Bondo vs Wood Filler: When to Use Each

For many, Bondo and wood filler are the go-to products for refinishing furniture and other wood projects. However, there are times when you are better off using one product over the other. Each material has its own use case.

This post discusses the differences between Bondo vs wood filler so that you can determine which solution is best for you.

The key differences between Bondo and wood filler

Can of Bondo

Bondo is a putty product produced by 3M. It was first advertised as an automotive body filler and was used to fill in imperfections on cars such as minor dents or scratches. Naturally, its durability and hardness allow it to hold up well against the elements.

Today there are a few Bondo products such as the original Bondo body repair formula, Bondo all-purpose putty, and even Bondo wood filler. However, in this post, we will be discussing Bondo all-purpose putty (available here on Amazon). It’s an extremely common Bondo product for woodworking and restoring furniture in particular.

The material is applied in its out-of-container pasty form, and over the course of 10 minutes, the material hardens up.

Wood filler

Wood filler is a pasty material that often consists of wood dust and glue or varnish. The consistency is moldable right out of the container, but it fully hardens after about an hour. 

Typically wood filler is used for filling small cracks or covering nail holes. The material comes in either tubes or containers that you can scoop the wood filler out of. You can find wood filler such as the one in the image above here on Amazon or any hardware store. 

Related: How to Remove Scratches From Wood with Vinegar

When to use Bondo and wood filler (when woodworking)

Bondo is an extremely versatile product. The material can be used to restore metal, brick, wood, stone, and practically any other solid material. However, there are certain times when you should and shouldn’t use Bondo for woodworking.

Bondo is a great solution for filling relatively large areas of damaged wood. For instance, Bondo is a great solution to use to:

  • Fill cracks that have formed on top of an old wood table or a dresser
  • Fill large gouges and dents in the furniture
  • Repair the veneer that is starting to flake off
  • Restore furniture in areas where wood is beginning to rot
  • Restore sizable areas of wood that have been broken or worn down

Bondo is certainly an effective solution for small scratches or dents as well. However, given that Bondo is a heavy-duty solution, it’s a better solution for larger projects. For instance, to mold a new corner for the broken dresser drawer in the image below, Bondo would be your best bet: 

Broken corner on wood dresser

Bondo is also great for deep gouges like this one: 

large gouge in wood

Wood filler, on the other hand, is a great solution to repair relatively small damaged parts of furniture that need to be restored before painting or staining.

Wood filler is a great solution to use to:

  • Fill in light scratches
  • Fill in small dents, and gouges
  • Covering up nail heads before painting

For instance, wood filler would be great for the light scratches and dents on the dresser top below: 

light scratches on wood

It is not recommended to apply wood filler in a large amount across large surfaces. Bondo tends to have a harder consistency when dry and is less prone to chipping and other damage in comparison. 

Related: MH Ready Patch vs Bondo: A Detailed Comparison

How to apply Bondo and wood filler

Compared to wood filler, applying Bondo is a more involved process. To apply Bondo, you must mix the Bondo with the cream hardener. This causes a chemical reaction that enables the mixture to harden up and dry.

Before using the Bondo, make sure you have the right materials. Be prepared with a paper plate, piece of cardboard, or similar disposable material that you can use to mix the Bondo and the cream hardener together. You will also need a disposable mixing tool like a plastic spoon or popsicle stick. Lastly, it’s good to have a molding tool like a putty knife to spread and shape the Bondo.

Keep in mind that when the Bondo and cream hardener are mixed together, the material tends to harden extremely quickly. Because the solution starts to harden up in 10 minutes or so after mixing the materials together, it’s important not to use too much at a time and to move quickly.

Apply a small amount of Bondo to your mixing surface and add the cream hardener. The instructions on the box will indicate the correct proportions.

Mix the components together until you have a completely uniform substance. From here, slather it onto the damaged area of the wood. Use your putty knife or plastic scraper to spread the material so that it completely and evenly covers the damaged area. Over the next 10 minutes bondo will completely harden up. 

Related: Wood Filler vs Epoxy: When to Use Each

The process for applying wood filler is practically the same but without the mixing of components. 

Sometimes wood filler comes in a tube that you can use to squeeze out the material. It also comes in plastic containers that allow you to scoop the material out with a putty knife or plastic spoon. Similar to Bondo, you would use a putty knife to press the wood filler into any scratches or grooves that you are repairing. 

The material will start to harden up instantly but make sure to wait at least an hour for the solution to completely firm up.

 

 

Sources: 

https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/bondo-us/

https://www.thisoldhouse.com/woodworking/21017152/how-to-choose-and-use-wood-filler

https://www.homedit.com/wood-putty-vs-wood-filler/

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