Wood putty is a complex substance. It battles with identity issues and lives an ongoing lie. It looks like brown wasabi paste, smells like nail polish and pretends to be wood.
The main purpose of putty is to fill small cracks, breaks or flaws in the wood. When used correctly, it can make your finished coffee table look flawless, and hide a multitude of sins. It’s basically make-up for furniture. There’s always been a dirty side to glamour, and wood putty is just that. It comes in a variety of different shades, and it’s important to use the right shade for the right wood. We often test the putty on scrap wood to make sure it blends correctly with the final product. This can take hours. There are some high-octane thrills in woodworking – selecting wood putty isn’t one of them.
Putty can be temperamental. If you leave the lid off too long, it dries up and turns to sand, and if you get it on your hands, it’ll stay there for days. It really is complex. Complex and high maintenance. Not a great combo. But, when it works, wood putty truly is amazing. It can make a small crack look seamless and all those moments of high maintenance were worth it. All those times you couldn’t get it off your hands, or took 4 hours to finally realize that walnut was the right shade, it was worth it.
I always try and remember what it must be going through. It’s not wood. It’ll never be wood. But it’s asked to pretend to be wood every day. That’s tough. It’s told not to be itself, but instead, blend into the background and take zero credit. I wouldn’t apply for that job.
Wood putty is selfless. And because of that, I like it.
Forget the fancy hand saw or the beautiful piece of solid reclaimed oak. I aim to be like the putty. Those small little cans sit unassuming in our shop, and act as a constant reminder.
If I can be as selfless as wood putty, then I’m doing alright.