grain filler substitute


Junior Member

I am just about to start finishing tele ash body. I will first grain fill it but...Everyone here talks about StewMac filler. Since i come from Poland and shipping a can of it makes no sense to me i need to find a sibstitute for this. I searched all over in my country and cannot find any grain filler. Is it a goods idea to use a wood putty which contains wood and probably thin it with some water and then apply, sand off, reapply ... etc? Or there's any better way to fill grains? Surely they must have done it somhow before Stewmac offered that substance? Next thing will be finishing, tru oil, tung oil, polyutrethane, head's aching :icon_scratch:

Any help appreciated. Thnaks in advance
Don't worry about brands too much when buying grain filler: its all basically the same stuff.

Here in England you can buy decent wood filler in the supermarket! Definately no point importing Stu Mac stuff!

If you need a good european brand name Liberon do some exellent wood products, should be available in Poland. Their pure tung oil is the genuine natural stuff you may want.
Filling the grain in wood to obtain a smooth surface for finishing is a process not exclusive to musical instruments. Wood craftsmen in furniture and cabinet making would need to do it too. Try talking to these people to find out where they get their supplies.
There's a small group that likes to use shellac as a grain fill/sealer before lacquer coats. I've used it on mahogany with very good results. Three or four coats should fill porous grain nicely. Apply thinly and sand well between coats.
Commercially available wood filler works as well, you may need to thin it.
as for shellac many specialists advice filling by using shellac and pumice dust, will it work with polyurethane finish. Any bad chemical or physical itneraction between those substances?
Wood putty, or wood dough, is not a suitable grain filler.  It is thick, and does not apply well, and it goes on rather heavy.  You might see some people use it in the deepest grain lines of ash - the dark spots only - but not as an overall filler.

Grain filler, or grain leveler, is a much thinner - almost paint-like - and flows freely into the smallest pores.  This is for overall leveling of grain, filling pores.

Grain filler comes in at least two types.  Water based, and oil based.  There may be solvent based ones - like a thick shellac type, but really, these should be avoided - because of interaction problems later, and because of issues with solvent based applications continuing to shrink on deep grained woods.

So, the choice is oil or water.  Both work ok.  Water based dries faster, is easier to clean.  Oil based, some say, is easier to apply as it give you more working time for application and scraping.  Personally, on guitars, water based is ok, since the time spent is minimal - we're not doing mahogany chest of drawers, just a guitar body... so working time is not really a problem.

Shellac can be used as a sealer over the grain filler.  As a filler alone, it is not that well suited.  In deep areas, it will shrink, like lacquer, and that is not a good trait for something you want to make the wood flat.  As a sealer, under lacquer, it excels however.

CB-grain filler applying technique by using a credit card or similar tool made me think it's nature is most like a "cream" than a"paint". I found one grain filler in a home depot here in Poland but tha label says nothing about it's base. It says sth like "apply once, sand finely, and cover with any type of laquer. It looks really like a thin, transparent liquid. Maybe i should smell it or aks the staff, but staff will surely say-yes it;s is a great choice for grain filling as you can read on the label, probably need to move to the USA, you do not even realize how many issues i have to do things which seem to be obvious to you, :sad1:
The stuff from StewMac is about the same "thickness" as exterior house paint - but thats where the similarity ends.
so, sonce it's base is water what else makes it a grain filler and not a paint or beer?  :laughing7:
The term "water base" means its soluble in water, uses water in its solution, cleans up with water, and uses evaporation of water in its drying process.  It does not mean that once dry, it can be be re-liquefied with water.  For example, some fillers use an acrylic medium (water soluable), and very fine silica as a "filler".  Pigments are added as needed.  Others... I have no idea what they use as a medium, or filler, but its usually some suspended micro-solids, in a medium that has low shrinkage (unlike George Costanza).

Oil does the same thing, but uses different medium, and probably the same fillers.

Think of this - acrylic paint, versus oil paint for an artist.  Oil can take a long time to dry - a good thing when you're mixing on a palette or directly on the canvas.  Acrylic has its faster dry and very durable properties.  One is not better than the other, they each serve a purpose.