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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.

Prefer Watching?

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
as of January 26, 2022 11:28 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:


Thursday 30th of September 2021

Using this method now for oak cabinets as it worked very well for a media built-in. What can be done about the cabinet doors slightly warping/twisting after applying the drywall compound while doing the work in the garage? In your experience will they go back to flat at some point?


Thursday 30th of September 2021

Hi Michael,

Sorry to hear that you are having some issues with your cabinet doors. The drywall compound wouldn't cause them to warp as there isn't enough moisture to cause warping from that. My guess is that it was too humid in your garage and having the doors sit in there for an extended period caused the warping. I would bring them inside and make sure that your humidity is low. Give them a week and see if they go back to normal. Good Luck!


Thursday 9th of September 2021

Let us know your favorite brush for primer and top coat.

I love your all the post.


Monday 12th of July 2021

I've TSPd stained oak cabinet fronts. So do I need to lightly sand the lacquer finish next before I grain fill with mud or go directly to grain filling and sand all when it dries?


Saturday 24th of July 2021

Hi John,

I would recommend sanding before you apply the mud filler. It's quick and easy and the potential benefits are huge. Hope this helps.


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!


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!


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


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!