Does Wood Putty Harden? – All You Need To Know!

does wood putty harden

Both wood putty and wood filler do great tasks repair damages and fill holes that commonly happen on a regular woodworking basis. Even though the task of both wood filler and wood putty is the same, they are totally different from each other in many factors.

Especially in composition. As a woodworker, when I was using wood putty for outdoor woodworking projects, I was always curious about Does Wood Putty Harden?

I did some research and here is what I’ve found:

No, Wood Putty does not harden. It can contract and expand along with the wood which makes wood putty ideal for outdoor woodworking projects. Because the temperature and humidity can change the shape of the wood and wood putty can adjust along with those changes without breaking. Wood putty is a non-hardening paste use to fix minor issues after the woodworking task is already finished.

That’s a quick snapshot. But there’s a lot more to know about the non-hardening behavior of wood putty.

So, in this article, I’ll deeply discuss why does wood putty does not harden, how to make wood putty harden, how long does it take, how to make wood putty dry faster based on oil-based wood putty and water-based one as well.

So let’s keep going!

Why Does Wood Putty Not Harden?

Wood putty does not harden because it can change its dimensions according to the environmental humidity and temperature levels due to its unique composition and flexibility. Wood putty dries but mostly does not harden.

It stays the same position as it is even the wood gets twisted.  This is where wood putty and wood filler behave separately from each other.

The main use of wood putty is to patch small holes in finished wood like covering nail holes, joint mismatches, small blemishes.

Benefits of Wood Putty Non-Hardening Behavior

Wood fillers harden after some time once it is applied but wood putty does not. Wood fillers do not change their dimensions according to the environmental changes while wood putty does.

In outdoor conditions, the wood tends to expand when there is high humidity and contract in low humidity.

This movement cannot be changed. It is a natural process.

The problem is if we apply wood filler for our outdoor woodworking projects, fillers cannot move or change dimensions along with wood according to the humidity and temperature levels because of less flexibility.

When the wood is expanding and contacting the wood filler will remain the same and eventually, you’ll notice cracks and scratches in the area wood filler have applied. But wood putty acts completely different.

Because of being a non-hardening and flexible paste, wood putty can move or change dimensions along with wood according to the humidity and temperature levels.

This won’t give any cracks or breaks as wood fillers do.

So, let’s talk about the drying process of wood putty which only happens without hardening.

How Long Does Wood Putty Take to Dry?

Usually, wood putty completely dries within 2-8 hours. But the dry time of wood putty depends completely on you.

If you apply less amount of wood putty, it’ll dry faster than the time that taken when the application of high amount.

Also, the drying time can differ according to the type of wood putty you going to use. There are different drying times and drying mechanisms for water-based wood putty and oil-based ones.

Oil base Wood Putty Dry Time

Oil-based wood putty dry time is about 48 hours. Oil-based wood putty is great if you want the topcoat to be oil-based.

Once you did the finishing of your woodwork, apply the oil base wood putty and wait around 5 to 20 minutes to haze it over. The drying time of wood putty can vary according to the temperature and humidity levels.

However, as soon as the stain is dried, remove the excess with a cloth and leave the wood putty to cure around 12 hours.

After that check the surface again and you can reapply the wood putty onto the same area if you’re not satisfied with how it looks.

When you feel “ok” about how it looks, leave it for another 48 hours until it is fully dried.

Water-based Wood Putty Dry Time

Water-based wood putty dry time is about 24 hours. Oil-based wood putty is great if you want the topcoat to be water-based.

Like an oil-based one, once you have done the finishing of your woodwork, apply the water-based wood putty. But here you don’t need to wait minutes until it hazes over.

You should wipe the surface to remove the excess stain as soon as the stain is dried.

Then let the wood putty dry for an hour and sand with 320 grit sandpaper to check whether the wood putty is completely dried or not. If it’s not, the sandpaper will gum up.

However, I highly recommend keeping the wood at least 24 hours to complete the drying process fully.

How Can You Make Wood Putty Dry Faster?

As you can notice the drying time of wood putty is too much with our busy schedules. So, there are several methods I personally follow and recommend making wood putty dry faster.

They are,

  1. Always go for thin layers
  2. Warm up the area
  3. Keep the area clean
  4. Apply hardeners
  5. Do proper sanding

1. Always Go for Thin Layers

Never apply thick layers if you want to make wood putty dry faster. Thick layers take a huge amount of time to dry because there is a lot inside that is completely covered from the outside environment.

By applying thin layers of wood putty, you’ll be able to uncover most of the wood putty to the outside environment and make the dry faster.

But you need to make sure that the layer is not too much thin. Because the layer is too thin it cannot cover up the cracks and scratches well and wood putty does not harden easily as we wish.

Always give the priority to the operation that needs to be completed then its drying time. Otherwise, the whole thing will be just a waste of time and money.

Thin layers dry faster. After the application of your first layer, let it dry, and then apply the second or third layers until the cracks and scratches are fully covered.

While applying each layer you need to make sure the rule of thumb is “Never go for thick layers”.

2. Warm Up the Area

Heat will soften the wood putty. Wood putty in the drying process will increase when it is soft.

So, I highly recommend applying wood putty in the daytime under the sunlight. The heat that came from the sun increases the drying time of wood putty.

If you live in a place where that doesn’t reach sunlight much, do the application in the daytime or do the application of wood putty to the areas where cracks display during summer.

This increases the effectiveness of the process and increases the drying time significantly.

3. Keep the Area Clean

Impurities can increase the drying time more than you expect. So, always clean the area/surface before applying the wood putty layer.

If you do the application of wood putty without cleaning, you’ll end up with a dumpy surface, and can take days to complete the drying process.

You can remove dirt and debris before applying each layer of wood putty by wiping them off using a damp cloth.

This will decrease the drying time significantly.

4. Apply Hardeners

By adding hardeners to the wood putty, you can make the wood putty dry faster. But you need to have proper guidance on that.

Because if add excess hardeners to the wood putty, you’ll end up with nothing and this can harden your wood putty quickly.

Epoxy resin is the best hardener that I can recommend to mix with wood putty before applying it to the wood that can make the putty dry faster.

But again I do not recommend this method if you’re a beginner in woodworking.

5. Do Proper Sanding

Sanding can smooth the surface and remove the dumps at the same time. by sanding before applying each layer of wood putty the drying time will significantly decrease.

Also, you can check whether the putty is completely dried or not by sanding it with 320 grit sandpaper.

As you can see, even though wood putty does not harden, you need to focus more on its drying process.

Does the wood putty harden question always comes from people who switched recently from wood fillers to wood putty because wood fillers do harden over time, not like wood putty.

Both wood putty and wood fillers are able to screw when they’re fully dried.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Does Wood Putty Harden?

In this article, I have deeply discussed Does wood putty harden and what are advantages you can get from wood putty over wood filler because of being a non-hardening paste.

Furthermore, we have discussed how can you make wood putty dry faster based on oil-based wood putty and water-based ones.

However, in my experience, Wood putty is great to use if you’re a beginner in woodworking because you can apply it to the areas easily even after you are done with the woodworking project and wood putty has great flexibility over environmental changes.

It can contract and extract along with the wood smoothly.

If you’re not interested in using wood putty or wood filler, the best alternative is caulk for filling wood gaps, cracks, frames, trims, corners, and sealings

Hope this article gave you a proper understanding of how you can apply wood putty to your next woodworking project without any issues. So, let’s give it a try!

Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him!

2 thoughts on “Does Wood Putty Harden? – All You Need To Know!”

  1. I’ve had to use DAP wood plastic on a dresser…is this wood putty ? Also can I paint then polyurethane it and will it chip away or will it harden well ? Thanks

    • Hi Dab!
      DAP wood plastic is a Wood filler. It is set into the wood, you can cover it simply with a coat of paint and apply polyurethane over it. Yes, it’ll harden well.


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