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If you've ever painted oak cabinets, you know that the wood grain is difficult to fill with primer and paint alone, especially when painting with a sprayer instead of a roller. Skim coating the grain before painting fills in the grainy holes in the wood, making them invisible when painted.
The grain filler I've used for a while, with good results, is Aqua Coat. This product fills the grain holes, but it's expensive and not the easiest to sand. I've experimented with other grain fillers, including Timbermate and Famowood, but those products were too hard to sand.
Based on a recommendation, I bought a small inexpensive container of DryDex spackling and tested the product out on a spare cabinet door made of oak. The results were satisfactory.
The DAP spackling I used on my test door was the pink lid version (Dry Time Indicator). This lightweight spackle is a pinkish color that turns white as it dries. I skim coated my test door with only one coat, using a putty knife.
The material is a creamy paste that spreads easily. For the edges of the cabinet doors, I used my finger to fill the cracks. I didn't notice any unpleasant odor, unlike Timbermate, which was, by far, the worst smelling wood filler I've ever used. I didn't have any problems with the material drying out in the container once opened for the first time.
I noticed that this product doesn't fill deeper holes well because it's too thin. If you need to fill screw holes, or holes from old hardware, use a wood filler that's thicker and doesn't shrink. I use Durham's water putty for patching minor damage in cabinet doors and 3M Bondo Wood Filler for patching large holes.
Compared to the various wood fillers I've experimented with, DryDex sanded a lot easier with little effort. I applied a thin layer, enough to fill the grain, but not too much to where sanding might be difficult. This product filled the grain really well in only one coat without leaving air bubbles behind as it dried.
I used a sanding sponge (220-grit) to sand the cabinet door once the surface turned white and fully dried. This product was really easy to sand out of the corners and intricate grooves of the trim on the front of my cabinet door. Removing globs of grain filler from corners can turn into a nightmare, but this material is crumbly and scrapes off easily with a putty knife.
After sanding my cabinet door, I caulked the cracks of the recessed panel on both sides of the door, wiped off the dust with a tack cloth, and sprayed the first coat of BIN shellac primer. The primer sealed the surface without any bonding issues, or bubbling in the grain. With one coat, you could see a little flashing of the grain at an angle, but the second coat of primer made that go away.
I sanded the second coat of primer with a fine grit sanding sponge and sprayed two coats of Emerald urethane paint. DryDex won't make the wood grain flush with the surface of the door, if that's what you're trying to achieve with your cabinets, but it will hide the holes and cracks in the grain of the wood. Making the texture of oak grain flush and level with the surface is difficult to achieve, regardless of the patching material used. It can be done, but not without multiple coats and hours of sanding.
After testing this product on a grainy oak door, I've concluded that DAP DryDex Spackling is a good, inexpensive alternative, to grain fillers that are harder to sand and cost double the price in some cases. I can buy a huge 128-oz tub of this stuff for nearly half the price of the smaller container of the filler I used before.
Moving forward, I plan on using this product on my oak cabinet painting projects instead of the pricey grain filler I had been using. The results are the same. If all you're trying to do is fill the grain holes in your cabinets, this product will do that for you. My review is based on the Dry Time Indicator version with the pink lid, not the red lid.
The one major advantage for me is the easy sanding. Some of my oak cabinet projects include over thirty doors, so if the material doesn't sand easily, I'm not going to use it. This stuff dried in about one hour. The color change when dry is nice, but not really important for me because I usually sand everything the following day.
© 2019 Matt G.