to match the color of the wood?

  • David gunn

    Thank you for the info. I'm building a steel guitar out of a beautiful piece of Philippine mahogany. It has a nice golden sheen to it when oiled and the grain is marvelous. Im hoping to oil it with tung and finish will lacquer or wax. I'd prefer to have a smooth piano finish but don't want to change the color or prevent the oil from darkening. What should I do?

  • judy

    Hi there;
    I am building a butcher block out of 1''x1'' oak (I know I should be using maple, but oak is what I had). Just wondering if this would be a good product to use to seal up any holes exposed. Can I put beeswax sealer over it? And is food safe to be exposed to it? Thanks

  • Bing


    I am thinking of updating my Oak kitchen cabinets to look like Cherry cabinets and at the same time hide the oak grain. I plan to use a Cherry stain and a non-glossy to semi-gloss polyurethane for the final finish. Should I use Wunderfil or Crystalc or both?

    Thank you.

  • Stewart Hunsaker
    Stewart Hunsaker March 9, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I have a lot of grain to fill. Several 4x8 sheets worth. It's going to have a paint over the op of it, but I do want to get rid of any grain before we paint. For covering large areas, what would be the best product to use?

  • Joe Franzen

    I used Crystalac on a set of drums. I stained and then applied the grain filler. I applied with a rag and then removed excess with a plastic card 3 inches wide. After drying I noticed lines from the card. I'm having a hard time removing the lines. It's haed to tell if they're peaks or valleys as the surface feels smooth. Some places I sanded through to the stain. Should I apply another coat and try tot do a better job to make it smooth with a plastic squeegee? If this doesn't work will these faint imperfections be seen through the polyurethane since it is supposed to dry clear? Thanks.

  • Diana

    I'm refinishing oak furniture. I've used oil based stain but it turned out blotchy so I changed to a gel stain. Is it possible to use Crystalac Wood Grain Filler over gel stain? Would I need to seal the stained wood prior to using the wood grain filler?

  • Teresa

    I plan to paint our builder grade kitchen cabinets. I believe the doors are laminate with faux oak grain. Would the Wonderfill be a good product to use on wood laminate cover the grain?

  • Bernd Munzenmayer
    Bernd Munzenmayer February 19, 2015 at 2:56 am

    I am building a scroll saw design 1/4" thick Padauk music box as an anniversary gift. I am told Padauk is a oily wood. I have been saving the sawdust from my cuttings. Can I mix this with the grain sealer? Multiple suggestion have been to use shellac as the final finish. Will this product work well with this mix?

  • Trent

    I want to remove the crystalac because I want to stain the wood. What is the best way to remove it?

  • Charles

    For my year 12 woodwork project I am considering using a wood grain filler, can this be applied prior to sanding the project? Also the top of my project is a end grain chessboard with cross-directional grain, henceforth I will not be able to put this on perpendicular to the grain? Does this matter?

    thanks a lot

  • William Straub
    William Straub August 8, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    I am building a cabinet made of mahogany and want a real smooth finish and yet still have the grain seen. Can I use Crystalac grain filler to fill the grain pores and will the crystalac take the stain like wood?

  • Mike

    Hi - Can water based grain filler be applied over varnish. I only learned of grain filler today.

  • Bill Smith

    I have stripped the paint from old pine doors -my wife wants them to look "natural" light-colored, like the old pine on British TV shows. There are some deep scratches on some areas. Can I use one of your wood-filler products before using tinted wood conditioner? Will I be able to use a semi-gloss poly to finish?

  • Suzanne

    We're "oaked out". I want to paint our staircase (light oak, but has varnish), and we don't want a lot of grain showing through the paint in the end. In fact, we'd like it as smooth as possible. Paint stores say clean, sand, primer, sand again, primer, and on and on until the grain is filled as much as possible which sounds endless. Will using this product be better? Would the sequence be, clean (deglaze with Krud Cutter), lightly sand, use wood filler, sand again, prime and then paint? We realize this is going to be tedious no matter what, but would like to achieve the best result possible, having more time than money . . .

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