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I've never used a grain filler, but have always wondered about it. After reading several recent threads, I've finally decided to give it a go but am unclear on several points.

I don't have any particular project in mind, but I've got lots of white oak reclaimed from a barn and just want to play around with different finishes on pieces of scrap as a learning experience.

My biggest question is on color. How much color does the filler impart on the wood?

If I'm going to use it on white oak (without any stain) do I pick a color close to the tint of the oak or use "natural" - BTW what color is natural? Or, do I choose one that is advertised as transparent? Obviously the answer is easier if I'm using it on walnut.

Finally, can you give me a recommendation or two on what brands to use. There are lots of them out there and for someone with no experience, I have no way to evaluate the differences between brands. I usually use a OB varnish as a topcoat.
 

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Most of the time oak isn't grain filled. It is mostly walnut and mahogany that is filled. Those are considered more of a formal wood. Anyway if you use a pigmented grain filler it will color the wood about 90% of the desired color. I normally keep mahogany grain filler for mahogany because it is red and the finished color is artificial anyway. I also keep walnut grain filler because it doesn't have the red color. You can also buy it in a natural color and add a universal tinting color to it to make the color you want. If you buy it from a real paint store like sherwin williams they will tint it for you. You should stain a piece of wood the color you want and have the grain filler tinted to the darker parts of the grain. If you just use natural on oak and then stain the wood I think you would be unhappy with the results. The grain filler won't accept the stain as well as the wood and will be lighter in the grain making it look strange.

As far as brand I have only used Mohawk oil based grain filler. It worked so I stayed with it. Many have said the grain filler sherwin williams makes is good but only comes in the natural color.
 
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