Full Chisel Blog

October 14, 2011

Traditional Putty for woodworking

I needed some putty for a large scale restoration job, the woodwork on a building constructed in 1850.  This is for exterior application on sills, lintels, bargeboards, moldings, etc.  Mostly for covering cut nails used in the restoration, but some to fill seasoning cracks.

Here is my recipe based on traditional formulations: 1/2 cup whiting [calcium carbonate], 2 tablespoons of zinc oxide [metallic dryer] and 3 ounces of Moses T’s St. John’s Oil and mixed together.

It takes a while to dry and does remain flexible for wood movement.



  1. Did you mean Moses T’s St. John’s Wax ?

    Comment by mark — October 14, 2011 @ 8:44 am

  2. I’ve only recently started to use some nails in my work. For the most they really aren’t that visible, so I have just left them unfilled. What is long term fate of putty filed holes? Is it inevitable that the putty will fall out, or can you expect reasonable “lifespan” for putty filled holes?


    Comment by Mike Lingenfelter — October 14, 2011 @ 9:35 am

  3. Mark,

    No St. John’s Oil for putty. The beeswax part of St. John’s Wax stays on the surface, never drying, the oil part penetrates and dries.


    I have examined 150 year old pieces with the putty still tight in the holes. This type of putty remains somewhat flexible and adheres well to wood.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — October 14, 2011 @ 11:18 am

  4. Thanks, Stephen. I’ll give it a try. I guess it’s only the modern stuff that falls out, if you look at it wrong :).


    Comment by Mike Lingenfelter — October 14, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

  5. Stephen,
    Where can you get whiting. The only thing I find on the net is supplements or 5 grams for eighty dollars. I didn’t look up zinc oxide, was afraid I’d get sunblock. What is the dry time for this putty before painting?
    Thank You

    Comment by John Minster — October 15, 2011 @ 4:18 am

  6. John,
    You can get whiting [calcium carbonate] at some paint stores or pottery supply houses & zinc oxide I also get from pottery or ceramic supply companies. Drying time varies, we applied some yesterday and will be painting monday. It should be skinned over by that time but depending on thickness, weather it is slow drying. It is also self leveling when you put it on, interesting stuff.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — October 15, 2011 @ 7:16 am

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