Wood Finishing: How to Stain Wood Putty to Match — On any stain job you will have to fill the nail holes with a putty that is matched to your stain. There are three putty matching methods that I have used over the years, it is good to know all three methods, each has it’s time and place for using.
One method that I don’t use as a professional painter, but it is still viable for a small project or for the DIY’er, is the colored putty sticks. The down side of these crayon like filling sticks is that you will have a hard time finding sufficient quantities of these, and they take a lot of time to fill and then wipe clean with mineral spirits.
They only come in so many colors and you really can’t custom match these to your wood stain. If you can find a match to your stain in a standard color then you are in luck, but if not, you will have to find something else to do the job. With my three favorite methods you can match to any stain color and the materials are readily available.
Use colored putty. Simple enough huh? There are a couple of brands out there, one that I use is Minwax. The colored putty comes in most of Minwax’s stain colors and can be inter mixed to tweak or match any color stain that you need to match. Pre-seal your stained woodwork before you use this putty and then varnish over it. I use oil based varnish over this putty.
Colored Putty Method #2
Make your own matched putty by mixing your oil based stain with “whiting”. This is known in the painting trade as “Swedish putty”. This is very simple to make, just get a mixing pan and pour out some whiting into the pan, then mix in some stain.
This type of putty has a very short life, you need to mix it as you use it. This putty is not as pliable as the Minwax putty, you can add a bit of boiled linseed oil to it to make it more pliable, but I usually don’t bother. You need to seal the stain first before using this putty and you need to varnish over it after you fill the nail holes. I use oil based varnish over this putty.
Tint standard white putty with universal colorants to match. This putty can be a bit messy to make. and is my least preferred method. You will have to dry up this putty as you tint it with whiting, Add your colorant into the white putty and work it with your hands to mix it, keep adding colorant and drying with whiting until you arrive at your color match.
Like all the other putty methods, you need to seal the wood prior to puttying the nail holes,and varnish over the putty after they are filled. I use oil based varnish over this putty.