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The Best Wood Grain Filler For Oak Cabinets (and how to use it)

The Best Wood Grain Filler For Oak Cabinets (and how to use it)

In today’s post I am going to share a secret that I don’t give out lightly.

I am going to share with you the absolute best wood grain filler for oak cabinets and how to use it to virtually eliminate all oak grain from showing after you paint your kitchen cabinets.

This product and method fills the grain quicker than any other product on the market, sands quicker, lasts longer, and is cheaper and easier than any other wood grain filling method for painting.

NOTE: This method is NOT for staining wood (hopefully that is obvious).

What Product Do I Use?

(any why should you listen to me?)

Drywall Joint Compound.

Specifically, I use Plus 3 Drywall Joint Compound.

But wait, before you homeowners go slapping joint compound on your cabinets and you painters insisting I don’t know anything, let me explain how this works.

How I Developed This Method

Kitchen Cabinet Grain Filler
Oak Grain Filled With Plus 3 Joint Compound

First, I have painted over 100 sets of oak kitchen cabinets.

I did a lot of cabinet pre-finishing from 2007-2010, but with the market crash, I found a great niche in painting existing cabinets (mainly oak) in 2012. This was the vast majority of my work for the next 7 years (probably 75% of my painting work is cabinets).

When I first started painting oak cabinets, everyone wanted them as smooth as possible and to look nothing like oak when they were finished. So I was always looking for a better way to do things and how I could improve my final product.

To eliminate the grain from the final finish, I tried every product on the market.

Some completely didn’t work. Some worked ok. Some worked great but added way too much time to my projects.

So I started doing my own experimenting.

The Final Results

Rather than tell you my trials and errors, I’ll jump to the final result.

I found that if I mix a batch of joint compound with water until it gets creamy (a bit thicker than paint), I could actually brush it onto my cabinets.

I take my joint compound mixture and literally brush it onto the cabinets. I make sure to get it into all the corners and everything.

By brushing it onto the cabinets (using a stiff bristle brush) you force the compound deep into the oak grain.

Next, what’s really great about using Plus 3 Compound is that it sands off really easily.

Many grain fillers do not get all the way into the grain, and then they are impossibly hard to sand.

Not joint compound.

It gets deep into the grain, then it sand smooth incredibly easily.

Does The Joint Compound Hold Up Over Time?

Yes, it does.

After you send off the excess compound, you’ll see that the joint compound that is left behind is minimal. It is just in little lines in the grain of the oak cabinets.

After the grain is filled and sanded, it is then covered with primer and two topcoats of enamel (at a minimum). Enamel is basically incredibly hard paint.

This means that the tiny bits of joint compound are sealed in using incredibly hard paint.

Think of it like this:

Your walls have huge amounts of joint compound in them covered by a soft wall paint, and yet that joint compound is holding up just fine for decades.

How much more do you think the compound in your cabinets will last.

I’ve been painting oak cabinets for 10+ years and have never had a warranty issue.

The Best Wood Grain Filler For Oak Cabinets Conclusion

Plus 3 Joint Compound Ready Mixed

$25.40  in stock
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The Best Wood Grain Filler For Oak Cabinets (and how to use it) 1
as of November 25, 2020 6:15 am

In my opinion, which is based on painting over 100+ sets of cabinets, the best wood grain filler for oak cabinets is joint compound mixed with water and brushed on using a stiff bristle brush.

Hopefully, this helps you solve the problem of filling the oak graining of your kitchen cabinets.

For more cabinet painting help, check out my other kitchen cabinet painting posts:

Crimson Red: 10 Ways To Use Crimson Red Paint In Your Home
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Olive Green: 11 Ways To Use Olive Green Paint In Your Home
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Sunday 22nd of November 2020

Hi Ryan, This post has such good info, thank you! I am planning to start the process to paint our oak cabinets soon. I had a question. Our oak cabinets have outer sides that feel like thin boards. Some of them are even peeling like paper. They don't feel like the rest of the cabinets. They just feel smooth. My guess is they were usually added on the outer edges to make the cabinets look smooth. I am sure you have experience with painting those. What do you recommend? Should I attempt to peel the paper then sand and paint, or just sand, prime and paint? Thanks!


Wednesday 25th of November 2020

Hi Sady,

I have dealt with this a handful of times. I cut off any peeling with a razor blade, but keep everything that isn't peeling. Then I prime the sides an extra time before beginning the process on everything else. Then skim the sides with grain filler, sand smooth, then prime again with the rest of the cabinets and go from there.

That should make the sites look good and smooth. Hope that helps!


Sunday 22nd of November 2020

What grit paper do you use to sand the cabinets before applying the joint compound?


Sunday 22nd of November 2020

Hello Keith,

I always use 3M Medium grit sponges to sand down the cabinets before I apply the grain filler. After the grain filler and after the primer coat, I use 3M Fine grit sponges. After the first top coat, before the final coat, I use 3M Extra Fine sponges. I believe for a grit comparison, this is roughly 100 - 150 - 220.


Thursday 19th of November 2020

I am in the middle of trying this method and am sanding with 150-220 grit to sand off the dried joint compound. I'm not seeing much of the white streaks in the grain. They were previously stained cabinets that we sanded down with 120 first.

Could I be sanding too much/too hard? or could it just be that the old stain filled the grain enough so not much of the joint compound can get in?


Friday 20th of November 2020

Hi Lauel,

My guess is this could be one of three things.

You may not have much of a deep graining issue on your cabinets if the original clear coat is already filling it in nicely. Occasionally I will run into oak cabinets that have such a thick clear coat (maybe it was brushed in as well) that the grain is already filled quite nicely with clear coat and doesn't take much filler.

It could be that you didn't work the filler into the grain enough before sanding.

Or It could be that you are over sanding. This grain filler sands easily (which is why I love it) but this can result in over-sanding.

My guess is the first one. You probably filled the grain just fine. Often times you don't see much of the filler left behind, but even those little bits you do see can really help improve the finished look of your cabinets.

Good Luck!


Monday 9th of November 2020

What about BIN Shellac Primer? From all my research it seems to be the most recommended for cabinets.


Thursday 12th of November 2020

Hey Steve, BIN Shellac Primer is great. It is a fantastic primer. But it has a VOC content of 539 grams / liter, which is absolutely huge. It carries a super high health risk and even a high flame risk. When I was younger, I always chose performance over safety, then I started looking for the best mix, now, my safety is number one. But I won't use BIN in any situation these days as I don't want to compromise my long term health. I actually just did a review post on Zinsser Smart Prime which has a 25 g/l VOC content (which is fantastic) and this is a great primer I use all the time.

Robert H DeVries

Friday 6th of November 2020

How many containers of joint compound do you normally use?


Thursday 12th of November 2020

Hi Robert, It depends on the size of the kitchen, but the compound actually goes really far. I buy it in 5 gallon buckets due to how much work I do, but I would imagine that a quart would get most people through their kitchen.