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To fill or not to fill, that is the question – Michael Dresdner

Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

To fill or not to fill, that is the question

Q: I am in the process of completing a kitchen full of cabinets and need some advice about the proper finish to use. The face frames and drawer fronts are walnut. There are several lower cabinet doors that are walnut frames with a maple panel. Do I need to seal the wood to obtain a really smooth satin finish? Some of the walnut looks pretty porous, kind of like oak.

A: That depends on your definition of smooth. If you mean that you want the pores filled and not open, then you will need to use a pore filler (not a sealer) prior to the finish. Pore filler is a thick paste that gets packed into the pores and the excess removed with a squeegee. Once it dries, it forms an inert material that fills the pores and allows the finish to sit atop it. Some brands of filler, such as Timbermate, come in as many as 22 different colors, and can be custom tinted as well. Whether or not you fill is a personal choice based on the appearance you want. I’d advise making samples on walnut scrap first to see if that is the route you want to go. Once filled, I’d use oil based polyurethane as my topcoat. It’s one of the best finishes you can choose for a kitchen, can be applied by wiping, brushing or even spraying, and like other finishes, is available in satin.