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I normally use Aqua Coat to fill the grain in oak cabinets I'm painting, which fills surface cracks and pores pretty well, but I wanted to try a different product that dries faster. I bought Timbermate grain filler based on positive reviews I read on various websites.
Timbermate is a water-based wood filler that comes in small eight ounce jars and quart size containers, but quarts weren't an option when placing my order, so I had to order multiple eight-ounce jars. The consistency of the filler out of the jar is similar to putty, but you can add more water to make it easier to spread over the surface.
If you need grain filler to prepare oak cabinets for painting, I don't recommend this product. I'll share my recent experience, using this filler to prep a set of oak cabinet doors.
The first thing I noticed about this product when removing the lid is the strong odor. Timbermate grain filler smells like Band-Aids, but more intense. Gloves are a must. I made the mistake of not wearing gloves, and my hands stunk for a couple of days, even after washing them with heavy duty hand cleaner.
I only used this product on a set of cabinet doors, applying the filler outside. I can't imagine using this stuff indoors, but ventilation and a respirator would be needed. The odor was so strong that the doors still smelled bad even after spraying primer.
I bought the color white since I primed and painted the cabinet doors that color, but you can buy this product in various colors if you need to color match wood for a staining project.
I emptied all of the Timbermate jars into one plastic container, mixing everything together with water until the filler was the consistency of cake batter.
I spread the material over both sides of the cabinet doors with a plastic taping knife, wearing my respirator to avoid gagging from the smell. The filler spreads fairly well when mixed with enough water. The dry time is less than one hour, which I liked compared to other products I've used.
The filler did fill the cracks in the grain in one coat, but no better than other products I've used. The grain pattern was still visible, but the cracks were gone. Completely removing visible grain in oak is difficult without applying more than one coat. Oak is extremely grainy. Two to three coats of Timbermate would probably smooth out the surface pretty good, but you'd have to do a ton of sanding, which I'll comment on next.
Products that sand easily are very important to me, especially when having to sand twenty plus cabinet doors. The easier the sanding, the better. One of the reasons I tried this product was supposedly how easy it sanded, but that definitely wasn't the case.
Timbermate grain filler was an absolute nightmare to sand. I've done tons of sanding in my painting career, but this was by far one of the most annoying products to sand. I applied the material very thin, making sure not to leave heavy build-up on the surface of the doors.
I had to resort to coarse sandpaper on my orbital sander to smooth out the surface of the doors, and removing the dried filler from the beveled trim on the door fronts was very difficult, requiring careful scraping to not damage the wood. This stuff dries like concrete.
The sanding made an incredible mess that wreaked. If you're sanding indoors, everything would need to be covered. I did all the sanding outside.
After the sanding was finally done, I wiped the doors down with a tack cloth before spraying the primer. The odor eventually went away after the second coat of primer was applied.
Timbermate might be a good product for use in small staining projects like a tabletop, or a single furniture piece, but I definitely don't recommend it for a large cabinet painting project. While it does fill the cracks in oak grain decently in one coat, the difficult sanding and unpleasant odor were the deal breakers for me. The one positive is that it does dry really fast.
Luckily, I only used this product on half of the cabinet doors. I ended up going back to Aqua Coat to finish off the remaining doors and wall boxes, and although this filler does take longer to dry, it's a lot easier to sand if you apply a thin coat. The smell isn't bad either.
Both products remove the grainy cracks in oak with one coat, but both require more than one coat to totally level out the grain pattern, so it doesn't look like oak anymore. Most grain filler requires more than one coat though to completely smooth out oak cabinets. Cost wise, I found the total expense for both products to be almost the same for the purpose of cabinet painting.
Question: When using Timbermate or Aqua Coat, do you have any recommendations for primer & paint to use over them? In other words is it necessary to use an oil based primer over them? Or, can you use oil or water based?
Answer: Oil primer is best. It's going to seal the surface, dry harder than latex, and your paint will bond well with it.
Question: Is it possible that the smell is related to the bluing used to make the timermate white? I've seen many usage reports of timermate (of more natural colors) and none of them mentioned smell.
Answer: I don't know what causes the horrible odor of this product, or if the natural colors have no odor, but the one I used smelled really bad. There's no way I would use Timbermate indoors. The odor smells a lot like band aids.
© 2018 Matt G.
Matt G. (author) from United States on June 03, 2019:
I don't know of anything that would neutralize the odor. I remember this filler having the worst odor of any product I've ever worked with, it was horrible. Wash your hands with a really good hand cleaner, or wear throw away gloves. Wear a respirator. I used this product outside. I can't imagine using it indoors.
DestinationPittsburgh on June 03, 2019:
I foolishly used this on a model ship and it stinks. Is there anything you can think of that would neutralize the smell? Would this wash off?
This product has got to be bad for anybody with scent sensitivity (me) or any kind of breathing problems.