The Wooden Tangerine

filling in oak wood grain

Let me just start with this: Oak is beautiful. I feel like it has gotten a bad name lately. I don’t think that it’s the wood itself, its just been over used, especially with the golden yellow-orange stain color of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Oak is quite beautiful with a darker almost walnut stain on it or even just natural, now why didn’t that catch on instead of that golden oak color? I don’t think we would be seeing tutorials on painting kitchen cabinets or how to fill wood grain as in today’s post.

Now, you can definitely paint your oak without filling the wood grain. That look is just not for me. Some really enjoy it. I can’t get past it, so I set out to find a good (maybe eventually the best?) method for filling the oak wood grain. Notice I did not mention easy in any of that (see my warning a little later). I have tried a couple different methods and this is the one that has worked the best for me so far.

The project I used this method on was our mudroom built-in. This built in takes quite a bit of a beating as we put our shoes on it, drop our bags on it, set our groceries on it etc., so I used a little bit different combination of primer and paint than we did in our kitchen renovation.

Just a warning. This is a lot of work. You will probably want to give up about half way into it, especially when you are filling the grain. It’s not that I don’t want you to be inspired, I have just been through it and I just don’t want you mad at me with your project area torn apart. My advice if this happens, put on some good tunes, or if you have it, put on a good audiobook and get back to work!!

Okay? Are we good? Carry on!

Here is the before and after, just in case you are a little impatient like me.

Before After



  • 80 grit sandpaper or sanding block
  • 120 grit sandpaper or sanding block
  • 220 grit sandpaper or sanding block
  • MH ready patch (to fill the wood grain)-side note, this is also great for filling dents on metal doors!
  • Various putty knives (depending on the sizes of the areas you will need to cover)
  • Primer of your choice (this time I used Sherwin Williams extreme bond primer)
  • Paint of your choice (this time I used Sherwin Williams urethane trim enamel) in Peppercorn
  • Tack cloth
  • Shop vac/vacuum to remove fine dust
  • Floetrol
  • Painter’s tape (optional)

Here are the steps:

  1. Remove any doors and any hardware
    • Make sure to mark hinges and doors to make reinstall easier with less adjustments!-I used painter’s tape and a market to make this quick and easy.
  2. Tape off any areas that you don’t want to have to cut in. (this is optional, since no matter what tape I use, how hard I press it down I cannot get it to keep the paint from bleeding under it.-But if you have better luck, go for it!) I just cut in very carefully now. Probably takes the same amount of time as taping does.
  3. Rough up the wood finish with 80 grit sandpaper/sanding block
  4. Wipe down with tack cloth(I also use a shop vac with a bristle attachment to help clean in any crevices).
  5. Begin the filling the wood grain. I started with the doors since they would require time to dry and needed to be filled on both sides
    • This part is kind of fun! Take a big scoop of MH Ready Patch from the can and spread it on with some good pressure, this will help really press it into the grain. Then holding the putty knife and level as possible, scrape the extra off. This will leave just what has been pressed into the grain of the wood.
  6. Let dry according to can directions. Once ready to sand, make sure you are wearing the proper protective gear (Mask and goggles at least- make sure to follow the advice of MH Ready Patch!-this stuff is serious business and can cause respiratory issues) and use the 120 grit sanding block/paper to sand everything. Remove any dust with a vacuum and tack cloth.
  7. Repeat the process of filling the wood grain once again until wood grain is filled to your desired look (mine took 2 fills, but deeper grain may take more fills).
  8. Sand everything one more time with the 120 grit paper/block and vacuum any dust.
  9. Wipe everything with tack cloth.
  1. Prime–no not Amazon 2-day shipping, almost as good, but not quite.
    • Here you could spray everything if you have access and want to go that route.
    • I opted to use a brush and roller since I didn’t want to deal with the mess that comes with spray painting inside the house.
  2. Once the primer is dry, sand everything with 220 grit sandpaper/block and wipe with tack cloth
  3. First coat of paint- this is where you forget you ever had thoughts about giving up!
    • I used Floetrol in our paint to help slow drying time to help eliminate brush/roller marks, getting a little closer to a sprayed look finish. Just follow the additive directions for how much to add.
  4. Sand (again! Yes it gets old, but it is soooo important to getting a smooth finish) with 220 grit, then wipe down with tack cloth
  5. Second (last) coat of paint.
  6. Let dry and you are done!
  7. DO NOT GET IMPATIENT AND TRY TO PUT IT ALL BACK TOGETHER FOR AT LEAST A DAY OR TWO. Let the paint cure. You worked hard, don’t ruin it and hate yourself.

Here’s my after!

The room itself is not quite done. The walls will eventually get painted a nice soft white to let the built in really shine, but for now, at least it’s not golden oak.