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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

$54.26  in stock
3 new from $20.07
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The Best Wood Grain Filler For Oak Cabinets (and how to use it) 1
as of May 17, 2021 4:06 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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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?


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

Michel King

Tuesday 16th of March 2021

Hey Ryan, I have all the grain filler on my doors. I only primed one, so I if there was an issue I could address it now. I broke through the primer in a couple of places, would it be ok to use a rattle can of Zinzer to spot prime those of do I need to recoat the whole door? I have emailed 3 pictures to you, I’m not sure what’s going on. The primer is not real smooth, I sanded with 150. Thank You, Mike

Mike king

Friday 26th of March 2021

@Ryanc, Thanks Ryan. I sent the pics on Match 16. That might make them easier to find.


Monday 22nd of March 2021

Hey Mike,

I carry a rattle can of Kilz with me on all jobs. Perfect for spot priming anywhere I accidentally sand through or where tannins bleed through. Just make sure to sand the area after spot priming as those cans leave a rough finish. I'll look for the email with the pics and respond there.


Tuesday 9th of March 2021

For finished oak cabinets do you sand first and how much prior to adding joint compound?


Tuesday 16th of March 2021

Hi Cathy, Yes, whether they are painted, clear coated, or unfinished, I always start by cleaning, then sanding. The level of sanding will always depend on the condition of the cabinets, but you need to sand enough to at least de-gloss the surface, rough it up, and remove any previous imperfections. Hope this helps!

Michael King

Tuesday 2nd of March 2021

Hi Ryan, Do o you use a acrylic Enamel on your cabinets? I’m retired, owned a collision repair shop and did auto body repair and paint for 50 years. I sprayed my crown and base boards with acrylic enamel... they came out slick. (Used an airless). When I painted the drawer faces I used an HVLP (Wagner). I couldn’t get it to layout. It went on heavy, no runs, but didn’t flow out at all. I thinned it and added flotrol. Any suggestions? Thanks, Mike

Michael Kkng

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

@Ryanc, Hey Ryan, ThankYOU for getting back to me and for the info. I have the Wagner Flexio 4300. It came with gravity feed and suction feed guns. It was $200, had I known what I know now, I would have spent a little more for a better sprayer. I’m still torn on wether to use this or my airless. The airless is a graco UltraMax. I have a 210 tip (4” fan), but they still overspray way worse than the HVLP. One other question, my cabinet doors are raised panel (wish I could send a picture). I have them prepped..I completely stripped them. There are a lot of small crevices, (where they were assembled). I was going to caulk those, will it matter if the mud gets in those cracks? Do you think that will be a place that will fail later? Thanks again, Mike


Tuesday 2nd of March 2021

Hey Michael, Sorry to hear you're having trouble. I have used acrylic enamels, though these days I typically use water-based alkyds (or hybrids) such as Benjamin Moore Advance. To get an acrylic enamel to spray and level (flow) well with an hvlp, I've found that thinning about 20% is usually required. I don't use flotrol as I've typically had good luck with thinning with just water at 20%. The Wagner sprayers are significantly under-powered compared to professional turbine hvlps or compared to using a compressor. So make sure your air is turned all the way up and dial back the fluid flow rate. I like to start with no fluid and slowly turn it up. If you still aren't getting good atomization and flow, thin it a bit more. I did write a pretty in depth guide on using the Wagner Flexio 2000 you might want to check out. Let me know how it goes.