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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.

Painted 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

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The Best Wood Grain Filler For Oak Cabinets (and how to use it) 1 Amazon.com
as of July 5, 2021 3:18 pm

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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Jan

Tuesday 29th of June 2021

Hi Ryan! I absolutely love your posts on doing kitchen cabinets. We hope to get this project done over the next year. We have golden oak and will be doing all the tips and tricks you suggest for a smooth finish. My question is (and I'm sure it's somewhere in your posts), is it a satin or semi-gloss finish for the topcoat that would look like the ones from a cabinet shop? Thanks!

Ryanc

Monday 5th of July 2021

Hi Jan,

I ALWAYS use Satin. I never use semi-gloss. It is just too much and looks tacky in my opinion. Good luck on your project!

Carli

Thursday 24th of June 2021

Hi Ryan,

Thank you for all of the amazing information! I was going to go with aqua coat but it is very expensive so I appreciate the effort you put into to this to educate us. My question is, I am going to be doing all of these steps to my oak cabinets & drawers. However, the handles that I am wanting to use are larger than what I had one before so I am needing to drill new holes. I have already used TSP and paint stripped them, should I go ahead and drill the new holes and fill the old ones, then sand, then do the filler? What would you recommend?

Thank you so much! Carli

Ryanc

Monday 5th of July 2021

Hi Carli,

If your new holes are in a completely new location not adjacent to the old holes, then you can fill the old holes with the normal grain filler. Make sure to put on two to three coats as it will shrink a little bit and cause a small dimple if you don't. If your new holes are right next to the old ones or even touching them, then you will need to fill the old holes with something stronger like bondo or a hard wood filler. These are stronger than the drywall grain filler and will allow you to drill into or next to them without any issues. Hope This Helps!

Christina

Monday 24th of May 2021

What’s the best brand of brush and when you say “stiff” do you mean like a mortar brush?

Ryanc

Wednesday 9th of June 2021

I personally love Purdy brushes and Wooster. Those are pretty much all I use. I don't have any experience with a mortar brush, but when I say stiff, I mean in relation to other paint brushes. Most brushes will say if they have a stiff or soft bristle.

Ginger

Tuesday 11th of May 2021

Hello! I’m about to start updating my kitchen. I have *lovely* (dated) cathedral style red oak cabinets and paneling/bases and uppers. I want to remove or hide as much of them as possible. Will this technique work for filling in the cathedrals on the cabinets or is it only advised for the small pores of the wood grain?

TIA!

Ryanc

Wednesday 9th of June 2021

Hi Tia,

I've been meaning to test this method on Cathedral doors but have not yet had the chance. So I really cannot say yet. However, I have had a lot of people ask about this. So, I have it on my to-do list to go and get some old cathedral doors at the re-use store and test it out. I will make sure to let you know when I have my results.

Michael King

Saturday 20th of March 2021

Hi Ryan, I sent 3 pictures of a cabinet door that I primed. I broke through the primer when sanding(used 150). Can I uses spray can of Zinzer to spot prime, or should I just re-cost the whole door? If you enlarge the pictures, the primer looks irregular. Thoughts?? Thank You, Mike