Wood Filler vs Epoxy: When to Use Each

Wood filler and epoxy are both common solutions for restoring wood furniture and other woodworking projects. However, there are some different use cases for each.

Because the process of applying each solution is so different, there are certain times when you should use one or the other.

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

The key differences between wood filler and epoxy

Wood filler is a pasty material that often consists of wood dust and glue or varnish. The consistency is moldable when you are applying it but over about an hour, it hardens up.

Typically wood filler is used for filling small cracks and dents or covering nail holes. The material comes in either tubes or containers that you can scoop the wood filler out of.

Epoxy on the other hand is a slightly more complex solution. Epoxy resin, also called just resin, is a material that is often used to restore furniture. It’s essentially two ingredients that you mix and over a few hours, the solution slowly starts to harden through a chemical reaction. Because the liquid starts to solidify, the epoxy must be poured soon after you mix the two components.

Related: Bondo vs Wood Filler: When to Use Each

When to use wood filler and epoxy

Wood filler is a great solution to use to:

  • Fill in scratches, gouges, or dents in furniture
  • Shaping worn down or broken edges of drawers, shelves, etc.
  • Covering up nail heads before painting

It’s a great solution for relatively small imperfections on furniture that need to be restored. Small gouges like the one in the image below are perfect for wood filler:

Small gouge in wood dresser top

However, epoxy is certainly a better solution for refurbishing a larger area of damaged wood. Consider an antique table top that is riddled with cracks that have formed from the wood expanding and contracting due to changes in humidity over decades. Rather than using a full tube of wood filler, it may be more efficient to pour resin to fill in these cracks.

The benefit of resin is that the liquid can very easily perfectly fill in cracks and deep gouges. After all, liquid fills any space that it is contained in. On the other hand, with wood filler, it can sometimes be difficult to completely fill deep cracks to the very point where the crack starts. Thus, the resin is the better solution for large cracks, gouges, and surfaces where damage is widespread.

Take the side of this dresser for instance in the image below. Notice how there are a few cracks in the wood. Epoxy could be a great way to fill these cracks:

Cracks in side of dresser

Additionally, epoxy dries extremely hard, almost like extremely dense plastic. Wood filler on the other hand dries firmly but doesn’t hold its shape as well if applied over a large surface. 

Related: MH Ready Patch vs Bondo: A Detailed Comparison

How to apply wood filler and epoxy

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. You can use a putty knife or any other flat tool to apply the material to the piece of wood you are working on.

As for epoxy, once the resin and the curing agent are mixed in a small cup or pale, the material can be poured over the affected area of wood. If there are deep cracks in the wood, slowly pour the epoxy into the damaged areas without being excessive if possible. Once you are finished, the solution will begin to harden and after a few hours, it will be solidified.

 

 

Sources: 

https://www.resinobsession.com/resin-frequently-asked-questions/best-epoxy-resin/

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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