I am in the process of making bathroom cabinets using veneer core
mahogany plywood for the carcass and solid oak for the doors. The doors
will have a couple of strips of the mahogany inlaid into them.
To simplify the work I am installing the (solid mahogany) trim on the
carcass panels prior to assembly. Carcass assembly is by biscuits,
screws and glue.
I have been reading a book on finishing and they recommend the use of a
pore filler for open grained woods. Mahogany and oak are specifically
mentioned. Doing this to the doors should not be a problem but I figure
using pore filler on assembled carcasses would be a royal PITA.
My questions: Can I (or should I) pore fill the mahogany prior to
assembly? It would certainly be easier than trying to use pore filler on
the inside of the cabinet after the fact! What affect would this have on
the strength of the glue up? I expect I would also have to stain the
wood prior to filling it as well. Would this cause any issues? Finally,
Would there be any issues applying the final finish over the pore
filler? I plan top use satin polyurethane since a bathroom is a pretty
Have you decided what you are going to use for pore filler? There are
various types, which can and will affect the finish you put over them. But
that's why you choose, right?
One of the last several issues of Fine Woodworking had an article on 'old
school' pore fillers, which seemed pretty authoritative. And the
woodworking stores have various concoctions on their shelves, too.
But whatever you choose, you ought to be able to fill the panels prior to
assembly. Some folks even get a couple of coats of finish on early as
well. Heck, some of us cheat and buy prefinished maple and/or birch
plywood, and build the cabinets out of that. It won't look like yours
should, when you're done, but the clients are happy.
If you're worried, tape off the glue joints with blue or green tape, or
leave the panels a bit large, and trim after pore filling.
Good luck. Practice on scrap. Take pictures. Smile.
Filling the pores is always optional. You don't have to do it and most
mahogany and oak is finished without it. It's mostly done on fine
furniture, especially table tops where a mirror finish is desired. The
satin polyurethane isn't going to highlight your laborious job of
filling the pores very well. Do yourself a favor and forget about it.
The cabinets will look great without it.
All a "pore filler" does is fill in the grain so that,as previously
mentioned, you can obtain a mirror like finish. The smoother the finish
the higher the gloss. Using a satin poly, you can achieve the same
effect by applying several coats and sanding down with fine paper
between each. When Shallac (French Polish)was the most popular finish a
grain filler was almost always used as this a thin product and would
require a hell of a lot of coats to fill an open grain type timber. With
most modern finishes this is not required.
Hope this helps you out a bit.
All the best
I made a walnut case recently, and searched for and found hardwood filler
and used it. The damn wood looked like plastic it was so smooth. Not a
What I have done now (mostly on lathe turned stuff) is to not fill it, but
put a first coat of wiping varnish on it, let it cure. Then I put on
another coat, and wet sand it with the varnish as the wet, with 220 or 320
grit. (Don't use the black silicon carbide paper, you get black grit! I
use the 3M "super paper" can't think of the name now.)
What you end up with is a slurry of wood dust, and varnish that fills the
pores somewhat, and looks like the wood, but leaves the nice natural
texture. After that dries, you do need another light sanding to get it
smooth, before your final coats. I've used this on oak and walnut, both
quite open pored woods.
If you don't know, you can make very good wiping varnish with half varnish,
half turps or paint thinner. I use a lot of MinWax Tung Oil finish, which
is about the same thing.
As always, try it on a scrap to see if you are happy with it. See the first
paragraph for why.
Lot's o' good advice. Filler is typicially only used on furniture and
is VERY difficult to get right.
Don't fill, don't put too thick of a coat of whatever and you'll still
be able to feel the wood and be very happy.
Thanks for all the responses. The consensus seems to be not to use pore
filler. I have used an oil based (dark brown) pore filler on an oak desk
chair I refinished some time ago and was satisfied with the results. The
end finish was VERY smooth (final coats were a high gloss varnish that
was wet sanded with #0000 steel wool to bring it back to a smooth
satin). If you are really hung up on the wood texture then this is
probably not for you. I will try this on a scrap piece before I make my
This does lead to another question. How advisable is it to stain and put
a sealer coat on (50% mineral spirits, 50% varnish) before carcass
assembly? Again this would be easier than crawling around the inside of
a cabinet but I do wonder about glue up issues...
I think you could stain/finish the inside with whatever you want as
long as you mask off the areas that will be glued with some
good-quality masking tape (that won't leave residue or pull up fibers).
Sounds a lot easier than staining/finishing inside corners to me!
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