View Full Version : Filling oak/ash table top

Bob Johnson2
09-07-2005, 5:53 PM
I'm looking to finish a set of tv tables and am concerned with filling the pores on the open grained oak and ash. I've already stained them and am wondering if you can suggest something that's worked for you. I've done quite a bit of reading on it but find so many differing "regimes" that I'm totally confused. I was originally figuring on putting on a half dozen coats of varnish then sanding them flat to fill them. I'm interested in the finish being as hard as possible, satin, and water resistant. The center portion on these are cherry, I'm only filling the grain on the tops. Any ideas that you've used? If it matters, I do have spray gear although I've yet to get it to work right. Trying to run a conversion gun isn't as easy as my old gun used to be. This may or may not be a good time to try it again.

Frank Hagan
09-07-2005, 7:51 PM
You may have to re-stain the oak after doing this, but I've had some success with boiled linseed oil (BLO) and wet-dry sandpaper (350 grit or finer). The sandpaper makes the BLO into a slurry with wood dust, and it fills the pores OK. If its already stained, you may have areas where the sandpaper takes off some of the stain!

Fine Woodworking had a technique that I'm prepared to try ... using 4F pumice and BLO. You use about a teaspoon of pumice sprinkled over about a square foot of surface area that's been flooded with BLO. With a cloth, you work the mixture into the pores in a circular motion. To finish up, you wipe across the grain to remove the extra BLO and pumice. The pumice turns translucent with the BLO and also has some abrasive action, so you get both the pumice and wood dust filling the pores. After letting the BLO completely dry, you can seal it with a 2# cut of shellac and then use any finish over that. (I think I have the steps right ... don't have the article in front of me here). I have the pumice, and the project is nearly to the finishing stage. Maybe someone here who has tried it can chime in on both the technique and the results they have obtained.

Bob Johnson2
09-07-2005, 8:43 PM
thanks Frank, I do recall seeing a write-up on a "slurry method", I'll see if I can recall where I saw it.

Steve Schoene
09-07-2005, 10:02 PM
I think the only way to go is to use an actual pore filler product. The pores in oak are quite large so that the BLO/pumice plus slurry is going to both have a hard time getting the pores filled and not be a very good base for top finish. (Walnut and mahogany both have noticiable pores but they are much smaller than in oak). Besides BLO takes a VERY long time to really cure, and if it has not cured before you apply the top coats you could find it turning light grey in the pores, with the only solution being to sand or strip it all off. If I were going to use the slurry technique I would use a wiping varnish that would cure harder and faster than BLO.

I like the oil based filler Por-o-Pac by Behlen. It comes very thick and must be substantially thinned before use, applied and let to partially dry before rubbing it off across the grain, leaving the material in the pores. Burlap is often used. The natural is very light and in most cases would need a bit of color added. I usually use artists oil paint, or pigment powders. Oak may take two applications to completely fill the pores.

Waterbased pore fillers are similar in effect but work a bit differently. Since they dry so fast you probably can't get the filler rubbed off completely so it must be sanded off, leaving just the filler in the pores. Fortunately, the water based sands well. Again you may have to experiment with coloring the filler. There is also a transparent filler that gives an interesting effect.

Phil Phelps
09-08-2005, 6:18 AM
Since you only want to fill the oak frame, why not brush on high gloss (harder) urethane and sand between coats. I finished the rails of a pool table this way. Brushing works the urethane in the pores and sanding levels it out. Yeah, it's slow, but the effect is brilliant. When you fill the oak to where you like it, spray the entire top with satin. Should look great.

Jim Becker
09-08-2005, 8:57 AM
I happen to be in complete agreement with Steve on using a filler for oak or ash...or mahogany, for that matter. I do seal the piece before working in the filler, especially if it's been colored. That avoids any bleeding into the base wood which may have already been dyed and where contrast is desired. Applying a colored filler directly to bare wood will give, um...very unpredicable results. DAMHIKT!

Bob Johnson2
09-08-2005, 5:53 PM
Thanks guys, looks like I'l have to experiment with fillers a bit. I found the write-up on doing the slurry fill and it's said to be to partially fill the grain. Seems everything I start these days turns into a major study. It's a good thing I enjoy this.