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

$25.14  in stock
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as of September 23, 2020 6:50 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:

9 thoughts on “The Best Wood Grain Filler For Oak Cabinets (and how to use it)”

    1. Hi Janine,
      I typically use 120 – 150 grit paper or medium grit sanding sponges to sand the grain filler. After the primer is on, I use 180 to sand the primer (or fine grit sponges. Then after the first topcoat, I use 220 grit or extra-fine sponges.
      Hope that helps!

  1. Fascinating. I’m gonna give this a try! Do you have a favorite primer that sticks equally well to the oak and joint compound? Like Stix or BIN?

    1. Hey Jeff,
      I’ve tried a handful of different primers over the years and had pretty good luck all around. Any decent primer should bond to roughed up oak and drywall compound. Kilz Original is cheap and works amazingly well. Only problem is the oil smell. Kilz 2 works ok, but doesn’t always seal the bleeding tannins. Benjamin Moore Advance primer works really well, but costs a lot of $$. Sherwin Williams’ Easy Sand Primer is probably my favorite though. It is a bit expensive, but it seals everything beautifully and sands amazing. Again, only problem is that it is oil.

  2. Thanks, Ryan! Because I’ll only need one gallon, I think I’ll go with Advance primer. I should try to avoid oil because of my wife’s respiratory sensitivities. Also, I think I’m going with a satin Advance color as the topcoat. I used it in our master bathroom renovation and was very happy with it. I really appreciate your advice!

  3. Any thoughts on a good stiff bristle brush for applying the joint compound? Definitely plan on trying this method. Thanks! Your site has a ton of helpful info!

    1. Hi Theresa,

      Honestly, any stiff bristle brush works just fine. You don’t have to buy an expensive brush for this. Just don’t buy a soft bristle brush, stiff work a lot better.

      Good luck. Check back in and let me know how it went!

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Absolutely sand the cabinets before you apply the compound. I sand and vacuum mine before applying the compound (oftentimes will wash them with warm water and dawn if they are greasy from cooking).

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