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Plaster of Paris as a Grain Filler

jihhwood's picture

Help! I read in the most recent issue of FW that Plaster of Paris can be used to fill grain in open-grained wood such as oak. It is touted there as a perfectly acceptable, fast-drying, and easy-to-use alternative to traditional grain fillers. I was about to begin a project and planned to follow the advice in the article. However, I happened to mention this idea to a few people (each of tham a more experienced woodworker than I) and each of them said that using Plaster of Paris to fill grain is a BAD idea. It is brittle, they said, and will not flex as wood contracts and expands with temperature and moisture changes. They predicted it would "pop" and recommended a product such as Durham's Water Putty. I am confused. (I am working on a project and will be investing quite a lot of time; I don't want to have my finished piece begin to show cracks in the grain.....) Can anyone advise me? If you have actually used Plaster of Paris in this way, how has it worked out? Any problems? Cautions?

Edited 5/8/2005 8:20 am ET by jihhwood

Manchild's picture

(post #107485, reply #1 of 9)

Although I haven't used plaster of paris in the way you are thinking of doing it. I have used a lot of different combinations of fillers/levelers for drywall and woodwork prior to paint.

Just off the top of my head, you could put some woodworking glue in your water before you mix it with the plaster of paris. I've done this before with fillers in order to make them more tuff and more flexible.

But I haven't done it. So I can't give you " the " answer. Hope this helps.

Dave45's picture

(post #107485, reply #2 of 9)

I've never heard of using plaster of paris but I did once use drywall mud to skim coat some particle board before painting.  That was over 30 yrs ago and it actually held up fairly well as I remember. - lol

Oak wouldn't be my first choice for any paint grade project.  Birch or poplar are much smoother and considerably less expensive.

curtis's picture

(post #107485, reply #3 of 9)

Hello this topic has come up before,(as a matter of fact,I was the one asking the same question about a year ago.) I suggest trying to look it up on the archives There was some very detailed info. given of this topic.

Having said that I've used plaster of pairs before, It did work well, Making a skim coat and wiping on and off, just filling the pores, (not crack or joints).

Although if I remember correctly,I also tried it somewhat different than how it was explained on the fourm. I used a spackeling conpond ( the stuff that sated it wont shrink), after fully drying I sanded and stained.

Let me say this,Yes It works, and useing plaster of pairis is a very old fashion way of filling the open pores,(and end grain) ARE there better way of doing it? Perhaps, but what is best???


Good luck on your quest. ;-)




Edited 5/8/2005 10:30 am ET by curtis

Edited 5/8/2005 10:34 am ET by curtis

nikkiwood's picture

(post #107485, reply #4 of 9)

It would help if you were more specific about what you had in mind --- i.e. what is the wood, has it been painted before, etc. I assume this is something you are painting.

"I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong."
-- Bertrand Russell

*** "It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts." John Wooden ,1910-2010

forestgirl's picture

(post #107485, reply #5 of 9)

Richard Jones ("Sgian") has written both here and in Woodwork magazine about plaster of Paris as a grain filller.  Here is a link to the one discussion I found here at Knots.  The April 2003 edition of Woodwork pictures the oak tabletop and  a detailed explanation of the process.

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-)
Another proud member of the  "I Rocked With ToolDoc Club" .... :>) 

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

SgianDubh's picture

Yes fg, I did have an article (post #107485, reply #9 of 9)

Yes fg, I did have an article in Woodwork on this topic a while back. Plaster of paris is an old method, but still perfectly acceptable way of grain filling, see this link:

It can be used to blend in with the primary colour scheme, or to contrast as in the attached example. Slainte.

Table-30-Top.jpg102.13 KB
philip's picture

(post #107485, reply #6 of 9)

Plaster of paris is what they used in days of yore. It did a good job for both the Old Masters and Everyone else-as a grain filler, not crack/gap filler. Easy to slap on ,quick drying, easy to sand and tint.
Experiment first on a test piece.

Philip Marcou
geezergeek's picture

(post #107485, reply #7 of 9)

Years ago in a conversation with a then little known but now better known docter, Dr. Durham to be exact. The Dr. described how he had invented a putty that could be used as a filler too. He said it dried fast, got rock hard, but sanded easily. It was an off-white creamy color. I asked the Dr. if refining this putty/filler concept shortened the "quality time" he had available for his patients, he grinned and said all of his patients had become regular users of the stuff when told about it.

I guess there was a pent up need for such a rock hard putty/filler both then and continuing even up to now. Nowadays, few people even know that ole' man Durham was ever a Dr. at all, but he shure knows a lot about putty/filler. Never had it fail me when I was in need. Joe.

jazzdogg's picture

(post #107485, reply #8 of 9)

Yes, it can be done. As with any finishing project, I strongly recommend you experiment on test pieces before attempting to apply finish to your completed project.

My favorite pore fillers are the oil-based product from Star Products, and the water-based product from Compliant Spray Systems. They both provide significantly more working time than competing products, are easier to manipulate and remove, and are less likely to become hard and unworkable before you're done.

I remove the oil-based Star pore filler from the surface with burlap. However, burlap will pull the water-based pore filler from Compliant out of the pores, so I work across the grain with a plastic squeegee or wide plastic putty knife.

Hope this helps,


Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right.


"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie