Wood Putty, Putty Mixing & Use

Wood Putty, Putty Mixing & Use

The uses of wood putty in finishing floors and glazing windows, how to make putty mixes.

Craftsman Style

¶ Most of the putty, used by the wood finisher on trim in homes and public buildings is that made by mixing white lead in oil paste with enough dry whiting to make a stiff paste. Dry color is added to tint the putty to match the natural or stained wood. Some finishers like to add a few drops of japan drier and some prefer a very little hard-drying varnish, floor, coach or interior spar. Tinting colors in oil do not serve the purpose like dry colors. The putty is put in place as a rule after the stain is dry. It should be mixed a little lighter, rather than darker, than the wood. The colors usually used in dry form are raw and burnt umber, raw and burnt sienna, yellow ochre and Vandyke brown. With mixtures of these colors and black practically any wood surface can be matched.

¶ Putty made as above will not shrink or swell and so only one filling is necessary. Care should be taken, however, completely to fill the holes and cracks, pressing the putty well into place. Let the holes be a little over filled if anything, because the putty can be cut down level when dry with sandpaper.

¶ After filling holes and cracks be sure to wipe off any knife marks and excess of putty around the fillings. If allowed to remain this putty will cloud the finish, especially on natural and stained colors.

¶ Plaster of Paris Putty is used by some finishers on new wood to be finished in the natural color or stained. This putty will absorb stain and the color given by wood fillers. Lead putty will not. The plaster of Paris putty is made by simply submerging a handful of dry plaster of Paris in water. As long as it remains below the surface of the water it will not set, A small amount should be lifted with the putty knife and kneaded with the fingers. Press it into place and clean off the surface around it. Be sure to fill the cracks and holes full and level with the surrounding surface.

Making Wood Putty

General Utility and Floor Putty. A factory formula for making a general utility putty for filling wood work, for glazing windows and for filling floor cracks is as follows:

80 lbs. dry whiting, bolted,
20 lbs. white lead, dry,
10 lbs. raw linseed oil,
5 lbs. grinding japan drier.

¶ To make a softer putty add a little more oil.

Cabinet Makers' Putty is made of fine wood sawdust from the kind of wood to be filled. The dry sawdust is mixed with a glue size made from 1 ounce of good quality cabinet glue and 16 ounces of water. A little aniline water color or dry pigment tinting color is added if needed to make the putty match the surface. Some add a little whiting. When this putty is well made and used it is practically impossible to detect the fillings, even in fine woods like mahogany and walnut.

Knifing and Glazing Putty. When a surface is so rough that a great many coats of material would be needed to make a smooth surface it is well to follow the old carriage and automobile painter's methods by filling the whole surface with a thin putty mixed to dry hard. It is useful for repairing bruised and damaged places when the finish is to be paint or enamel. Such putty is mixed by the use of white lead in oil paste to which dry whiting (fine bolted) is added. Mix this stiff putty well by pounding or kneading with the hands. Then add equal parts of japan gold size, linseed oil and turpentine. The putty is mixed thin enough to be spread on to the surface with a broad stepping or scraping knife, Picture 1.

Stopping Knife
Stopping Knife.
The Broad Stopping Knife, Also Called a Broad Scraper. Used for the Application of Glaze Putty, for Scraping off Scaling Paint and for Many Other Purposes.

¶ The surface is thickly coated and when the putty has been thoroughly pressed into the wood pores it is scraped with the same knife to remove any excess of putty without leaving any knife marks. The aim should be to fill all depressions in the wood but not to coat the whole surface over solidly like a thick paint would do. In other words, don't hide the wood except in the rough places which you want to fill. Allow the putty to become hard and bone dry, then sandpaper down smooth to make a level surface.

¶ When a very hard-drying, knifing putty is wanted and one which can be rubbed with pumice stone and water, it may be mixed by adding fine dry whiting and fine pumice stone (F F) to white lead in oil paste to make a stiff putty. Thin with rubbing or floor varnish or japan gold size,

Quick-Setting Putty. On jobs which are to be puttied and then followed up within an hour or two with paint the putty may be best made by mixing a stiff paste with dry white lead and japan gold size. Add a few drops of turpentine if a quicker drying putty and one with a more porous texture is wanted. Another formula for a quick-setting putty calls for the use of white lead in oil paste, dry white lead, japan gold size and a little floor or rubbing varnish.

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